Even though The Netherlands is a small country, many unique things can be found there. From windmills to plenty of canals or chocolate sprinkles on bread.
The Dutch also have their own language, which is sometimes quite remarkable. The Dutch language, which is often confused with German, is a West Germanic language native to The Netherlands.
For everyone visiting or interested in The Netherlands, it is essential to know a bit about its language. To answer all the questions you might have, I have answered the 14 most pressing questions about the Dutch language!
The age-old question about the ease of learning a language. I truly wish I could give you a clear answer, but sadly enough, I must tell you: it depends.
Every language is different. Each language has its own set of grammatical rules, its own vocabulary, and its own peculiarities.
The closer languages are related to each other, the more they share. Assuming you have not translated this article, it is safe to assume that you speak English at a decent level.
Because Dutch and English are pretty closely connected, you will find quite some similarities if you ever decide to learn Dutch.
Do you happen to speak German as well? Well, then, you're in luck!
Because Dutch and German are so similar, it makes learning the other language much easier.
But, never underestimate the difficulty of a language. Even though there are quite some similarities with English, there are a lot of difficult features to be found in the Dutch language.
Dutch is, for example, well known for its many irregularities. The written language and the spoken language might also differ quite significantly.
Don't let these things discourage you from learning Dutch, though. Learning a language is never easy, but that does not mean it is impossible!
It is not easy to say what particular language Dutch is most like, but there are some candidates. Afrikaans is extremely similar, but as it is a sister language of Dutch, I will not take it into consideration.
Most people will say that German or English is most like Dutch. Dutch shares many features with those languages, both historically and in the present.
Dutch and German are often confused with each other, and few Dutch people have a lot of difficulty learning English. Because of this, most Dutch people speak English very well, and most Dutch people understand German.
But these are still not the closest languages to Dutch, though.
On the other hand, Frisian is extremely close to Dutch while still being its own official language. Especially West-Frisian. This language is spoken in the northwestern areas of the Netherlands and has gained a co-official status.
Due to having to co-exist in the same country for millennia, the languages have started to look like each other a lot. Most Dutch people can make sense of spoken Frisian, and nearly all Frisians speak Dutch.
Fun fact: Frisian is actually considered the closest language to English!
Figuring out the age of a language is often quite a difficult task, as most languages slowly evolve. This also happened to Dutch.
It first started as Frankish, a language spoken by some western-Germanic tribes. Around 500 b.c. this evolved into old and later into middle Dutch. This makes the Dutch language around 1600 years old!
Those languages have a lot of dialects. Those dialects were so different that they might have been separate languages, and because of the absence of a centralized state, there was no need to form a standardized language.
There have been some attempts at standardizing Dutch, but only after the protestant reformation some of these attempts were successful. Protestants wanted to translate the bible into Dutch, so they did. For this, they tried to make sure that as many people as possible could understand it.
The area of Holland was the most influential in politics at that time, so its language was also used as a baseline. The "Staatenvertaling," as it is called, was released in 1637. After this publication, this form of Dutch became the standard.
Dutch is a west-Germanic language, just like English and German. This means that all three languages have a common ancestor. Naturally, languages with common ancestors evolve to be quite similar to each other. Dutch, English, and German are no exceptions.
Dutch is in a weird position. As a west-Germanic language from the mainland of Europe, it naturally has a lot in common with German, especially when looking at historic Dutch.
Roughly 500 years ago, Dutch still shared many features with German, like its grammatical system and its cases. But as the years progressed, Dutch lost quite some of these features.
Dutch also acquired a lot of French loanwords during and after the French occupation in the nineteenth century. German, on the other hand, uses a predominantly Germanic vocabulary.
English has been isolated for quite some time. During its most important development phases, the only speakers lived on an island not connected with the rest of Europe. This means many features evolved individually or under the influence of the Celtic languages found in the British Isles.
Surprisingly enough, Dutch does share quite some grammatical features with English, and vocabulary is quite easily translated.
This might be because the Germanic tribe that would later settle in Great Britain departed on their journey from the Netherlands and had even built a borough in the Dutch town of Leiden before their departure.
This long and complicated history caused Dutch to be quite closely related to both German and English. It does share quite some features with both languages. Ultimately, it is safe to say Dutch is like a middle ground or transition between German and English.
For example, many dialects in the east of the Netherlands are more like German than western dialects.
Some people do say so, but there is no evident proof that Dutch is currently going extinct.
Then, where does this myth come from? Well, there are a few reasons one might expect so.
The rise of the English language plays a huge role in this idea: it might be the most common reason people might think Dutch is slowly dying and on the verge of disappearing into oblivion.
Many (mostly younger) people have started to replace Dutch words and expressions with English ones. More and more people find learning English quintessential to proper education and have proposed to teach children English from the age of 4.
Universities rarely teach in Dutch; English has become the main academic language.
In the 19th century, the French language did have the same role English has nowadays in the Netherlands.
It was considered the most sophisticated language one could speak and thus became the most spoken language by the upper classes. Academically, French also prevailed, falling behind Latin.
One was crazy not to learn French, considering how many people spoke French internationally. But Dutch has not died out; no, it has flourished.
Nowadays, English might have become a very important language, but it will not completely replace Dutch. Loanwords might be added to the Dutch vocabulary, just as has happened to many French words and expressions.
Linguists recently did a survey and found out that most of the people in the Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium still use Dutch on most occasions.
So Dutch shows no signs of dying at all! And there are no signs that it will do so anywhere within the next few centuries or so.
During the early developments in western Europe, the Germanic tribes invaded Europe from Scandinavia. After that, they settled in what is nowadays considered the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. The British Isles were inhabited by Celtic tribes.
Upon discovering the British Isles, a specific Germanic tribe, originating from a southern part of Denmark, the Angles, and a tribe from the northern part of Germany, the Saxons, moved across the sea and became the English.
It so happened to be that people from the same area also moved to the Netherlands and later formed the Dutch language. The two languages have been separated for a long time, but once upon a time, they were one.
Currently, there are 23 million native speakers. Dutch is not only spoken in the Netherlands, which only has 18 million inhabitants but also in other countries, such as Belgium or Surinam. Another 5 million people speak Dutch as a foreign language.
Most people who speak Dutch also speak another, more internationally spoken language, leading to fewer second-language speakers.
This completely depends on you. Yes, you! You have learned at least one, maybe more, languages during your life. The more similar a language is to a language you already know, the easier it is to learn that language.
Dutch and German might be pretty similar, but that does not mean they are the same! Each language has its own set of unique features and grammatical quirks to learn and master. German has a quite complicated grammatical structure. It features cases and has quite a difficult verb structure. Dutch, on the other hand, has a lot more irregularities.
Some people simply have more success learning one language than learning the other.
So, it absolutely depends on the person learning the language. And we all know there is only one way to find out.
If you are even asking this question, I will have to answer with yes, most definitely! You are clearly interested in the Dutch language and culture.
But it is important to note that the Netherlands is one of the countries that have the highest amount of English fluency. This makes learning Dutch less necessary compared to countries where little English is spoken.
But is it useful? Most definitely!
Learning Dutch is one of the best ways to better your understanding of Dutch society and culture. So if that is a thing you're interested in, go ahead and learn Dutch!
If you just want to learn a language for fun? Why not learn Dutch? Dutch could most definitely be a very fulfilling language to learn.
Dutch is the only official language of the Netherlands. All of Dutch politics, media, and culture are in Dutch. The Dutch language is also closely connected to Dutch history.
Although it shares many features with other neighboring languages, it ends up being its own mix of features, forming a unique language.
The Dutch language is known for its long words that can twist your tongue and leave you feeling tongue-tied. But what is the longest Dutch word?
According to Van Dale, the number one dictionary in the Netherlands, the longest Dutch word is "meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornis", which means "multiple personality disorder" in English. This mouthful of a word has a whopping 35 letters, and when pluralized, it becomes even longer with 38 letters.
But that's not the only long word in Dutch. There's also "arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering", which means "disability insurance" and has 32 letters.
While these words may seem daunting, they are essential to the Dutch language. So the next time you're feeling brave, try to pronounce one of these long Dutch words and impress your friends with your linguistic skills!
Dutch originated in the Netherlands and the northern part of Belgium. It derived from the ancient West-Germanic language, the same as English was derived from.
For a long time, the language stayed exclusive to the Netherlands. During the Dutch golden age in the 17th century, the Dutch erected quite some colonies and trade posts, causing the language to be used in many of these.
Time passed, the Netherlands lost its colonies, and Belgium split off from the Netherlands. But in many places, the language remained.
Nowadays, Dutch is mostly spoken in the Netherlands and the Flemish regions of Belgium, but some former Dutch colonies still speak Dutch as well. These include: Aruba, Surinam, Saba, Bonaire, St Eustatius, Curaçao and St Martin.
Although many of these countries do have a native language that is still being spoken, the Dutch language still plays a significant role and has an official status.
Surprisingly enough, Indonesia, which was the biggest and most important colony of the Netherlands, retained its own language. The Indonesian and Dutch languages have influenced each other quite a bit, though. Many words and expressions in these languages can be traced back to their colonial past.
Another thing to keep in mind is the existence of Afrikaans. The Netherlands has also had a colony in South Africa.
Everyone spoke Dutch in South Africa during colonization, but after South African independence, the Dutch spoken in South Africa began to diverge from the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands.
Nowadays, Afrikaans is considered a different language from Dutch, but it still has a lot of similarities. With some difficulty, someone who speaks Dutch can understand someone who speaks Afrikaans, making Dutch and Afrikaans mutually intelligible. Dutch, as spoken in the Netherlands, also remained present, but to a much lesser extent.
There are currently six countries where Dutch is spoken as an official language.
As someone that is born and raised in the Netherlands, I will, of course, say that Dutch is a very fun language. But this is different for everybody, of course.
But I can imagine Dutch being a fun language for people learning it as a foreign language. It is quite a unique language, sitting right between German and English. Many grammatical and phonological features make it very distinctive, and there are many words and concepts that simply cannot be translated into any other language.
But most importantly, if you're interested in Dutch culture, history, or even just the Dutch language, I believe you will find enough things to love about the Dutch language.
A nearly infinite amount, but at least around half a million. Why? Well, it has to do with a unique feature of the Dutch language. Like many other Germanic languages, Dutch can make compound words. German has gotten famous for it, but many forget that Dutch can do it just as well.
So, how does this "compounding" of words work? Well, most times, it is pretty simple. You take two words and smash them together.
For example, if you want to specify a table at which you eat, you take the word table (tafel) and a form, often the stem, of the verb to eat (eten -> eet) and connect them. In this way, you have formed the word "eettafel," which is the Dutch equivalent of dinner table (with a slightly different nuance!).
It gets much more complicated, but I'll spare you that.
The bottom line is that some compound words can theoretically contain infinitely many words or even whole sentences. Thus, an infinite number of words can be formed.
Hopefully, this article taught you new things about the Dutch language. As you have read, it is a unique and complicated language.
However, don't let that deter you if you want to learn the Dutch language! Even if you speak only a few words and phrases, Dutch people will see this as something positive. Seeing that someone makes an effort to adapt will be greatly appreciated.
And, of course, in case you really can't figure it out, you can always fall back on English, for example, since most Dutch people speak a foreign language.