Many are surprised to hear that a country as small as the Netherlands doesn’t only have several dialects, but even multiple languages. With each province or region and even some towns having their own accent or dialect. Let’s dive into the main used accents, dialects and the other official language that is not Dutch!
The two official languages: Dutch and West Frisian
If Dutch was not hard enough to learn for some, there still is another language within the Netherlands that is said to be even harder to learn. The inhabitants of the northern province of Friesland, with the city of Leeuwarden as capital (about 125.000 inhabitants), speak, besides Dutch, their own language: West Frisian or Frysk in Dutch. This language is recognized as the only other official language within the Netherlands besides Dutch. In fact, more than half of the inhabitants of the province of Friesland (Fryslân in West Frisian) have West Frisian as their native language. Logically, the province aims to preserve its language, for which West Frisian is a mandatory subject in both primary and secondary schools of the Frisian speaking districts. In some schools, West Frisian is even used as a language of instruction in some lessons.
If you happen to be in the beautiful rural province of Friesland, known for its water sports and ice skating, you might want to say: Binne hjir ek minsken dyt Ingelsk praten? (Is there someone here who speaks English?)
Brabantian, Limburgish Dutch and Gronings – the most well known dialects of the Netherlands
In the southern province of Noord-Brabant, the Dutch spoken by its residents, called Brabanders, is quite similar to ‘standard’ Dutch. As Noord-Brabant borders to Belgium, it is not surprising that the dialect is rather similar to the Flemish (Belgian) accent. And that brings us right away to the one major advantage of living in Noord-Brabant if you’re learning the Dutch language: are you having trouble with the hard ‘g’ sound? Brabanders have, just like the Flemish, a ‘softer’ one, which is easier to pronounce. But the Brabantian dialect is not just limited to the softer ‘g’ sound; it is also known for leaving the last letter of a word unspoken. Wat (what) becomes wa, and so on. One of the most characteristic phrases must be houdoe (take care), where colloquial Dutch use doei (bye).
When we go even more south, we reach the province of Limburg. Although frequently misunderstood as such, ‘Limburgish’ does not refer to the regional variation of Dutch spoken in Limburg, but to a whole different language. But, the language not being acknowledged as an official language, we stick to the ‘Limburgish Dutch’, which is the Limburgish dialect and a variation of Dutch as such. What characterized this dialect is mainly the tonality. It is often, even for foreigners, quite easy to pick out the Limburgish Dutch dialect because of its questioning tone at the end of most sentences.
Finally, we go all the way to the North of the Netherlands. In the province of Groningen, the Gronings dialect is spoken by merely 80% of all inhabitants of the province and surroundings. The rest of the Dutch takes on this dialect to imitate the stereotype of a farmer. Makes sense, realizing that the largest part of this province consists of countryside and farms! The most remarkable about the Gronings dialect are the different words they use, of which some have nothing to do with the colloquial Dutch. One funny word is geliekproater (lawyer), literally translated to something like ‘the one that is right’. In colloquial Dutch, lawyer would be translated as advocaat.
Are you curious about the Dutch culture, including its different dialects and accents? The diverse Dutch language courses by Taalthuis not only make you familiar with the Dutch language, but also give you a taste of the culture and peculiarities that the Netherlands has to offer. Check out our Dutch languange course offer and pick your favorite!