Odd Things About the Dutch Language

Dutch is a difficult and challenging language that has some odd unexpected surprises, such as phrases from other languages and extremely difficult spelling. 

Dutch & Other Languages

You may be surprised to learn how many Dutch words are borrowed from other languages. French used to be considered the height of elegance in the Dutch-speaking world, leading to a lot of French words being adopted into Dutch, such as paraplu (umbrella), bureau (desk or office) and horloge (wrist watch) etc.

Almost equal in the number of borrowed words is Hebrew, which is often perceived as strange until you consider the large Jewish populations in Holland from the Middle Ages onwards. The Jews developed their own versions of 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, such as bajes (jail), jatten (to steal), and kapsones (arrogance).

Dutch Words

Dutch is a curious language in three main aspects that make it look most odd to native English speakers (or, frankly, natives of most other countries except for Dutch speakers!).

For one, Dutch is very hard to pronounce. It contains a lot of very hard consonant sounds that can be very rough on the throat. When you first start learning Dutch, it’s not unusual for your throat to start to hurt as you try chewing through words like Scheveningen (beach resort town in Holland). If you think German is a tough language to pronounce well, prepare yourself, because the Dutch hit those hard consonants even harder. The difference is great enough that in World War II the Dutch would identify German spies by the way they pronounced Dutch words.

Scheveningen

Scheveningen

 

Dutch also contains some extremely long words. More than thirty letters isn’t uncommon, like the word for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: chronischevermoeidheidssyndroom. Yes, whereas English uses three words, the Dutch simply have one enormous word. Not only are these words long, but many Dutch words also have a lot of consonants, which can make for difficult reading and speaking. Take slechtstschrijvend (writes the worst) for example. After trying to learn and pronounce words with nine or more consonants in a row, you’ll need a drink to soothe your throat (quite possibly a stiff one!).

So, if you have always thought us Dutch were somewhat odd….you’re not far off!

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6 Comments

Filed under Holland life, Just stuff, Translation titbits

6 responses to “Odd Things About the Dutch Language

  1. Hiker

    Hey Ankie,

    Did you know that Sinhala language has a lot of words borrowed from Dutch? Here are some familiar ones!
    The word order is Sinhala > Meaning > Dutch > Dutch Meaning
    artāpal > Potato > Aardappel > Potato
    bōnci > Beans > Boontje > Bean
    kantōruva > Office > Kantoor > Office
    kaḷukumā > Turkey > Kalkoen > Turkey
    mōla > Mill > Molen > Mill
    säldiri > Celery > Selderij > Celery
    istirikkaya > Iron > Strijkijzer > Iron
    kakkussiya > Toilet > Kakhuisje
    kompäniya > Company > Compagnie > Company

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Fantastic! Yes I know of quite a few others too. I feel a blog post coming on 😀 thanks.

      • Hiker

        Hey Ankie,
        This will help you with your future blog post. 😉

        The word order is Sinhala > Meaning > Dutch > Dutch Meaning

        administrāsiya > Administration > Administratie > Administration
        advakāt > Lawyer, advocate > Advocaat > Lawyer
        agasti > Agate > Agate > Agate
        amanda, amandäl > Almond > Amandel > Almond
        artāpal > Potato > Aardappel > Potato
        äpääla > Appeal > Appel > Appeal
        āsiyā > Ace > Aas > Ace
        avagāraya > Auger > Avegaar > Auger
        bācciya > Jacket > Baadje > Jacket
        bakkiya > small trough or box > Bakje > Small trough or box
        balansa > balance > Balans > Balance
        bāliya > Tub > Balie > Tub
        balkona > balcony > Balkon > Balcony
        bālkaya > Beam/Rafter > Balk > Beam
        banketa > Banquette > Banket > Banquette
        bānsiya > Berth > Baantje > Berth
        bās > Mason > Baas > Boss, leader
        bavusa > Tube > Buis > Tube
        belek > Tin > Blikje > Tin
        beliyata > Placard, Notice of Sale > Bericht > Notice
        bōkkuva > Arch > Boog > Arch
        bōnci > Bean(s) > Boontje > Bean
        bōrdaya > Border > Boorde > Edge, Border
        būdalaya > Estate/Property > Boerderij > Estate
        būndala > Bundle > Bundel > Bundle
        būruvā > Jack/Knave > Boer > Farmer
        dān > Draughts > Dammen > Draughts
        dāsiya > Tie > Das > Tie
        dääla > Dale > Dal > Dale
        dusima > Dozen > Dozijn > Dozen
        hākkaya > Hook > Haak > Hook
        hārnāla > Hairpin > Haarnaald > Hairpin
        hārta > Hearts > Harten > Hearts
        hēra > King > Heer > Mister, Sir
        hundā > Hound > Hond > Dog
        jasa, jäsa > Jacket > Jas > Jacket
        isnibonchi > Green beans > > Green bean
        istirikkaya > Iron > Strijkijzer > Iron
        iskōppa > Spades > Schoppen > Spades
        istālaya > Stall, Stable > Stal > Stall
        istōppuva > Veranda > Stoep > Side Walk
        kakkussiya > Toilet > Kakhuisje > kak “feces” + huisje “small house”
        kalābara > Clubs > Klaveren > Clubs
        kāmaraya > Room > Kamer > Room
        kanāla > Canal > Kanaal > Canal
        kantōruva > Office > Kantoor > Office
        kaḷukumā > Turkey > Kalkoen > Turkey
        kanoma > Cannon > Kanon > Cannon
        kapōti > Broken, exhausted > Kapot > Broken, exhausted
        karāmaya > Tap > Kraan > Tap
        kāsiya > Coin > kwartje > Quarter]
        kastan > Chestnut > kastanje > Chestnut
        kompäniya > Company > Compagnie > Company
        kārtuva > Card > kaartje > Card
        kärakōppuva > Cemetery > Kerkhof > Cemetery
        kētalaya > Kettle > Ketel > Kettle
        klavīra > Piano > >
        klääsiya > Class > Klasse > Class
        kokis > Type of fried traditional food > Koekjes > Biscuit
        kondēsiya > Condition > Conditie > Condition
        kōkiyā > Cook > Kokin > Cook
        kōpi > Coffee > Koffie > Coffee
        kōppaya > Cup > Kop > Cup
        koroma > Crown > Kroon > Crown
        kuluna > Column > Colonne > Column
        kuyitansiya > Receipt > Kwitantie > Receipt
        lanta > Land > Landt > Land, Country
        lappiya > Patch > Lapje > Lap
        läin > Glue > Lijm > Glue
        lavandäl, lavandel > Lavender > Lavendel > Lavender
        lei lei > Mixed > Allerlei > All kinds of
        londa > Blond > Blond > Blond
        lūpa > Gun Barrel > Loop > Barrel
        maḍa > Mud > Modder > Mud
        mīla > Meal > Meel > Meal
        minci > Mint > Muntje > Mint
        mōla > Mill > Molen > Mill
        nääla > Needle > Naald > Needle
        notāris > Notary > Notaris > Notary
        oralōsuva > Clock > Horloge (from French) > Wrist Watch
        panīla > Panel > Paneel > Panel
        pelsa > Fur > Pels > Fur
        petora > Cartride > Patroon > Cartridge
        pispontuva > Backstich > > Backstich
        piṭasäli > Parsley > Peterselie > Parsley
        plā > Custard > Vla > Custard
        poroppaya > Cork > Prop, Kurk > Plug, Cork
        porova > Queen > Vrouw > Lady
        proklamāsiya > Proclamation > Proclamatie > Proclamation
        pūli > Mace > Foelie > Mace
        puyar > Powder > Poeier > Powder
        rākkaya > Rack > Rek > Rack
        rāmuva > Frame > Raam > Frame
        rikat > Richard > Rikkert > Richard
        ruhita > Diamonds > Ruiten > Diamonds
        säldiri > Celery > Selderij > Celery
        säädala > Saddle > Zadel > Saddle
        selduk > Canvas > Zeilduk > Canvas
        sipiri, sipiyā > Jailer, Warden > Cipier > Jailer
        sōppiya > Shot > Schop > Shot
        tarappuva > Stairs > Trap > Stairs
        tēpōcciya > Teapot > Theepot > Tea pot
        tintal > Tinder > Tintel > Tinder
        tisāla > Tile > Tichel > Tile
        testamēntuva > Testament > Testament > Testament
        tōlkayā > Interpreter > Tolk > Interpreter
        vāpana > Coat of Arms > Wapen > Insignia
        vatal > Carrot > Wortel > Carrot
        vatura > Water > Water > Water
        vendēsiya > Auction > Vendutie > Auction
        vinkala > Workshop > Winkel > Shop
        viyalti > Violet > Violtje > Violet
        vul > Wool > Wol > Wool

  2. magerata

    Man, what list, no wonder you fit in so well. But who painted the sea in Scheveningen blue? Good to have you back!

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