It’s always a wonderful idea to find out fun and quirky facts about the language you’re learning to help keep your motivation high. So, if you’re currently trying to wrap your head around Dutch, we’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll find six interesting facts about the Dutch language and culture to keep you interested in learning more. And when you feel like you’re been inspired enough, why not book a lesson with one of our private Dutch teachers.
1. Dutch – an official White House language
Although many US presidents have spoken more than one language, only one of them has learned English as his second. That man was Martin van Buren, the eighth president, who grew up speaking Dutch. Even today, around 300,000 people in North America report speaking Dutch at home.
2. An influencer language
Because the Netherlands, where Dutch historically hails from, was such a major geopolitical player during colonialist expansion, the language has influenced many others. Of course, the most famous of these is Afrikaans, now one of the official languages of South Africa.
But there are plenty of other examples from around the world. In Indonesia, for example, some legal codes are still only available in Dutch and it’s the only official language of Suriname. It also spawned quite a few creoles; however, most of those are now extinct.
3. It has also left its mark on English
Dutch is very closely related to English, as both of the languages belong to the West Germanic branch of Germanic languages, together with German. Of course, that also means there has been some leakage of words from one language to the other.
Perhaps surprisingly, only around 1% of English words are thought to be of Dutch origin (compare that to the 45% that come from French). But because the languages are so closely related, many of the words borrowed are identical in either spelling, pronunciation, or both.
4. … which makes it very easy for English-speakers to learn
Because English and Dutch share so much, it is also one of the easiest languages for native English-speakers to learn. Of course, here at Teacher Finder, we are usually of the opinion that there is no such thing as a hard language. Still, due to their close relationship, the Foreign Service Institute, who apparently disagree, put Dutch among the easiest languages for English-speakers to acquire.
5. Dutch begs, borrows, and steals
Much like English, Dutch has also absorbed many foreign words into its lexicon. The main contributor is German, the other very close relative of the language. Around one in every five words in Dutch is of German origin. The next big contributor is French, with almost 7%. And as many words English has stolen from Dutch, it has also given enough back. So much so that today around 1,5% of Dutch words come from English.
6. Dutch is very fond of the diminutive
The diminutive in Dutch is used to show various differences in meaning. Of course, there’s size (huis – house; huisje – little house), but you can also turn uncountable things into countable and make pretty much anything sound cuter or more affectionate.
It does seem that almost every word (not even numbers are safe!) in Dutch also works as a diminutive.
Thanks to the European melting pot, where so many languages exist in such close quarters, Dutch has both borrowed from and influenced many other languages. Its impact reaches even farther than Europe, however. Because of the Netherlands’ colonialist past, traces of the language can be found as far apart as Indonesia and Suriname.
If these facts have piqued your interest, be sure to check out our great online Dutch teachers who can teach you more about the language.