29 Nov /16

Mastering the Dutch Language

Dutch Language
Mastering the Dutch Language – EVS Translations

If the English language and German language had a baby, it would be Dutch!
The mental image may be odd, but the premise is logical; as linguistically, the Dutch language is in between German and English.

And the very etymology of the word Dutch is also a blend of German and English origins. In the Old English the word simply meant ‘people or nation,’ to later in the 15th century describe the people from both the Netherlands and Germany, and specifically High Dutch to refer to the inhabitants of the mountainous area of what is now southern Germany, and Low Dutch to those from the flatlands in what is now the Netherlands.

As a name for a Germanic language, the word was firstly used in 786, in a correspondence between Charlemagne’s court and the Pope. The Old Dutch, started its origin circa 5 century as a combination of the Frankish dialects spoken in the Low Countries. Many have come to believe that the first lines written in Dutch come from the 12th century and comprise of a simple love poem stating: “Have all birds begun nests, except me and you? What are we waiting for?” However romantic, this poem was likely written to test a writing instrument, and, rather unromantically, the first known use of Dutch actually comes from a Frankish civil law code written in the early 6th century.

With 96% of all residents using Dutch, it is no surprise that Dutch is the majority language of the Netherlands, but Dutch is also a geographically global language. Mirroring its regional standing, Dutch is also the main language of Belgian Flanders and German South Guelderish. Abroad, demonstrating their vast trade and colonial holdings, Dutch can be found in the Caribbean and Latin America (Suriname, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), Asia (mainly in Indonesia), and, even though it has since developed into its own language, the Afrikaans language of Southern Africa.

Naturally, while roaming around, the Dutch language lost part of its identity to nowadays over half of the vocabulary be penetrated by borrowed words, mainly from French, English and Hebrew.

While people in the Netherlands most likely have better things to do than make gigantic words, it still seems to happen. Joking aside, the Dutch do like to compound their nouns and remove spaces. Unfortunately, this can produce some massive words, such as (deep breath) “kindercarnavalsoptochtvoorbereidingswerkzaamhedenplan,” which is the preparation activities for a children’s carnival procession, or the painfully sounding “overeenstemmingsbeoordelingsprocedures,” which are conformity assessment procedures.

To further dive into the colourfulness of the Dutch language, let us mention a few examples of words used to affectionately call someone special: poepie, scheetje and drollie, which, unflatteringly, translate to ‘little poop,” ‘little fart,’ and ‘dumpie.’

And there is a colourful word in the Dutch language that actually defies translation. Though the word gezelligheid is defined as: “the cosiness, warmth, and comfort of either being at home or being with friends/loved ones and sharing time in a pleasant atmosphere,” the adjective form of the word, gezellig, can not only mean familiar, warm, friendly, jovial, etc., but it can be applied to virtually anyone or anything. So, while it may have no set definition or usage, understand that it is something good and imagine just how challenging it is to produce high quality precise Dutch language translations.

Our in-house Dutch translators and reviewers have been facing the challenge on a daily basis for the last 25 years, translating a huge variety of documents from all industry sectors.
Click here to contact our Dutch translations project management team.