The Netherlands is a small country with a big personality. From its vibrant cities to its picturesque countryside, there’s a lot to love about the place. One of the things that make the Netherlands unique is its diverse range of dialects. That’s right, Dutch is not just one language – it’s a whole family of dialects that differ from region to region, with the official number ranging somewhere between 250 and 400.
It’s often mistakenly thought that Dutch is only spoken in the Netherlands, but in actual fact, it is also an official language of Belgium, and it is spoken in Suriname, the Dutch Antilles and in parts of France and Germany, as well.
For today’s blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at the diversity of Dutch dialects and what makes them unique.
The Origins of Dutch Dialects
The Dutch language can be traced all the way back to the sixth century, when Germanic tribes settled in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium. During the middle ages, the language was called Dietsc or Duutsc, which means ‘language of the people’. Over the course of hundreds of years, different dialects developed in different regions. It was only later that ‘standard’ Dutch was introduced in an attempt to bring all of the different dialects that emerged together. While ‘standard’ Dutch is used for official business and in schools, the dialects remain widely used amongst the people themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more striking Dutch dialects:
1. Hollandic (Hollands)
Hollandic is one of the most widely spoken varieties of Dutch and it is spoken in … yep, you guessed it, Holland! Many people confuse the Netherlands with Holland, but Holland actually refers specifically to the western part of the country. This dialect is the easiest to understand, as it’s quite similar to standard Dutch. It can be divided into some sub-dialects: the Hague dialect (Haags), the Rotterdam dialect (Rotterdams), and the Amsterdam dialect (Amsterdams).
2. Brabantian (Brabants)
This is the second most widely spoken Dutch dialect with its main distinguishing feature being that it has a soft ‘g’ as opposed to a harsh ‘g’. It is spoken in a large area of the Netherlands and is often referred to as ‘Belgian’ Dutch, because it’s very similar to the dialect spoken in Antwerp, Limburg and Flemish Brabant. An expression you’ll often hear is houdoe, which comes from houd u goed (literally keep yourself alright). This is used as a way of saying goodbye.
3. Gronings (Gronings)
Gronings comes from the Low Saxon dialect which is spoken in Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel. What makes this dialect so different from standard Dutch is the fact that they ‘swallow’ some words or letters, and they replace the ‘ij’ sound with ‘ie’ and the ‘ie’ sound with ‘ai’. This can make it very confusing dialect for people who aren’t used to this accent.
Dutch Dialects – A Reflection of a Rich History and Culture
Those were just three of the hundreds of unique and diverse Dutch dialects that are spoken worldwide. But why are Dutch dialects important, you might be wondering? For one thing, they are a fun and quirky aspect of Dutch culture that adds to the country’s charm. But more importantly than that, they reflect the rich history and diverse population of the Netherlands.
If you’re in need of high-quality translations into or out of the Dutch language, don’t hesitate to contact us for a no-obligation chat and a quote. Our team of expert translators is well-versed in the nuances of the Dutch language and can provide accurate and reliable translations for all your business or personal needs!
Houdoe for now!
PS. Did you know? Dutch can be found as far away as South Africa, where Afrikaans is one of the official languages. Although it’s considered a language in its own right, many Dutch speakers consider it a (not so) distant dialect of the Dutch language. Around 90 to 95% of the vocabulary is of Dutch origin, with the biggest differences being the pronunciation and grammar.