Is Dutch similar to English?

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Dutch usually comes across as a difficult language to learn. All those harsh “g”-sounds, unusual letter combinations and hundreds of strange sayings might not make it very appealing to take on. It will surprise you to know that Dutch is quite similar to English though, mainly in terms of grammar and vocabulary. We’ll dive into the language family that Dutch belongs to and will show you various examples of Dutch similarities to English. After which of course, we hope to have convinced you of learning our beautiful language yourself! Or at least made it a little easier.

A short history of the Dutch language

Een korte geschiedenis van de Nederlandse taal

Dutch is part of the Indo-European Language Family and is considered to be a West Germanic language, together with English, German, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Luxembourgish, Frisian (yes, that other language they speak in The Netherlands), and Scottish. At the same time, West Germanic has strong similarities to North Germanic which includes languages such as Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. 

The earliest Dutch dates back to the 6th century and modern Dutch is currently spoken by approximately 23 million people in the world. The word “Dutch” comes from the word “Deutsch” in modern German, and up until the 16th century, “Dutch” was used to refer to any Germanic language (which is why German speakers in Southeastern Pennsylvania are still called the Pennsylvania Dutch). The Dutch refer to their own language as “Nederlands”, with the standard language being split into hundreds of various dialects

Of all West Germanic languages, English, Dutch (and Frisian) are considered to be most similar. Both languages have abandoned the grammatical case system which German still uses, tenses and verb conjugations follow some of the same patterns, and vocabulary knows tons of similarities, which is exactly what we will focus on in this article.

Dutch similarities to English – Cognates & Loanwords

Nederlandse overeenkomsten met het EngelsCognaten & Leenworden

It might not always sound like the vocabulary between English and Dutch is the same, but once you start to learn Dutch you’ll notice that there are tons of similarities to be found. We will make a distinction between cognates (words that have a shared origin and are therefore very similar), and loan words (Dutch words permanently adopted from English). 

Dutch cognates

By focusing on those Dutch words that are similar to English, you’ll find it gets much easier to expand your vocabulary. And mind you, there are a lot of those. We’ve listed a few examples of Dutch – English cognates:

English

The beard

Dutch

De baard

English

The hair

Dutch

Het haar

English

The price

Dutch

De prijs

English

The island

Dutch

Het eiland

English

The shoulder

Dutch

De schouder

English

The snow

Dutch

De sneeuw

Dutch loan words

Besides words that look similar, many Dutch words are taken straight from English and are therefore exactly the same. Be mindful however: the Dutch may still pronounce words a little differently, even when they are spelled the same. A couple of Dutch loan words are:

English

The details

Dutch

De details

English

The model

Dutch

Het model

English

The journalist

Dutch

De journalist

English

The code

Dutch

De code

English

The laser

Dutch

De laser

English

The student

Dutch

De student

You’ll find that many of the “newer” words are taken directly from English. Think of “computer” for example, or “wifi” and “hashtag”. A tiny bit lazy yes, but at the same time very easy when learning the language. All of it is Dutch that you secretly know already.

Want to start practising? We have compiled 24 lists with a total of 3000 cognates and loanwords on the free app Quizlet. Simply download the app and search for “DutchReady” to find them all, including the correct way of pronunciation. This way you can practice easily and on-the-go.

Dutch similarities to other languages

Nederlandse overeenkomsten met andere talen

Apart from the obvious similarities between Dutch and English words, Dutch also adopted plenty of words from other countries. Take French for example; even though this language is not part of the West Germanic family, there are plenty of similarities to be found due to the Dutch and French shared history. Such as:

French

L’accessoire

Dutch

De accessoire

French

La lingerie

Dutch

De lingerie

French

Le parapluie

Dutch

De paraplu

And then there is German of course:

German

Sowieso

Dutch

Sowieso

German

Überhaupt

Dutch

Überhaupt

German

Der Käse

Dutch

De kaas

The fact that the Dutch have always been internationally focussed, definitely helps with learning the language. As a Danish, Swedish and even Spanish or Italian native, you will always find plenty of similarities in vocabulary between your own language and that of the Dutch.

False Friends

Valse vrienden

The fact that Dutch has lots of loanwords coming from English among others, will make your life a bit easier when studying the language. Be aware though: some words that seem the same, really aren’t! We call these types of words “false friends”, meaning that some of them might sound equal in two languages, but mean a completely different thing.

To show you some examples of what we mean, we’ve gathered a couple of false friends between Dutch and English: 

  1. Magazine (EN) > Magazijn (NL). Magazijn means warehouse

     

  2. Rare (EN) > Raar (NL). Raar means weird

     

  3. Meaning (EN) > Mening (NL). Mening means opinion

     

  4. Brave (EN) > Braaf (NL). Braaf means obedient

     

  5. Dapper (EN) > Dapper (NL). Dapper means brave

     

  6. File (EN) > File (NL). File means traffic jam

     

  7. Glad (EN) > Glad (NL). Glad means slippery

     

  8. Trap (EN) > Trap (NL). Trap means stairs

     

  9. Slim (EN) > Slim (NL). Slim means smart

     

  10. Small (EN) > Smal (NL). Smal means narrow

So there you go, while there still are various differences to find between English and Dutch, it’s very easy to build a large vocabulary in Dutch by using what you already know from other languages. 

At Dutch Ready, we tend to focus on these similarities to make things easier. Not just for vocabulary, but for grammar, verb conjugation, pronunciation, and the rest too. Combine this with 1-on-1 private lessons, and you’ll be speaking Dutch in just a matter of months. Ready to get started? Book a trial lesson for just 15 EUR and become a true Dutchie in no time!

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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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