Afrikaans Translation. Past, Present And Future

Under Apartheid, South Africa had two official languages: English and Afrikaans. Translation into and from Afrikaans was the order of the day. Afrikaans terminology lists were developed in most subject areas.

In 1994, language policy in South Africa was democratised. Official status was awarded to 11 languages. Afrikaans was liberated from the zoo of artificial nurturing and released into the natural economic environment. In this environment, language use and translation trends are subject to the forces of demand and supply. Since the demand for Afrikaans continued after 1994, the language is alive and well. Translation into and from Afrikaans is currently thriving.

The trends in Afrikaans translation practice have changed since 1994. In the 25 years that  IL Consultancys founder has been involved in translation training and practice in South Africa, a few general trends became noticeable.

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. In areas where democratised language policy since 1994 has an influence, Afrikaans translation has grown. Language policy under democracy has boosted the use of Afrikaans alongside the other official languages. Each of South Africa’s nine provinces has between two and four official languages, based for the most part on the demographics of the province. Afrikaans is an official language in six of the nine provinces. The legislatures of the provinces provide translation and interpreting services in each of their official languages. This practice promotes Afrikaans translation on an equal basis alongside its fellow provincial languages.


In areas where the forces of demand and supply hold sway, Afrikaans translation practice has grown. IL Consultancy has been involved in the increasing supply of Afrikaans translation services in:

  • the business translation world, translating and quality checking financial (notably banking) 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.

The future of Afrikaans and Afrikaans translation will depend on several factors. Demand and supply will remain a major force. According to the demographic figures of the 2011 census isiZulu is the mother tongue of 22.7% of South Africa\’s population, followed by isiXhosa at 16%, Afrikaans at 13.5%, English at 9.6%, Setswana at 8% and Sesotho at 7.6%.

However, projections show that the Afrikaans share of the language community in South Africa will diminish substantially in future. What then? The future of Afrikaans and Afrikaans translation will then depend on cultural factors, on the passion with which Afrikaans users promote their language in a fair and equitable manner alongside the other languages. This passion is evident in the robust growth of Afrikaans in the literary sphere, both in original and translated form, in prose and poetry.

In addition to our corporate and governmental translation and language services,IL Consultancy offers excellent overwriting, editing, translation, graphic design and proofreading services to publishers.


Contact us now for a quote and see our translations page for more information.