Dutch dialects

Dutch dialects on the map
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Ever realized that the Dutch people you meet sound nothing like the Dutch you’re learning? It’s a pretty frustrating feeling, specifically when you have spent lots of time taking Dutch lessons. Unfortunately, Dutch dialects are a part of our language, and learning more about them will only help you in your quest of becoming a true Dutchie. We’ll go over a few of the most common Dutch dialects in this article, and we’ll hopefully get you up to speed with the most common “not-so-Dutch” words you are likely to encounter in various parts of The Netherlands.

The most common Dutch dialects

De meest voorkomende Nederlandse dialecten

The bad news is that Dutch has hundreds of dialects, with the official number being somewhere between 250 and 400. Research shows that it’s very likely that these dialects have been around for hundreds of years, while “standard” Dutch was introduced only later as an attempt to bring the dialects somewhat together.

As The Netherlands is such a small country, having hundreds of dialects means that you could be hearing tons of unfamiliar words after just a 10-minute drive! Now it’s really unnecessary to learn all the various dialects, specifically as most Dutchies are only familiar with the one they grew up with. But once you know which city or region in The Netherlands you’ll be living in, it will be very useful to know which dialect to expect and how to prepare for it. In this article, we’ll cover 4 of the most common Dutch dialects: 

Hollandic: (Hollands) spoken in the provinces North Holland and South Holland, as well as parts of Utrecht.

Low Saxon: (Gronings) spoken in the province of Groningen and parts of Drenthe and Overijssel

Brabantian: (Brabants) spoken in the province of Noord – Brabant

Limburgish: (Limburgs) spoken in the far south, the province of Limburg

Dutch dialects map of The Netherlands

Besides having a big variety of dialects, The Netherlands is home to a second native language called Frisian (“Fries”), which is spoken by most of the inhabitants of Friesland. Fries is closely related to both Dutch and English but is generally quite difficult to understand, even for native Dutch speakers. Moving to Friesland? Make sure to sign up for some Frisian language classes!

1. The Hollandic dialect

Het Hollands dialect

We’ll start with addressing the easiest of the dialects: Hollandic. You’ll encounter this variation of Dutch in the western part of the country, and will find it’s quite similar to the standard Dutch you are learning in class. The Hollandic dialect characterizes itself by using hard “g” sounds, and clear pronunciation of words. Although Hollandic is considered to be 1 dialect, it is divided into several urban dialects, mainly spoken in the larger western cities such as Den Haag, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

The Hague dialect (Haags)

Even though the grammar and sentence structure of the Haags dialect is very similar to standard Dutch, it can be quite a tricky dialect to understand. The difficulty lies mainly in the pronunciation of words, and the sounds that are produced. 

An example of a commonly used sound is “âh”, which replaces “auw”, “ouw”, or “er” at the end of a word.

English

I love you

Dutch

Ik hou van jou

Haags

Ik hâh van jâh

English

Delicious

Dutch

Lekker

Haags

Lekkâh

At the same time, the letters “en” at the end of a word, are usually found to be replaced in sound by “uh”

English

To run

Dutch

Rennen

Haags

Rennuh

English

To laugh

Dutch

Lachen

Haags

Lachuh

The Rotterdam dialect (Rotterdams)

Rotterdams often sounds quite “tough” and a bit rough around the edges. It’s not a very difficult dialect to understand, there are however lots of typical Rotterdams words, expressions and sayings that you most likely won’t be familiar with when arriving in the city for the first time.

English

To eat

Dutch

Eten

Rotterdams

Nassen

English

You’re right

Dutch

Je hebt gelijk

Rotterdams

Ja toch, niet dan?

English

Really?

Dutch

Echt waar?

Rotterdams

Oh ja, joh?

Besides using typical words and expressions, the Rotterdam dialect is known for using “ie” as the personal pronoun of the second person (“hebbie?” instead of “heb je?”) or placing a “t” at the end of various verbs (“ik doet” instead of “ik doe”).

Dutch dialects in Rotterdam

The Amsterdam dialect (Amsterdam)

No need to worry too much about the Amsterdam dialect. You’ll mainly be confronted with it when speaking to older people, having lived their entire lives in the city. It is a fun dialect to get familiar with though and you’ll hear lots of it around the cities of Almere and Lelystad, where many people from Amsterdam have moved to over the years. 

Speaking in typical Amsterdam form means you’ll mainly replace all the “z” sounds with a hard “s”. (son instead of zon). Furthermore, an Amsterdam dialect is laced with its very own vocabulary, with lots of words originating from Jewish:

English

See ya!

Dutch

Doei!

Amsterdams

Mazzel!

English

Dude

Dutch

Gast

Amsterdams

Gozer / Ouwe

English

Joke

Dutch

Grapje

Amsterdams

Gebbetje

2. The Gronings dialect

Het Gronings dialect

The dialect in Groningen comes from the Low Saxon dialect, which is spoken in parts of Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel. Even though this part of the country knows an enormous variation of sub-dialects, there are a few general observations to make. 

The eastern and northern dialects of The Netherlands might sound a bit like mumbling to you, and many words and letters tend to get “swallowed” (like “renn’n” instead of “rennen”). The “ij’ sound is usually replaced with “ie” (“kieken” instead of “kijken”), and the “ie” sound is replaced with “ai” (“nait” instead of “niet”). Are you still following? 

A couple of typical Gronings words and expressions to add to your vocabulary:

English

Hi!

Dutch

Hoi!

Gronings

Moi eem!

English

What’s your name?

Dutch

Hoe heet je?

Gronings

Hou haist doe?

English

Kiss

Dutch

Kus

Gronings

Smok

3. The Brabantian dialect

Het Brabants dialect

The first very obvious observation to make when listening to “Brabanders” speak, is that they tend to talk with a soft “g”. This makes Dutch sound less harsh and gives a French ring to it. Furthermore, you’ll find that the “t” is usually left out as the final letter of a word (“wa is da?” instead of “wat is dat?”). 

Lastly, in Brabant, the word “kei” is used to express how great/hard/stupid/fantastic something is. How to use it? Easy, just stick it to any word you want to: 

Gezellig = kei gezellig  / Zwaar = kei zwaar / Moe = kei moe

Dutch dialects - Brabants

In general, Brabants is known to sound “funny” and “cute” to northerners and is often compared to Belgian Dutch. A few commonly used Brabantian words and expressions are:

English

You’re kidding!

Dutch

Dat meen je niet!

Brabants

Wa zedde nou!

English

Bye!

Dutch

Doei!

Brabants

Houdoe!

English

Almost

Dutch

Bijna

Brabants

Bekant

4. The Limburgish dialect

Het Limburgs dialect

As with the Brabantian dialect, words in Limburgish are pronounced with a soft “g”. Where Brabantian is still quite easy to understand though, Limburgish is considered to be a whole different language by some linguists. The vocabulary, which is a mix of Dutch, French and German, can differ a lot from standard Dutch and is therefore pretty difficult to understand. Furthermore, the intonation of Limburgish is different (it sounds more like singing than talking), and words are generally elongated. 

The province of Limburg knows tons of sub-dialects, which vary from village to village and make it hard to describe “typical Limburgs”. There are however a couple of very specific words and expressions used in most parts of Limburg:

English

Excuse me?

Dutch

Sorry?

Limburgs

Wablief?

English

Goodbye / See you later!

Dutch

Tot ziens!

Limburgs

Hoije, haije, adieë (wa)

English

What happened?

Dutch

Wat is er gebeurd?

Limburgs

Enne?

Moving to Limburg soon? Don’t worry, Limburgians understand Dutch perfectly well and are likely to reply in proper Dutch once they find out you’re not familiar with their dialect. A short Limburgian crash course could come in handy for the long term though.

Dutch dialects 

Nederlandse dialecten

Even though there are hundreds of Dutch dialects out there, and some of their vocabulary and pronunciation might throw you off at times, with standard Dutch you’ll always be able to get around in The Netherlands. Besides the fact that all Dutchies will understand you, all news and government broadcasts will be done in standard Dutch as well. 

Ready to get started on Dutch? A quick way to learn standard Dutch is by taking part in our private Dutch lessons, where we help you master the language in only a matter of months using our unique teaching method. From there on, you can focus on learning some fun words and phrases in dialect, learn more about traditions and Dutch culture, and become a true Dutchie in no time. Sign up for private lessons below or start practising by using some of our free lesson materials!

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About the author

Esther

Esther

Esther is a freelance copywriter and works for Dutch Ready as online marketeer. As she moves abroad frequently herself, she can relate to expats coming to The Netherlands as no other and understands the struggles they face in regards to linguistic and cultural differences.

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