Dutch is 3rd most spoken West Germanic language globally after English and German. Sometimes referred to as Netherlandic or Nederlands, the Dutch language
official tongue for speech and written communication in the Netherlands, along with German and French. It is the third recognized native tongue in Belgium. Besides Belgium and the Netherlands, there are quite few places around the world where it is spoken. They include parts of Northern France, Curacao, Aruba, Indonesia and Suriname. In total, there are about 23 million speakers worldwide that consider it to be a mother tongue. There is also an additional 4-5 million people who speak it as a second or acquired foreign language.
As a language, Dutch has evolved a lot more than most of its siblings also in the Indo-European family. A lot of its words and slang today are borrowed from several others, but it has retained its relevance and distinct features. Today, it is very much standardized and the versions taught in educational institutions is the official version known as ‘Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands’ or ABN, and it stands for ‘General Civilized Dutch’.
It makes use of the Latin script in writing, but also has an additional character – the digram ‘ij’, which does not occur the same way in other languages. However, different double letters can be seen in some others from its Indo-European family, including Albanian, Czech and Hungarian.
History, Dialects and Geographical Distribution of Dutch
Modern Dutch evolved from Middle Dutch, which was also not a standard language but a collective name for very similar dialects used in the region. Their oldest ancestor is Old Dutch, which was used until the 12th century when it developed. Dialect groups which are closer variants of each other exist in different Dutch-speaking communities. Some of them include the West Flemish dialect group, the Brabantian dialect and the Hollandic dialect.
Many variants of the Dutch language are spoken as far as Africa. Afrikaans, a popular tongue in South Africa has its roots in Nederlands, as historically, settlers arrived from there in the 17th century. It is also used in neighboring Namibia, but not as a native tongue. Some communities in Canada and Indonesia also speak it as a first language. Lastly although incorrect, a group of Americans whose ancestors were European are commonly referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, however their roots can be traced back to Germany.
At a glance here are some facts you’d find interesting about this language and the speakers:
- It is quite peculiar as it loves consonants, but it is also very pleasant. Oddly, ‘meervoudigerpersoonlijkheidsstoornis’ (equivalent to the English phrase for MPD) is the longest word, and like most others it loses its meaning when written as two or more split words.
- Several words sound similar to English and others of Germanic roots but correct pronunciation is quite difficult to learn if you’re a non-native.
- Some famous Dutch speakers include painters, Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt, explorer, Peter Stuyvesant and soccer player, Robin van Persie.