Here’s a list of 10 strange facts about the Dutch language.
1. English is not the 2nd official language of The Netherlands.
Although many Dutch people speak English very well (especially young people, people with education, people who like to travel, who work on canalboats, or like to watch American television series), not everybody speaks English in Holland. But the use of English words in conversation is rising (see Queensday sign, right: a ‘date’ is much used English word in Dutch conversation).
2. Flemish (from Belgium) is not an official language. The official language of Flanders is Dutch.
Strangely enough, this mistake is often made by the Belgians themselves. When I meet Belgiam people abroad they sometimes say to me (in perfect Dutch): I hope you can understand me, because I speak Flemish. (There must be a reason why the Dutch traditionally make fun of the Belgians being ‘dumb’) Hello? Flemish people speak Dutch.
The official language of Flanders is Dutch. Flemish is just a variant of Dutch, that linguist distinguish. Still, it is quite difficult to understand the Flemish people from small villages, because they have all kinds of weird dialects. But, that’s the same in Holland.
3. Fries is the 2nd official language of the Netherlands.
Fries is spoken in Friesland (in Fries: Fryslân), a province the North of the Netherlands. Recently, the government announced a new law that will give Fries people the right to speak their own language at governmental bodies and the court. This is in part to avoid that the Fries language will disappear.
4. Dutch and Deutsch are not the same thing.
Dutch is the English word for the language they speak in the Netherlands. (In the Netherlands itself, we call this language Nederlands).
Deutsch is de German word for the language they speak in Germany (still following?). So basically Deutsch means German (and not Dutch…well whatever, let’s go on shall we?).
5. The Dutch language is very similar to the German language.
However, most Germans cannot understand one word of Dutch, while many Dutch people can understand German quite easily. Probably this has to do with the fact that The Netherlands is such a small country and Dutch people come in contact with German quite often (on television, on holiday).
6. Many Dutch words are derived from the French language.
Many Dutch words are influenced by the French language as well. This is because it used to be rather decadent and posh to drop the occasional French word in conversation. Many of these French words stayed and integrated completely in the Dutch language.
Examples of French loanwords are paraplu (umbrella), au pair, bouillon (broth), bureau (desk or office), cabaretier, (comedian), capuchon (hood of a coat), chantage (blackmail), fouilleren (frisk search), horloge (wrist watch), humeur (mood), jus d’orange (orange juice), monteur (mechanic), pantalon (trousers), plafond (ceiling), retour (return ticket), trottoir (pavement).
7. Many words in the Amsterdam ‘street’ language are originally from the Hebrew language.
Very common words are: bajes (jail), gabber (buddy, also used as a type of hardcore techno music that was popular in the ’90s), geinig (funny), geteisem (scum), jatten (to steal), kapsones (arrogance), mazzel (lucky), pleite (gone), smeris (cops), sores (trouble), stiekem (secretly), tof (cool, good)
8. Dutch is hard to pronounce.
Foreigners find the Dutch language often amazing because of the hard G- or CH-sound, which makes their throat hurt (but it is ok when you are raised speaking Dutch. No really, it’s fine, it doesn’t hurt). Just to have a laugh, Dutch people will try to make foreigners pronounce the word Scheveningen (which is a sea side suburb of The Hague).
Germans pronounce the SCH much softer. Rumours go, that during the 2nd World War, the Dutch, when they wanted to identify German spies, would make a potential German spy pronounce ‘Scheveningen’.
9. Dutch words can be very long.
That’s because in Dutch, you can make a new word just by combining nouns endlessly. Examples? Well take chronischevermoeidheidssyndroom (31 letters) (Chronic fatigue syndrome). The English take all the different items apart. Because of the big influence of the English language nowadays, many Dutch people tend to do the same. We call this ‘the English disease’.
10. Dutch words can have many consonants.
For example the word slechtstschrijvend (worst writing) has 9 consonants.