Lifestyle and Culture

Dutch: What’s Great About It

September 4, 2014
Dutch Netherlands flag

Dutch Netherlands flag

On his blog, Simon Ager of Omniglot recently mused about Dutch. One thing Simon appreciates about Dutch is that many of that language’s compound words are made of native roots. That makes them easy to understand, as long as you know the meanings of the individual components.

“There are some loan words from other languages, such as French and English, but far fewer than in English, which has layers and layers of vocabulary from different languages (Anglo-Saxon, Norman, French, Latin, Greek, Old Norse, Dutch, etc.),” says Simon. Here are some other interesting facts about Dutch:


  • Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Curacao, Saint Maarten, and one of the official languages in South Africa

  • Dutch is widely spoken by at least 28 million people—23 million are native speakers

  • Widely used within the European Union, Dutch is also an unofficial language popular in the Caribbean

  • The Dutch language involves several dialects, with Flemish being the most popular one spoken in Belgium

  • Dutch is probably the easiest language for English speakers to learn. It’s somewhere between German and English

  • Like German, Dutch sentences often place the verb at the end

  • Many Dutch words come from French. It used to be rather decadent and posh to drop the occasional French word into conversation. Many of these French words stayed and integrated completely in the Dutch language.

  • Examples of French loan words 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).

  • Dutch also has many words derived from Hebrew. There were large Jewish populations in Holland beginning in the Middle Ages.

  • Jews developed their own versions of the local languages (e.g., Yiddish) but also contributed to Dutch by process of linguistic osmosis. Today most of the Hebrew words are part of the ‘street’ or slang language in Amsterdam, (Examples include bajes (jail), jatten (to steal), and kapsones (arrogance).

  • Knowing Dutch can help you learn several other languages. Dutch is a cousin of English and German and a sibling to Afrikaans. Another cousin is Frisian, a regional minority language spoken in the North of the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

  • Dutch is also related to the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian languages.

  • Dutch is very hard to pronounce. It contains a lot of very hard consonant sounds that can be rough on the throat. When you first start learning, it’s not unusual for your throat to start to hurt as you try chewing through words like Scheveningen.

  • The Dutch alphabet consists of 27 letters, both uppercase and lowercase (Aa, Bb, Cc, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, Hh, Ii, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Oo, Pp, Qq, Rr, Ss, Tt, Uu, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, IJij, Zz).

  • Dutch pronunciation includes 23 vowels and diphthongs (a, aa, aai, auw, ay, e, ee, eeuw, ei, eu, i, ie, ieuw, ij, o, oe, oo, ooi, ou, u, ui, uu, uw) and 22 consonants (b, ch, ck, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, ng, nj, p, r, s, sch, sj, t, tj, v, w, z).


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