Appel, banaan, tomaat. You’re officially speaking and understanding Dutch without knowing it! Dutch is probably the easiest language to learn for native English speakers, and there is a good reason for it.
English, German and Dutch all have Germanic roots, just like Italian, Spanish and Romanian all have Latin roots. If you are a native speaker of any of the three Germanic languages mentioned above, you should be able to learn the other two without much effort. The image below will help you better understand how different languages are related to each other and to what extent.
Figure 1 – Source: Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Ukrainian.)
The spelling is only one element that contributes to the lexical distance of languages. Other factors that include: grammar rules, idioms, pronunciation, and accent.
Similarities and Differences
As illustrated in the diagram above, Dutch (DUT) stands somewhere in the middle between English and German. If we look at the Lexical Distance (the lines that connect the language bubbles) we see that the Dutch language is more closely related to German than it is to English which indicates that learning Dutch could be easier for those who already speak German. This index takes into account the way words are being spelled out. Dutch uses the same technique of gluing words together in order to create a specific term – just like German and English.
Here are a few examples of compound words in English and Dutch.
|work + place = workplace||werk + plaats = werkplaats|
|dry + clean = dryclean||droog + kuis = droogkuis|
|rain + fall = rainfall||regen + val = regenval|
|black + board = blackboard||School + bord = schoolbord|
|Ear + phones = earphones||Oor + telefoons = oortelefoons|
As you can see, some Dutch words follow the same structure as their English siblings, while others are glued together like their German counterparts.
Much like German, the Dutch sometimes glue entire sentences together. Below is an example of the longest Dutch word: “kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedenplan”. This translates to “preparation activities for a children’s carnival procession”. The Germans, however, break this particular word down into three separate words: “Kinderkarneval Prozession Vorbereitungsplan”
By looking at the examples given throughout the article so far, chances are you have noticed striking similarities between many of the words given as examples. That is again going back to the fact that both English and Dutch have Germanic roots. However, not all words are that similar. Below are a few examples of Dutch words that may seem alien to a native English speaker.
English and Dutch also have their similarities in grammar, however, they do not come without some differences.
The Dutch verb system is similar to the English one although there are some exceptions. For example, the Dutch do not use the auxiliary in question or negations. So, a Dutch studying entry-level English may phrase a question in the following way: “Where you come from?”, “How you like the food?” or “I drink not beer”. There is also no continuous tense in the Dutch language which can lead to translation errors like: “I ate a supper when you rang the bell”!
Another difference between the two languages is that English uses past simple in order to describe a past activity that started and ended in the past. Conversely, Dutch used the present perfect in order to express the same action.
Here is an example:
English – My cousin went to Spain last year. Dutch – My cousin has gone to Spain last year.
English and Dutch are related to each other on multiple levels. Both sides can learn the other’s language with relative ease. As long as there is a clear understanding of the differences and peculiarities of each language – Learning English as Dutch or Dutch as a brit can be an exciting journey of discovery!
If you are curious and would like to find out more about learning Dutch, give us a call and our multilingual account managers will be happy to chat with you about it. If you prefer writing, just click this link and send us your enquiry. We offer Dutch courses for business in London, as well as across the UK and in a number of worldwide locations as well.