Afrikaans is one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn. What most language learners find difficult is the pronunciation of certain sounds rather than the language itself.
One thing to be aware of, when writing an email or a letter in Afrikaans, is that there is a significant distinction between the informal and the formal tone. In this guide we will cover common Afrikaans email phrases for both informal and formal correspondences.
The level of formality depends on the recipient, and will vary depending on whether you are writing to your banker, a prospective client, or a friend.
It is common for English emails and letters to start with the greeting “Dear”, which translates to “Liewe” in Afrikaans. However, in Afrikaans, the greeting “Liewe” is reserved for informal correspondences. Whereas for formal correspondences in Afrikaans, the greeting “Geagte” is used instead. It means “Honored” or “Honorable”.
When the name of the recipient is unknown, the greeting “Aan wie dit mag raak” (meaning: “To whom it may concern”) may be used instead of the greeting “Geagte”.
While the greeting “Geagte” (Honored) might sound extremely formal, this is the accepted way to start any formal email or letter in Afrikaans. An exception to this rule concerns emails and letters addressed to the press, where the greeting “Mnr./Me.” (Sir/Madam) is used instead.
In Afrikaans, we distinguish between Miss and Mrs with “Mej.” and “Mev.”, but in case you’re unsure of the marital status of the person you are writing to, use “Me.” instead. “Me.” refers to any woman regardless of marital status.
To summarize, here is a list of Afrikaans email / letter greetings for formal correspondences:
If you’ve made an Afrikaans friend while traveling and would like to try your hand at corresponding in Afrikaans, you have way less to worry about than with formal writing.
There are several ways to open an informal email. “Liewe (naam)” / “Dear (name)” is often used. You can, however, start with any of the following:
It is also okay to use contractions such as “ek’t – ek het” (I have) which we won’t use in formal Afrikaans emails.
This section will cover the most appropriate sign-off phrases which are used to end a formal or an informal letter / email in Afrikaans.
There are several ways to end a formal email in Afrikaans, and the degree of formality will depend on who the recipient is.
If you are addressing a person who is equal or lower in status, you can close with:
When an Afrikaans email / letter is addressed to someone who has a higher status than the sender, one of the following sign-off phrases can be used:
Here is a list of casual sign-offs which are used to end an informal Afrikaans email / letter:
The sign-offs listed above are friendly, but they are not intimate. Below are some intimate Afrikaans sign-offs:
Here is a list of useful Afrikaans email phrases:
In this section, we will see the Afrikaans greetings and sign-offs mentioned above, in the context of specific types of letters and emails.
You are traveling and would like to send an Afrikaans friend a postcard.
Groete uit Santorini. Dis lieflik hier en die weer is fantasties. Elke dag is ‘n belewenis. Sien jou oor ‘n paar weke.
Greetings from Santorini. It’s beautiful here, and the weather is fantastic. Every day is an experience. See you in a few weeks.
Someone had you over for a barbeque at their home and you would like to send them a thank you note. Barbecues are such a part of Afrikaans culture that if you’ve spent any time around an Afrikaans community, you’ve either had a “braai” (barbecue) or the subject came up. South Africans, even English-speaking ones, all use the word “braai”.
You’ve been to James’ house for a “braai” and you would like to say thank you for the hospitality.
Ek wil net dankie se vir julle gasvryheid. Ons het die kuiertjie by julle baie geniet en die braai was uitstekend.
Laat weet ons as julle ‘n naweek vry het en dan doen ons dieselfde by ons plek, maar hierdie keer met van ons tradisionele gunstelinge.
Ons praat weer
I would just like to say thank you for your hospitality. We really enjoyed our visit and the barbecue was excellent.
Let us know when you have a free weekend and then we’ll do the same at our place, but this time with some of our traditional favorites.
We’ll talk again
A standard birthday card greeting written in Afrikaans would look something like this:
Baie geluk met jou verjaarsdag. Mag jy geseend wees en mag daar nog baie jare voorle.
Congratulations on your birthday. May you be blessed and may there be many more years ahead of you.
You can get poetic if you want to, but this is a fairly standard and safe birthday wish in Afrikaans.
The fact that you’re making the effort to write a card in Afrikaans will be appreciated and you don’t have to try to write an essay or make it too complicated. Stick to something short and sincere.
Beste Tom en Alet
Baie geluk met julle groot dag. Mag julle jare saam gevul wees met vreugde en geluk en mag julle saam sterk staan, teen al die storms wat die lewe mag bring.
Dankie dat ons julle spesiale dag met julle kon deel.
Voorspoed vir die toekoms,
Mark & Yvette
Best Tom and Alet
Congratulations on your big day. May your years together, be filled with joy and happiness and may you stay strong together against all the storms that life may bring.
Thank you, that we could share this special day with you.
May your future be prosperous,
Mark & Yvette
Here is an example of a formal email written in Africans. You have reached out to a company for collaboration and you need to confirm the time for your appointment to go and see the owner.
In the subject line: «Bevestiging van afspraak»
Geagte Mnr. Van Zyl
Ek wil net graag ons afspraak bevestig soos telefonies bespreek. Ek kan Vrydag teen 10:00vm by u kantoor wees as dit vir u geleë sal wees.
Ek glo ons maatskappye het geweldig baie om mekaar te offer en sien uit na ons ontmoeting.
As ‘n ander tyd beter vir u sal werk, kan u my laat weet. Ek is oop vir voorstelle.
Dankie vir u tyd
In the subject line: «Confirmation of appointment»
Dear Mr Van Zyl
I would just like to confirm our appointment as per our telephonic conversation. I can be at your office on Friday at 10:00am if that suits you.
I believe our companies have a lot to offer one another and I’m looking forward to our meeting.
If another time will work better for you, I am open to suggestions.
Thank you for your time
Something to pay attention to is that in formal writing in Afrikaans we don’t use “you/your” (jy/jou) but instead we use “u”. There is no equivalent in English, but it is the formal version of “you/your”.
Here’s an example of an informal email to someone you’ve met at a party and had agreed to exchange recipes with.
Ek is so bly ek het jou ontmoet en het ons geselsie nou die aand baie geniet.
Hier is my ma se rabarbertert resep soos ek jou belowe het. Ek hoop dit is so ‘n treffer in julle huis soos wat dit in ons sin is. Jy kan dit met styf geklopte room of vanielje roomys bedien, afhangende van wat jou mense verkies.
Kan nie wag om te hoor hoe dit uitdraai nie.
I’m so glad we met, I really enjoyed our chat the other night.
Here is my mom’s rhubarb pie recipe as promised. I hope it’s as big a hit in your home as it is in mine. You can serve it with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, depending on what your people prefer.
Can’t wait to hear how it turns out.
When Afrikaans-speaking people are speaking to friends and family, we have a habit of changing our language to make things more personal. While you would normally say “my family” in English, we might change that to “my people” (my mense).
In Afrikaans, we also don’t usually just use a word like “little” to specify size, but instead add a suffix to the word to create a diminutive form of the word.
For instance, the word for “tree” in Afrikaans is “boom”. When referring to a little tree, we might say “klein boompie”. In essence, it means “little little tree” but it’s just the way Afrikaans people speak and you’ll quickly notice that in speaking or emailing with someone that considers you a friend.
It’s like when someone asks a small child where their blanket is – “where is your blanky?” It’s never meant condescendingly, but it’s a sign that someone feels close to you or likes you.
When addressing an older person in Afrikaans, you can stick to “Meneer” or “Mevrou” when it’s a more formal situation, but as soon as you are in an informal situation you will be expected to call an older gentleman or lady, “Oom” or “Tannie”.
In English, “Oom” (Uncle) and “Tannie” (Aunty) are only used for family members, but in Afrikaans, it’s also used as a sign of respect for anyone older.
The rule of thumb is to call anyone 10 years older than yourself “Oom” or “Tannie” and it can be used with or without their actual name. These days you can get away with moving that to 15-20 years.
With someone much older than you, you also won’t use the pronouns “you/your” but use the terms “oom” and “tannie” again.
This may sound confusing, so let’s look at an example:
Notice how the pronoun “you” is replaced by the use of “oom” again.
Something that my Canadian husband found very confusing was the Afrikaans term “nou-nou”. Directly translated “nou-nou” (pronounced no-no), it means “just now” or “now-now”.
When someone in English says, “just now” they usually mean right away. In Afrikaans, “nou-nou” can mean anything from 5 minutes to 5 hours.
So be careful that when you’re communicating in Afrikaans, you don’t use “nou-nou” when you mean right away.Conclusion
While it’s good to know how to write a formal email in Afrikaans, South Africa has 9 official languages and therefore in most business situations, we stick to English.
Most people understand English well, but the older Afrikaans generation might sometimes be a little hesitant to express themselves in English. This is where your attempts to meet them halfway will be much appreciated.
Afrikaans-speaking people love their language and they’re happy to share it with everyone and will have fun teaching you and helping you. If you meet the right friends, you might even learn a few precocious words.