The Netherlands, the Dutch & the Dutch language

Facts & Figures   | Also see >> What Makes The Dutch Tick

Did you know that

  • Dutch is spoken by more than 25 million people, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium, but also in the North-Eastern corner of France, six Caribbean islands and the South American Republic of Surinam?

  • in Europe, more people speak Dutch than e.g. Greek (10 million), Portuguese (9 million), the Scandinavian languages (18 million) or Czech and Slovak combined (14,5 million)?

  • Afrikaans, one of the eleven official languages of the Republic of South Africa, is the language closest to Dutch? It started to evolve into a separate language in the second half of the eighteenth century and is now spoken by approximately 17 million people as either their first or second language.

  • Unilever, Philips, AKZO and Shell have their roots at least partially in the Netherlands?

  • both the Netherlands and Belgium rank remarkably high on the list of exporting countries? (especially considering their modest size and population; only the US, Germany, Japan, the UK, France and Italy rank higher)

  • Holland proper is really just the westernmost part of the country? (roughly the coastal area west of the line Amsterdam-Dordrecht)

  • the Kingdom of the Netherlands is 37 years younger than the Republic of the United States of America?
LEARNING DUTCH - a few common misconceptions

"Dutch is just a simplified form of German"
If this was true, why would so many Germans who want to learn Dutch find their way to Dutch language schools? And why would they need one and two week intensive courses to be able to communicate effectively? It is true that 'Low German', spoken in northern Germany, and Dutch share the same Old Saxon roots. However, present-day German happens to be based primarily on 'High German' (Hochdeutsch).

"Dutch is extremely difficult to learn"
That's exactly what the French say about English. But really, how difficult can a language be that in many respects is halfway between English and German? Once you've tackled word order and pronunciation, it's a cinch. If you really want to suffer, have a go at Finnish, Japanese or Xhosa.....

"You don't need Dutch in the Netherlands: everybody speaks good English and Dutch will eventually become extinct anyway"
Blatantly untrue!! What you need is a certain level of Dutch (Common European Framework level B1 to be precise) - or else you will indeed find yourself speaking more English than back home ... As for extinction: hardly something the average expat can afford to sit around and wait for, is it ? There's a whole country out there - and it speaks Dutch!

"Dutch word order was invented to drive English speakers crazy"
Not true either, but it's not difficult to see why, over the years, this idea by quite a few students of Dutch has been ventured... ;-)

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