Are you a student of Dutch? Do you experience confusion or amusement in the Netherlands and Belgium? Are you attempting to figure it out by communicating with expats who have experience with hagelslag? Have no fear, you are not alone! Dutch is even stranger than you previously believed. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the Dutch language.
1. It is likely the easiest foreign language to learn for native English speakers.
Due to their common Germanic ancestry, Dutch, German, and English share some similarities; Dutch is likely situated between English and German. While Dutch does enjoy leaving the verb at the end of the sentence occasionally, like in German, it doesn’t have the cases German does, which makes it more akin to English. In addition, whereas German has three (nominative) definite articles (der, die, das) and English has one (the), Dutch has two (de and het).
However, Dutch pronunciation is notoriously difficult. Your pronunciation of Dutch words, such as Scheveningen, reveals to native speakers whether or not Dutch is your native tongue; this was the undoing of numerous German spies during World War II.
2. You already speak some Dutch
If you’ve ever eaten coleslaw after leaving cookies for Santa Claus, you’ve almost certainly used several Dutch words, including koolsla, koekje, and Sinterklaas.
There are numerous additional English words that are similar to their Dutch counterparts, including:
appel = apple
banaan = banana
blauw = blue
groen = green
peer = pear
rood = re
d tomaat = tomato
Thus, you are already halfway to learning Dutch!
3. The earliest written Dutch dates back to the sixth century.
A love poem scribbled on scrap paper in the 12th century to test a writing instrument was long considered the earliest Dutch writing.
Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic enda thu. Wat unbidan we nu?
Have all birds started nesting except for you and me? What are we expecting?
They are a romantic bunch, aren’t they? Unhappily, the oldest Dutch manuscript discovered to date is a sixth-century book on the Salic Law that is extremely dull.
4. Flanders is not a language
No, it’s not true. The inhabitants of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, speak a variant of Dutch known as Flemish. This is reflected in the policy of Belgium: Dutch is the official language of Flanders and one of Belgium’s three official languages. The other two are German and French.
5. There is now a distinction between Dutch and German, whereas previously there was none.
Dutch is derived from the Middle English word Dietsc, or possibly Duutsc, which means “language of the people.” In fact, in Dutch, you would say you speak Nederlands, e.g. ik spreek Nederlands. Just like in German, you would say you speak Deutsch, i.e ich spreche Deutsch.
So, in English you refer to the language as Dutch, when its proper name is Nederlands, and you refer to their neighbor’s language as German, when its proper name is Deutsch. Yet confused?
Occasionally, English speakers go completely against the flow of all languages involved by referring to this group of German-descended people in the United States as Pennsylvania Dutch.
6. Similar to English, the Dutch language is a sneaky thief!
Dutch is indeed guilty of’stealing’ words from other languages, particularly French and Hebrew, as well as a number of others. In the past, if you were a very affluent Dutch speaker, you would occasionally drop French words into conversation to demonstrate your affluence and social standing. Many of them succeeded! Dutch words of French origin include, among many others, au pair (nanny), bouillon (broth), bureau (desk or office), humeur (mood), jus d’orange (orange juice), pantalon (pants), etc.
Some Hebraic words entered Dutch slang, including bajes (jail), geinig (funny), jatten (steal), mazzel (lucky), and tof (good) (cool). Today, Dutch is influenced by the diversity of cultures that speak it and the multiculturalism of the Netherlands. You may hear street slang composed of Moroccan, Surinamese, and Antillean words, and English is pervasive in all modern Dutch genres, particularly “social media language” and texting abbreviations.
7. The longest Dutch word in the dictionary is composed of 35 letters.
Meervoudigepersoonlijkheidsstoornis means multiple personality disorder. Although it is occasionally written as two words, some linguists argue that doing so alters the meaning. As Dutch is capable of compounding nouns, it is possible to create monstrosities, especially in the context of bureaucracy.
53 letters: kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedenplan = children’s carnival procession preparation activities plan
41 letters: hottentottententententoonstellingsterrein = exhibition ground for Hottentot tents
38 letters: Conformity Assessment Procedures = Conformity Assessment Procedures
English has only 28 characters for antidisestablishmentarianism, which refers to a group of people who loved the Church of England and did not want it disestablished as the official church of the nation in 19th-century England.
Similar to Dutch, German contains linguistic marvels. In the authoritative German dictionary Duden, you can still find words such as the 33-letter Workerunfallversicherungsgesetz (worker accident insurance law). In Duden’s corpus (database) of German words, some titans emerge, such as the 67-letter Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszustandigkeitsübertragungsverordnung, which makes little sense in English as well: regulation on the delegation of authority regarding land conveyance permits.
8. Dutch loves consonants
Even if you are extremely frightened and scream, you must remember the eight consonants of the Dutch language. This is known as an angstschreeuw, which literally translates to “fear scream.” The English word rhythms has seven consonants, but it is the only common word with that many. In contrast, the Hawaiian word hooiaioia, which means certified, contains eight consecutive vowels.
9. Dutch is a controlled language.
The Dutch Language Union, or Taalunie, is a public organization managed by the Dutch and Flemish ministers of education and culture. It is responsible for standardizing the Dutch language as well as promoting Dutch language and culture internationally. Algemeen Nederlands, or AN for short, is the Dutch term for Standard Dutch, which is taught in the schools of Dutch-speaking nations. It is described and defined in the Woordenlijst Nederlandse taal, or Word-List of the Dutch Language. However, this book is only authoritative on the spelling of Dutch words; for the definitions of these words, pick up a copy of “Fat van Dale”!
The leading dictionary of the Dutch language is the Van Dale Groot woordenboek van de Nederlandse taal, but the locals refer to it as the Dikke van Dale, or Fat van Dale. This is likely due to its enormous size, despite the availability of numerous pocket, electronic, and online editions for the average Dutch-speaker. The Dikke van Dale is the authoritative dictionary to which everyone turns for Dutch word definitions and usages. Therefore, it has a significant regulatory impact on the language.
10. The most important word in Dutch might just be “gezellig”
This term has no literal equivalent in English, but German speakers, particularly Bavarians, will recognize it as gemütlich. Gezellig is an adjective; the noun is gezelligheid. Gezellig can be applied to situations, people, and places. Gezellig describes something that is familiar, warm, friendly, cozy, and merry. For example, enjoying a gezellig dinner with old friends in one of your favorite, quaint, little restaurants with delicious food and wine is gezellig, whereas being in a business meeting is not!
Topic: 10 Interesting Facts about the Dutch Language
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