Background and status
With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, Afrikaans is the third-most-spoken mother tongue in South Africa. It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the official languages of South Africa, and is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language.
In neighbouring Namibia, Afrikaans is widely spoken as a second language and used as lingua franca, while as a native language it is spoken in 11% of households, mainly concentrated in the capital Windhoek and the southern regions of Hardap and Karas.
Growth and use
Post-apartheid South Africa has seen a loss of preferential treatment by the government for Afrikaans given that it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. In areas where language policy before 1994 favoured the use of Afrikaans, Afrikaans translation has diminished. Bills of Parliament are no longer translated exclusively into Afrikaans and English, for instance. Yet in areas where democratised language policy since 1994 has an influence, Afrikaans translation has grown. The language remains more prevalent in the media – radio, newspapers and television – than any of the other official languages, except English. More than 300 book titles in Afrikaans are published annually. South African census figures suggest a growing number of speakers in all 9 provinces, a total of 6.85 million in 2011 compared to 5.98 million a decade earlier. The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) project that a growing majority will be Coloured Afrikaans speakers.
In areas where the forces of demand and supply hold sway, Afrikaans translation practice has grown, especially in
- the business translation world, translating and quality checking financial and legal documents
- the public sphere, providing turn-key and project-management services, ranging from writing, editing, translation, document design to proofreading and printing
- the growing world of NGOs, providing a full range of translation and language services in Afrikaans and the other South African languages
- the educational world, translating school textbooks into Afrikaans for educational publishers.
Further latent support for the language derives from its de-politicised image in the eyes of younger-generation South Africans, who less and less often view it as "the language of the oppressor". Indeed, there is a groundswell movement within Afrikaans to be inclusive, and to promote itself along with the other indigenous official languages.