Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Dutch Language

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Hello everyone. Welcome to the LangFocus channel and my name is Paul.

Today's topic is the Dutch language.

Dutch is a language that's spoken mainly in Europe but also in a few other places around the world.

It has 23 million native speakers and around 28 million speakers in total, including second language speakers.

It is most widely spoken in the Netherlands where it has around 16 million native speakers.

It is also spoken by around 60% of the population of Belgium, mostly in the northern region of Flanders.

That's around 6.5 million people

It's also spoken by a small number of people across the border in French Flanders, which lies adjacent to Belgium.

But only around 20,000 people there still speak it on a regular basis.

It is also spoken in the South American nation of Surinam where it has around 350,000 native speakers as well as around 250,000 second language speakers

it is also an official language on the island of Aruba, along with the language papiamento.

But few of the 100,000 people there actually use Dutch, even though they all learn it in school.

It is also spoken in Curacao where it is spoken by around 15,000 people as a native language

and by many of the other 140,000 people as a second language.

It is also an official language in Sint Maarten along with English.

A couple of thousand people there speak Dutch but English is actually much more common.

There is also Afrikaans, a language spoken in South Africa and Namibia

which is a daughter language of Dutch and is mutually intelligible to some extent

But i'll leave Afrikaans out for now and I'll speak about it in a different video in the future.

Dutch is a member of the West Germanic branch of the Germanic language family,

which also includes Afrikaans, Frisian, English and German, among others.

Dutch is one of the languages that is most closely related to English.

Actually, Frisian is more closely related to English than Dutch is but Dutch is a close second.

And a lot of people say that Dutch is quite similar to German too.

In fact, some people say that Dutch lies somewhere between English and German.

Now that's not a very precise statement but I think there is some truth to it.

The history of Dutch

All Germanic languages developed from Proto-Germanic which was spoken around 500 BCE

in northern continental Europe and also in Scandinavia.

By the 2nd century CE, it had begun diverging into distinct northern, western and eastern dialects.

The Western dialect is the ancestor of Dutch and of all of the West Germanic languages.

Variation developed in the Western dialect but all of its varieties remained intelligible until around the 8th c. CE.

But, by then, a series of sound changes have begun to take place that made Old High German,

the ancestor of modern German, much more distinct from the other West Germanic languages.

For more information on German and its history, check out my video on German right here

Old Dutch, also known as Old Low Franconian, remained unaffected by the changes that affected Old High German.

Also unaffected were : Old Saxon, Old Frisian an Old English

But those languages underwent a different series of sound changes.

But again Dutch was mostly unaffected by these changes too.

Middle Dutch

Old Dutch developed into Middle Dutch, which was spoken and written between 1150 and 1500 CE.

It was a rich literary period.

And literature from this time period is often quite readable for speakers of Modern Dutch, because Dutch is quite a conservative language.

Middle Dutch developed into Modern Dutch by the middle of the 16th century.

The process of the standardization of Dutch began in the year 1477 at the end of the Middle Dutch period.

The dialects of Flanders and Brabant were most influential at that time.

Then, in the 16th century, the move to standardization became stronger with the Antwerp dialect being the most influential.

In the year 1637, the first major Dutch Bible translation known as "Statenvertaling" had been published. ("Statenvertaling" means "translation of the States")

It had been translated in such a way that people from all over the country could read and understand it.

This Bible was read by nearly everyone and it helped greatly in the standardization of Dutch.

The southern Netherlands, now Belgium and Luxembourg were separate and under Spanish, Austrian and then French rule.

More than half of the people in Belgium spoke a dialect of Dutch but French was most widely used in public life in schools, etc...

So Dutch remained unstandardized there until the 19th century,

when the Flemish movement started standing up for the rights of Dutch-speakers.

They adopted the same standard language used in the Netherlands.

Nowadays in both the Netherlands and in Flanders, the northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, the situation is similar.

There are a number of spoken varieties of Dutch as well as a standard language.

So the difference lies mainly in pronunciation of standard Dutch and in the local dialects used.

The dialects of Flanders tend to be more conservative and use more older Dutch vocabulary.

Regional languages.

There are Dutch dialects but there are also different regional languages,

that are West Germanic languages and closely related to Dutch,

but not as closely related as the dialects that are considered part of Dutch.

Regional languages in the Netherlands include: - Frisian, in the northern province of Friesland

- Low Saxon in the northeast and there are various dialects of Low Saxon

- and Limburgish or East Low Franconian in the southeast.

Low Saxon spreads across the border with Germany and forms part of a dialect continuum between Dutch and German.

If you've seen my German video, you know that the dialects in northern Germany are referred to as Low German and can be considered a separate language.

The Dutch Low Saxon dialects are closely related to the Low German dialects across the border.

This is also true for Limburgish which is related to Franconian dialect spoken across the border in Germany.

It should be noted that Dutch dialects and regional languages are in decline with standard Dutch becoming more widespread.

And with some people speaking a kind of combination of standard Dutch with some dialectal features.

So what is Dutch like?

Dutch is not mutually intelligible with English but you will often notice cognate vocabulary.

and at the most basic level, you will notice similar grammar,

if you disregard the details and just look at the most basic sentences.

Occasionally there are sentences in Dutch that might be strangely familiar to English speakers. For example:

This means: "What is pour name?"

This means: "My name is Luke"

This means: "The bear drank beer"

(The guy must have gotten that one in Duolingo)

This means: "It is not far"

This means: "That is good news"

Now, if all Dutch sentences were so similar to English, then the two languages could probably be quite intelligible with each other.

but most Dutch sentences are not that similar to English. But you will see a lot of cognate vocabulary.


Similar to German, Dutch is a language that places verbs at the end of the sentence, after the first initial verb.

So its underlying structure is basically SOV, but the first verb is in second position after the subject.

So, if there's only one verb in the sentence, then it's basically like SVO.

Here's a sentence with one verb.

This means "I am writing a letter".

Word by word, this is like : " I - write - a - letter "

Just like English, with the verb in second position.

Here's a sentence with two verbs:

This means: "I want to give you some goodies".

Word by word, that is "I - want - you (indirect object) - some - goodies - give".

In this sentence, the first verb is in second position

but the next verb comes at the end of the sentence.



When it comes to gender, Dutch traditionally has 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neuter

But, in modern spoken Dutch, the distinction between masculine and feminine gender has almost become irrelevant, because they don't look or sound different.

It used to determine which pronoun would be used to refer to those nouns, whether it's "he" or "she",

but people generally just use "he" these days.

So now the two genders are basically: common gender and neuter.

The noun's gender agrees with articles as well as the forms of adjectives


There are two types of plural endings in Dutch

One is "-en" and the other is "-s"

There are some - well, not rules but - patterns for when to use each one but there are a lot of exceptions.

So you have words like :

Deur - DeurEN = "Door(s)"

Boot - BOTEN = "Boat(s)"

and you have words like:

Sleutel - SleutelS = "Key(s)"

Lepel - LepelS = "spoon(s)"

A few neuter nouns have a plural form "-eren". For example:

Kind - KindEREN = "child - children"


Dutch used to have noun cases similar to German.

There were four cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative.

These were part of standard written Dutch until the 1940s but they were dropped because nobody use them in speech anymore.

There are several different articles in Dutch.

There is an indefinite article : "een"

And there are definite articles for singular and for plural nouns.

For singular masculine: "de"

For singular feminine: "de"

For singular neuter : "het"

And the definite article for plural for all genders : "de"

An interesting thing is there is a negative article: "geen"

This is the same for all genders and for both singular and plural.


There are two verb tenses in Dutch : past and present, or non past.

But saying there are two tenses is kind of misleading, because, similar to in English, the verb can be used

in combination with different auxiliary verbs to express different meanings.

And there are participial forms that can be used to show passive or continuous actions

For example:

Here's a sentence using the simple past:

This means "He built a house"

So we start with the infinitive "bouwen"

And this is the verb stem "bouw" and this is the past tense form : "bouwde"

Now here's a present perfect sentence: "Hij heeft een huis gebouwd"

This means: "he has built a house"

so we start with the infinitive "hebben"

and here's the verb stem : "heb" and here's the past tense "heeft"

and the second verb is a past participle

This is formed by adding the prefix "ge-" and the suffix "-d"

Notice again that the second verb is at the end of the sentence, even though the first verb is in second position after the subject.

There are three different ways to express the future tense:

One of them is to use this auxiliary verb "zullen" This means something like "shall" or "will".

The sentence means "I will do it tomorrow".

You can also use this verb meaning "to go" ("gaan") plus the infinitive

This is similar to using "going to" in English.

For example:

This means "It's going to rain"

And you can also use the present tense for the future.

This means "They won't come until later"

Literally "They come only later"

So the verb system in Dutch is rather similar to the one used in English.

The main difference being that any verb after the first one comes at the end.


One of the hardest parts of learning Dutch might be the pronunciation

because there are some sounds that can be a challenge for learners.

And native speakers of dutch seem quite conscious of the challenges we face.

That was kind of an indirect way of saying: "they think our pronunciation sucks"

Some of the sounds that require special effort are the Dutch G sound. For example:

and the sound which "CH" often represents. For example:

Notice that this is the same sound as the one represented by G.

But in other cases, CH represents the "ch" sound

and sometimes those sounds come at the beginning of a word which is a little bit of a challenge

but sometimes, they come right after the letter S like in the word for "school"

This sound combination is quite common in Dutch.

There are a lot of long words in Dutch. Some of them can be over 30 characters long.

Here are a couple extreme examples:

This one means "multiple personality disorder" and that is 35 characters long.

This one means: "preparation activities for a children's carnival procession" and this is 53 characters long.

And Dutch has also has a lot of colorful idioms. For example:

This means "make the cat wise"

This means that someone is saying something so outlandish or unbelievable that even the cat won't believe it.

Another example:

This means "he has a beard and his throat".

This idiom describes the situation when a boy reaches puberty and his voice starts to change.

How hard is Dutch to learn?

For English speakers, a lot of Dutch will seem strangely familiar.

And of course that will help.

But there are some issues in learning the pronunciation as well as the finer details of grammar.

But maybe the hardest thing about learning Dutch is that Dutch speakers usually speak English very well.

So it will be hard to practice.

When you try to speak Dutch with people, they will probably answer you in English.

But you can solve that problem by taking some lessons or doing a language exchange

and practicing on your own until you reach a fairly good level and have a fairly good base

Then, after that, you can speak to people in Dutch without totally pissing them off.

The question of the day for native speakers of Dutch:

How well can you understand the speakers of regional languages that are related to Dutch?

Languages like Frisian or Low Saxon.

And for people who have studied Dutch: What was your experience with trying to learn and practice Dutch?

How do people respond to you? Did they answer you in English?

What was the best way for you to learn and practice Dutch?

Leave your answers and your comments down below.

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And thanks again to all of my patreon supporters for your wonderful contributions every month.

Thank you for watching and have a nice day.

The Description of The Dutch Language