The language's name Afrikaans simply means "African" and features a highly regularised, simplified grammar (there are fewer than 5 irregular verbs in the language), double negation (as in French) and pronounciation that is softer and less guttural than modern Dutch. Like English, it has only one gender for nouns (as opposed to two in Dutch).
Afrikaans and Dutch remain mutually intelligible and although the majority of its vocabulary derives from 17th Century Dutch, it has incorporated many words from indigenous and aboriginal Southern African languages (especially KhoiSan, Xhosa and Zulu), as well as Malaysian, French and German, reflecting the phenomenon of South Africa as a melting pot of cultures.
Cut off from Europe, the fledgeling language rapidly evolved unique features. There is strong evidence to suggest that proto-Afrikaans developed as a creole form of Dutch among slaves and servants; indeed, it was known (disparigingly) as "Kitchen Dutch" or "Kombuistaal" (Kitchen Language).
By the 19th Century Afrikaans had developed into a separate language and in the 1920s was formally recognised as an official language (co-equal in status with English) of the Union of South Africa.
As the preferred language of the Apartheid state, the language has been stigmatised in the past as the vehicle of an oppressive regime, most infamously as the cause of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, where several youths died protesting Afrikaans being enforced as the language of instruction in schools (as opposed to English). Today, however, the language has been largely depoliticised and proudly spoken by South Africans of all backgrounds.
Afrikaans has greatly influenced South African English and has contributed several words to modern international English - most famously perhaps "trek" (as in epic journey, as in Star Trek) and "veld" for grassland/savannah.
Following the advent of democracy in 1994, Afrikaans retained its official status along with 10 other languages.
It is generally spoken by the Boer population and the Cape Coloureds who were forced to learn it in Apartheid.
Informal Afrikaans: "Ja my bru, kan jy dit glo hoe dat meisie skinner?! Sy weet who ek is? Moenie wys me, ek sal donder haar just so!"(yeah, my bru, can you believe how that girls gossips?! Does she know who I am? Mustn't showinsult me, I'll klapbeat her just like that!"