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The Dutch Language

Spreek je Nederlands?

Perhaps you’re planning a vacation or a business trip in the not-too-distant future. Is South America your destination? You’ll hear Dutch. Maybe it’s the Caribbean that calls you. You’ll hear the Dutch language. Dutch is one of the official languages of Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius. And, of course, if you’re visiting the Netherlands, or facing trial in The Hague, you might want to join in its official language – yes, Dutch. 

Dutch, a Germanic language, is the primary language of almost 30 million people in Western Europe alone, and is heard in such far-flung locales as The Republic of Suriname in north-eastern South America, popular vacation resort islands in the Caribbean, in areas of Indonesia, as well as closer to home in parts of neighbouring Belgium (where approximately 60% of the population speaks Dutch, there known as Flemish). 

Additionally, its influence even extends to North America – recall that New York used to be New Amsterdam, and still retains many linguistic artefacts of these early settlers. The Dutch language is also the basis for Afrikaans, which has more than 6 million native speakers in South Africa and many more in neighbouring African countries. The Dutch clearly got around and their impact on culture and trade and language can still be seen today.

The Dutch, from the 16th through 19th centuries, were industrious, productive, seafaring explorers and conquerors, with a sophisticated mercantile society. The creation of the Dutch East India Company established the Netherlands as an international economic powerhouse. It is said to be home to the world’s first stock market (and, not coincidentally, perhaps the world’s first asset-inflation bubble – tulips).

Dutch bears a resemblance to both German and English, not surprising as all three belong to what is known as the West-German language group. To some, Dutch is often confused with German, perhaps because the German name for its own language is “Deutsch”. Over hundreds of years, Dutch, which was more Germanic at its inception, evolved into a distinct language, differentiated from German through, among other things, its abandonment of the grammatical case. Further, the German language itself underwent shifts over time, drawing it further away in pronunciation from its “landsmann” (Ger.) or “landsman” (Dutch). However, much of either language would be intelligible to a speaker of the other. Likewise with Afrikaans, considered a sister language to Dutch; the two languages are mutually comprehensible.

Dutch, a language spoken by perhaps 50 million people the world over, emanating from one of the smaller countries of the world, exhibits a tenacity and influence greater than that which one might expect.

Contact Axis Translations for assistance with Dutch translation, transcription and interpreting.