I watched the South African film "The White Wedding", in that film, there is a white couple speaking a very weird language, it sounds like German but not German & a person in the movie said they are speaking an old form of English language.

The British came to South Africa since 17-18th centuries, & settled there. These people somehow still keep their old English language. Just like people living in some area in UK that speak their English dialect that is so different that we can't understand.

Does anyone know that?

closed as off-topic by user13141, FumbleFingers, choster, Benyamin Hamidekhoo, Kristina Lopez Nov 22 '13 at 13:54

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    That German-sounding language is called "Afrikaans" and is a language derived from Dutch. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_South_Africa – Kristina Lopez Nov 21 '13 at 23:52
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    What exactly do you mean by a 'weird language'? Perhaps just one which you did not understand? It is hard to believe that in an internet age, when the history of South Africa is only a few mouse-clicks away, that anyone could post something quite like this. – WS2 Nov 22 '13 at 1:09
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about English. – user13141 Nov 22 '13 at 1:42
  • I think you do not understand what Old English even is: a Germanic tongue spoken between the 500s and 1100s ᴀᴅ. The language spoken by the English near the turn of the 19th century was Modern English, and still have would have been such some two centuries earlier when the Dutch got there, just as it still is two centuries later today. – tchrist Nov 22 '13 at 2:37
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    Have you tried asking this on linguisticsSE? – Kris Nov 22 '13 at 6:54

First of all, by the 17th-18th centuries, no one was speaking Old English. Old English was long dead by that point. You're talking about a time around the end of the Middle English period and the beginning of Modern English.

Second, as others have mentioned, that German sounding language is in fact Afrikaans, which is very closely related to Dutch (some say they are mutually intelligible, but since this is an English language site, I'll leave it at that).

The British came to South Africa since 17-18th centuries, & settled there. These people somehow still keep their old English language. Just like people living in some area in UK that speak their English dialect that is so different that we can't understand.

What you're missing is that the Dutch colonized South Africa long before the British, which is how Afrikaans came to be spoken there.

They're not speaking Old English, which, by the way, hasn't been spoken since the 12th century, long before the 17th century. Have a look at the Wikipedia entry; you won't recognize any of the words.

Also, when people speak in dialects that are difficult to understand, they still read and write the same way as everyone else. As you'll see, that's not at all possible with Old English.

  • Middle English stopped being spoken by the 16th century. – tchrist Nov 22 '13 at 2:39
  • Point taken, but that's beside the point. I didn't look up the time period, but I knew it was post-Shakespere. To be honest, the question asked about people retaining antiquated dialects; I only mentioned Middle English in passing because that was within a century of when Modern English emerged and Old English fell by the wayside. The whole point was ultimately there was no way those people spoke or read Old English. But in fairness. I didn't look it up, so your point is taken, sir! – Giambattista Nov 22 '13 at 4:36


What many people in South Africa speak is Afrikaans, which is a language which split from Dutch in the last couple of hundred years. Until quite recently, Afrikaners (Afrikaans speakers) were taught Dutch in school as well.


Of a total population of circa 51 million, 6.9 million South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language. These are the descendants of the Dutch settlers of the 17th and 18th centuries. 4.9 million speak English as their first language, the descendants of British and Irish settlers since the 19th century. The remainder of South Africans first speak an African language, 11.6 million Zulu, and 8.2 million Xhosa.


As the other answers say, in South Africa there is a lot of Afrikaans speakers, and Dutch is quite frequently known too. It was likely Afrikaans that they were speaking.

From the other side of the question, Old English began to become Middle English after then Norman invasion in 1066, and was completely replaced by it by around the 1150s.

Middle English began to be replaced with Early Modern English in 1470 when printers where heavily using its Chancery Standard dialect, and Early Modern English developed from it. In the 17th Century Modern English emerged from that, around the time of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

There is nobody alive today who speaks even Early Modern, never-mind Old English as a first language.

Arguably the closest modern languages to Old English are the three Frisian languages; West Frisian, Saterland Frisian, and North Frisian. These are minority languages in parts of Holland and Germany and to a lesser extent, Denmark, along with a small diasporic community in the New World. English, Scots and the Frisian languages are all part of the Anglo-Frisian group of languages (as were Yola and Fingallian; two languages that developed among Middle English speakers in Wexord and Fingal but are now extinct), but the Frisian languages were less affected by other languages than English was. There is still some distance between them, as they didn't remain entirely unchanged, and they are not mutually intelligible.

  • I think we can safely cut out Denmark from that list. Frisian speakers in Denmark have all but completely died out. There are still pockets of oprjochte frysk speakers left in Germany, but the vast majority are in the Netherlands. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 22 '13 at 1:40
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I've heard conflicting things on that part, though if there are any remaining, it would seem that they are both elderly and also just over the border into Jutland from Germany. Certainly, there aren't any great numbers there. – Jon Hanna Nov 22 '13 at 1:50

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