Top Differences between Flemish and Dutch

Top Differences between Flemish and Dutch

There are plenty of similarities between Dutch and Flemish; a few thousand words, in fact. They might seem like a lot, but to some they are, and to some they aren’t.

Both Dutch and Flemish are part of the Dutch Language Union. This means that both languages are part of the same language group, which shows that the similarities between both languages are sizeable. However, there are a number of differences, as well.

Dutch and Flemish

Phonetically Different

For Dutch and Flemish speakers, it is very easy to distinguish whether a person is from Flanders or from the Netherlands. The differences in pronunciation are obvious to them. For example, the word “record” is pronounced as it is written in Flemish, but in Dutch we use the French pronunciation of the word. The differences in pronunciation can be heard in this video. Other differences include word nationaal (national), which is pronounced “nasional” in Flemish and “natzional” in Dutch.

The Flemish Think Dutch Sounds Unpleasant

This might not have much to do with how we communicate but, compared to Flemish, the Dutch language can sound quite rough. By this I mean that we have louder tones in our words. The letter g is pronounced clearly in northern parts of the Netherlands, whereas in Flanders the sound is softer (comparable to the x sound in Russian). In Dutch, the pronunciation often leans more towards an English pronunciation. Many Dutch words are literally taken from English; a steady trend which shows no signs of fading. In Flanders, however, the pronunciation leans more towards French.

Dutch and Flemish Vocabulary Differences

This is probably the largest difference between the two languages when it comes to linguistic differences. Even though grammatically both languages are practically interchangeable, there are still many challenges encountered when visiting Flanders, or when Flemish speakers visit the Netherlands. There is a lot of confusion when travelers go to either one of these countries and attempt to communicate. One example is the word afslag (“turn”in English,as in to turn your car around).In Dutch, it is the literal definition of ‘turn,’ just like in English. However, in Flemish this can also mean lowering prices. Here are several more examples.

Approaching People

In Dutch, it is very normal to introduce yourself formally and promptly switch a conversation to the informal. However, in Flemish, the informal tone is not used as much. Instead of saying je (informal ‘you’), the Flemish say Ge, and also tend to use U, the formal ‘you,’ more often than the Dutch do. This is also a reason why the Flemish consider the Dutch to be unpleasant.

Both languages are similar, but the differences are sometimes so large that, for the Flemish and the Dutch, they could appear to be two different languages. They have a hard time understanding each other at times. Still, when we make an effort, the common linguistic ground is enough to communicate successfully.

About Tim Oldenhuis

I’m a native Dutch translator living in the Netherlands. I translate for Coursera to help make education accessible for everyone. My interests are SEO, Gamification and Marketing. I translate website content and blogs, primarily from English and German into Dutch.


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