Flemish and Dutch: What is the Difference?


Dutch is spoken in an area of Belgium called Vlaanderen (bordering the North Sea and the Netherlands). Hence, the language pronounced there is sometimes called Vlaams (Flemish). To confuse matters, it is also called Zuid-Nederlands (Southern Dutch) and Belgisch Nederlands (Belgian Dutch). Belgian, on the other side, is not a language. It does not exist. There are only Belgian types of French, Dutch, and, German.

So what is Flemish? Because Flemish is not recognized as a language but a language type, it is difficult to say what it is and what it is not. When people use the name, they could be talking about the Dutch pronounced in Flanders, Tussentaal or the Flemish dialects. Tussentaal is not standard Dutch but not as localized as other dialects either. If however a business needs to reach Flemish people, it surely needs Flemish translation, not Dutch.

There are loads of relations between Dutch and Flemish; a few thousand words.
Both Flemish and Dutch are the member of the Dutch Language Union. This means that both languages are the member of the same language group, which explains that the similarities between both languages are sizeable. Though, there are many differences, as well.

Dutch and Flemish Vocabulary Differences

This is probably the most significant variation between the two languages when it comes to semantic differences. Even though grammatically both languages are virtually interchangeable, there are still several difficulties faced when visiting Flanders, or when Flemish people visit the Netherlands.

There is lots of trouble when tourists go to either one of these nations and try to communicate. One case is the word afslag (“turn “in English, as in to turn your car nearby). In Dutch, it is the accurate definition of ‘turn,’ just like in English. Though, in Flemish, this can also mean lower costs. Here are many more examples.

The Flemish Think Dutch Sounds Rude

This might not have enough to do with how we talk but, compared to Flemish, the Dutch language can seem quite rude. By this, I mean that we have powerful tones in our sounds. The letter g is said explicitly in northern parts of the Netherlands, whereas in Flanders the sound is lower (relative to the x sound in Russian).

In Dutch, the articulation often tends more towards an English utterance. Many Dutch words are selected from English; a steady course which shows no symptoms of fading. In Flanders, though, the pronunciation tends more towards French.

Phonetically Different

For Flemish and Dutch speakers, it is very easy to find whether a person is from Flanders or the Netherlands. The variations in pronunciation are obvious to them. For instance, the word “record” is said as it is written in Flemish, but in Dutch we use the French diction of the word. The variations in pronunciation can be understood easily. Other variations add word nationaal (national), which is pronounced “nasional” in Flemish and “natzional” in Dutch.

Sometimes even the syntax can also be different, the Dutch people say “vast en zeker,” the Flemish turn that around. In Flanders they say “fauna en flora,” the Dutch like to say “flora en fauna.”

The main variation you can see is in the pronunciation though. For Dutch speakers, it is very easy to detect whether a person is from Flanders or the Netherlands. For example, the more you walk to the south, the softer the utterance of the letter “g” gets. The more you walk to the Randstad (where Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are), the harder that sound becomes.

Addressing People

In Dutch, it is very common to present yourself formally and quickly switch a conversation to the informal. Though, in Flemish, the casual nature is not used as much. Instead of saying je, the Flemish say Ge, and also tend to use U, the precise ‘you,’ more usually than the Dutch do. This is also a cause why the Flemish consider the Dutch to be rude.

Both languages are related, but the differences are seldom so significant that, for the Dutch and the Flemish, they could look to be two different languages. They have a difficult time getting each other at times. Still, when we attempt, the common linguistic ground is enough to communicate successfully.

Guest Post By Cristian Romaniuc

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