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Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa, Namibia and to a lesser extent in Botswana and Zimbabwe. It originates from 17th century Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly-Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it began to develop independently.

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 crude term Afrikaans was called in its earlier days). Although Afrikaans adopted words from languages such as Malay, Portuguese, the Bantu languages, and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95 percent of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin. Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in a more regular morphology, grammar, and spelling of Afrikaans. There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.

With about 6 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.3 percent 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 primary language of the coloured and white communities. 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 percent 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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