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Dutch Language

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The official language of the Netherlands is 'Dutch'. It is estimated that the number of native-speakers of Dutch is more than 21 million people worldwide and therefore, not a minor language. Dutch is not only spoken in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but also in the northern half of Belgium (58% are Flemish and speak Dutch as their mother tongue). It is an official language of the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. It is also the offical language of Surinam. South African Afrikaans is a derivative of Dutch.

The language is also called Netherlandic and the name Dutch comes from the Middle Ages. It comes from the word Duutsc meaning 'language of the people'. Dutch is a Germanic language with heavy influences from English and French. The earliest Dutch documents date back to the end of the 12th century. Many are unaware that it has contributed many words to the English language including freight, easel, and yacht.

Those that look at the language will also notice a lot of words the same as in English (although pronounced vastly different). However, you need to be very careful as they may not mean the same thing at all. When a Dutchman asks for a bear he is asking for a beer and not an animal. Other examples: bad in Dutch means bath; nut in Dutch means profit; stag means stay; grot means cave; keep means notch; and the list goes on.......

Those who have studied foreign languages before may also be familiar with formal and informal address. Dutch also has these rules. Gender rules as in French will also be familiar to a multi-linguist, however, in Dutch, nouns and adjectives are not masculine or feminine but rather neuter or common. This can be extremely tricky!  All nouns and adjectives will either be 'het' or 'de' but this is no rule governing which are which. When learning Dutch, it is necessary to learn the gender with the word. For example, de bloes (blouse) and het hemd (shirt).

Plurals in Holland are usually an ending of 'en' but it can also sometimes be 's'. The general rules are that 'en' is added to nouns unless the noun ends in 'ei', 'er', 'en', 'je', or 'ie'. In those cases a plural would have 's' on the end as do nouns ending in a,i,o,u,y. However this rule is not set in stone and there are a number of exceptions that will really confuse. For example, the word ei (egg) will become eieren (eggs).

The trickiest part about learning Dutch, though, is the pronunciation. Don't think for a minute that you will pronounce anything you read correctly. For starters, they roll their R's and there are other special characteristics. A non native Dutch speaker will never get the correct pronunciation of 'G' which sounds like you are trying to cough up phlegm. Be warned! Another combination that causes a lot of problems for non native speakers is the 'sch' combination.

The following few pages contain helpful translations for English speakers intending on visiting or relocating to the Netherlands.

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