Dutch: Tot ziens (wait … isn’t this Afrikaans?)

I probably should have skipped Dutch.

I thought I would give it the benefit of the doubt due to its resemblance of German. But nah … I still didn’t like it. If anything, I would rather learn Afrikaans, which I might have to reconsider.

Dutch is spoken by about 30 million people worldwide, mostly in the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba and Suriname. It’s a descendant of Old Frankish, which comes from Low German. In a nutshell, Old Frankish, spoken in what is now the Netherlands, split in half by the northern and southern dialects, with the northern ones being called Old Low Frankish, also known as Old Dutch. Middle Dutch saw a cluster of dialects and was later standardized, leading to Modern Dutch. Dutch from the 1600s (which saw the advent of the Dutch Bible) differs little from Dutch spoken today.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: I wonder if Dutch is like German in disguise? Maybe so, considering that vocabulary is 75 percent the same. From listening to it, it sounded like German except softer, with the exception of the “g” sound which seemed to stand out a lot. And of course, the double vowels stand out quite a bit in written, along with the “lj” digraph, which sounds like an English “ay.”

As for grammar, I consulted the resources located at Indo-European Languages, a really great site for language beginners. Apparently, it’s not so bad for English speakers. All nouns are either common or neuter; common nouns use the article “de” while neuter ones use “het”, both of them meaning “the.”

Conjugation is also easy because most Dutch verbs are regular. They end in -en and follow this pattern (using the verb roken, which means “to smoke”):

Ik rook – I smoke
U rookt – you smoke
Hij/Ze rookt – he/she smokes
Wij roken – we smoke
Jullie roken – you (all) smoke
Ze roken – they smoke

The “I” form just takes the stem of the infinitive (with a minor spelling change), while the “you” and “he/she” forms add a -t. All the plural forms are just the infinitive.

As for word order Dutch, like closely related Afrikaans, is a V2 language, which means the verb must always come second or rather after the subject it relates to (even if the subject is a cluster of words). Words are negated by adding niet at the end of clauses (Ik rook niet, “I don’t smoke”). However, nouns use the negative indefinite article geen, which roughly translates as “no” “not a” or “not any” when it comes after a noun (for example, Ik wil geen kopje koffie, “I don’t want a cup of coffee”).

As for the major differences between Afrikaans and Dutch, Afrikaans doesn’t use definite articles has the definite article “die” (the) for all nouns while Dutch uses “de” and “het” as mentioned before. Also, the “lj” translates to a “y” in words. The are also differences in vocabulary and as noted before, Dutch speakers would have more difficulty understanding Afrikaans than the other way around, even though both languages are mutually intelligible.

With all this being said, I’m not sure why I tuned into Afrikaans and was turned off by Dutch. Conjugation is slightly easier because verbs don’t conjugate in the present tense. Also, Afrikaans doesn’t have definite articles. But they both sound the same to me … hmm. I just know I don’t want to pursue Dutch at all.


Intelligibility: 3
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 2
Continuation: 1


How to Learn Any Language – Languages similar to German
Indo-European Languages – Dutch
Wikipedia (Afrikaans, Differences between Afrikaans and Dutch, Dutch Grammar, Dutch Language)


6 thoughts on “Dutch: Tot ziens (wait … isn’t this Afrikaans?)

  1. Whoa! Hold the phone! Afrikaans does too use a definite article: die. And also an indefinite article: ‘n (pronounced “uh”).

    1. Thank you — someone else had noted that as well, which was a major mistake on my part! For some reason, I mistakenly thought that the “die” wasn’t required of Afrikaans nouns as “het” and “de” are for Dutch ones.

  2. Afrikaans doesn’t use the definite article? WTF does that mean? Afrikaans for ‘the’ is ‘die’ (pronounced like ‘D,’ but shorter). The indefinite article is ”n,’ which, oddly, is pronounced just like the English indefinite article, ‘a.’

    I find German to be in many ways closer to English than to Afrikaans, but in many other ways closer to Afrikaans. As an English speaker who never knew German, I found the similarities to Afrikaans obviously the most striking, as you’ve noted. But once I learned German, I noted the similarities with English. Examples:

    GermanEnglishAfrikaansDu hastThou hast-Sie habenyou havejy hetAugenblickmomentoomblikWandwallmuurSchlüsselkeysleutelBabybabybaba

  3. Afrikaans sounds and flows nicer on the ear than Holland Dutch. I have heard this from Dutch speakers themselves. Maybe because it’s a Dutch creol (Afrikaans borrowed words from Malay, French, German, English, Portuguese and local African words) 90% of the vocabulary are of Dutch origin but the grammar has been simplified (so it’s easy to learn)

    Ik rook Ek rook
    Jij rookt Jy rook

    U rookt U rook
    Hij rookt Hy rook
    Zij rookt Sy rook

    Wij/Ons roken Ons rook
    Jullie roken Julle rook
    Zij roken Hulle rook

  4. Also, afrikaans is easier to understand for dutch speakers than the other way around. Afrikaans is a bit simplified from dutch. Im afrikaans by the way.

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