Afrikaans is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is an offshoot of several Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop independently in the course of the 18th century. Hence, historically, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or "kitchen Dutch" (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days).

Although Afrikaans adopted words from languages such as Portuguese, the Bantu languages, Malay, and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin. Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in the more analytic morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and a spelling that expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch.There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.

With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, it is the third-most-spoken mother tongue in the country. 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.It is the majority language of the western half of South Africa — the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape — and the first language of 75.8% of Coloured South Africans (3.4 million people), 60.8% of White South Africans (2.7 million) and at 4.6% the second most spoken first-language among Asian South Africans (58,000). About 1.5% of black South Africans (600,000 people) speak it as their first language. Large numbers of Bantu-speaking and English-speaking South Africans also speak it as their second 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.

Estimates of the total number of Afrikaans-speakers range between 15 and 23 million.

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