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Historical Terms and Phrases in Afrikaans

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Afrikaans, a language spoken widely in South Africa and Namibia, is rooted in 17th century Dutch, reflecting its unique historical and cultural development. Throughout its evolution, Afrikaans has integrated various lexicons from other languages, including indigenous Khoi and San languages, Malay, Portuguese, and English. But it is the historical terms and phrases that offer a rich insight into the colorful past of the Afrikaaner peoples.

Voortrekker
“The Pioneers” is a term used to describe Afrikaner emigrants who left the Cape Colony in the eastern part of Southern Africa during the Great Trek in the 1830s and 1840s. These pioneers played a significant role in shaping the history of South Africa.
Die Voortrekkers het ‘n nuwe lewe in die binneland begin.

Great Trek
This historical event denotes the mass movement of the Afrikaner Boers from the Cape Colony to the interior of South Africa in search of independence and sovereignty from British colonial rule.
Die Groot Trek was ‘n keerpunt in Suid-Afrika se geskiedenis.

Apartheid
A policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race which was in place in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. This term is pivotal in understanding the past societal structure of the nation.
Apartheid het die land vir dekades lank verdeel.

Boer
Literally translates to “farmer” in Afrikaans and was used to refer to the Dutch-speaking farmers in the Cape Colony during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also associated with the residents of the Boer Republics, the South African Republic (ZAR) and the Orange Free State.
Die Boere het ‘n sterk verbintenis met die land en sy geskiedenis.

Afrikaner
This term denotes the descendants of the mainly Dutch settlers of the Cape Colony in the 17th century, but also includes those with German and French Huguenot ancestry. The Afrikaners have their own culture and language, which evolved into modern-day Afrikaans.
Afrikaanse kultuur en tradisies is ‘n belangrike deel van ‘n Afrikaner se identiteit.

Braai
A social custom in South Africa involving the barbecuing of meat. It has its origins heading back to the time of the early Afrikaner settlers and has become a tradition representing the melting pot of South African culture.
‘n Braai op ‘n Saterdag is ‘n tyd wanneer vriende en familie bymekaarkom.

Boerekos
Refers to traditional Afrikaner farm-style cuisine, which includes a variety of hearty dishes influenced by Dutch, French, and Indonesian flavors.
Niks klop ‘n bord tuisgemaakte Boerekos nie.

Kommando
Originating from a Dutch word that means “command,” Kommando refers to the small, mobile units of the Boer armies, which were formed during the Boer Wars against British forces.
Die Kommando het vinnig beweeg en was moeilik vir die vyand om op te spoor.

Afrikaans continues to be a repository of South Africa’s history, each term containing narratives of struggle, triumph, and daily life spanning centuries. Learning these historical terms and phrases not only enhances one’s vocabulary but also provides a deeper appreciation for the cultural and historical context in which the language is used. Whether you’re a language enthusiast or a history buff, understanding such terms is key to grasping the soul of Afrikaans and the people who speak it.

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