Afrikaans (from the Dutch word for ‘African’) is the language spoken as a first language by about 7 million people in South Africa and Namibia and by a further 7-15 million as a second language. It is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.
In linguistic parlance, Afrikaans is a Low Franconian West Germanic language. It still has some features of 18th century Dutch and also incorporates vocabulary from African languages, Portuguese and Malay. Over the years it has also become influenced by South African English.
Afrikaans is descended from several Dutch dialects that were spoken by the 17th century Dutch settlers of the Cape Colony, now part of South Africa. It was originally referred to ‘Cape Dutch’.
In South Africa Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the early 20th century, when it was recognised as a separate language under South African law, initially alongside Standard Dutch, and subsequently becoming an official language.
Afrikaans speakers can understand Dutch readily, and vice versa. The language has lost a lot of the inflections that Dutch has, making the grammar a good deal simpler than that of Dutch.