Flemish far more than a dialect of Dutch

I'd like to congratulate you on the fact that you make a difference betweenDutch and Flemish in your feature on Languages across Europe. Some people here in Belgium and the Netherlands are stillfighting over the question whether there even is one. Officially Flemishdoes not exist, but every day life proves that it does. It pleases me evenmore that you indicate the nuances correctly. By the way, I'm Flemishmyself.The question whether Flemish is simply a local variation of Dutch is relatedto the similar question whether American is one of English. There is one bigdifference however. I can't imagine English television programmes beingsubtitled in the States and vice versa. Flemish drama seriesare! That is an important indicator of the language being similar, but notquite the same. It's a fact that most people in Flanders understandDutch when they speak their language, but almost none of Dutchinitially understand Flemish or rather what they mean. The grammar andthe spelling are identical, but as far as vocabulary is concerned there is a significant difference. You onlystart realising that when you talk to somebody from Holland.I'd like to add that I find it downright arrogant to labelFlemish as a dialect of Dutch. It's far more than that. Maybe once it usedto be only that, when the French-speaking bourgeoisie ruled the region. Butby now, it is my strong believe that it at least deserves to be treated inthe same way as American English.

Sent by: Sven


Anonymous 2011-01-29

I am an American, but part of my heritage is Dutch on both sides. However, my great-grandfather was quite specific about being from Friesland and not being Dutch. What language do you suggest I learn? I greatly enjoyed my visit to Bruge, Ghent, and Amsterdam.

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Ash, UK 2010-07-21

My father is Belgian, Mother Jamaican, and he speaks both French and Flemish because he was brought up in Uccle/Ukkel Brussels. I can speak both languages fluently, but I honestly don't see a difference between Dutch and Flemish, of course there are a few differences in words, and the pronunciation of the letter 'G', but when I went to Amsterdam the language differences were not that different, I could have a decent conversation. I'd say the differences are similar to an RP accent in London and a Scottish accent in Edinburgh.

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Jo, Belgium 2010-06-09

Up to the age of 6, my children mainly watched Dutch children programmes. They didn't make any difference between Dutch / Flemish.

Now a lot of children DVDs (Pixar films and so forth) offer both a Dutch and a Flemish version. Given that choice, my children will logically choose the Flemish version.

But if only a Dutch version exists, they won't complain either.

Dutch and Flemish are variants of the same language, the one historically spoken in the Low Countries, the Netherlands (mind the plural form). By the way, the latinized form of "the Netherlands" was historically "Belgium".
In the 16th century there was a "Belgian-Portuguese dictionary" whereby "Belgian" obviously meant ... Dutch.

It is true that a disappointing amount of Europeans think Flemish and Dutch are not the same language.
Italian, Dutch, German, English, ... almost all languages have local variants. We should stop making a fuss about it.

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Jacques Tournebroche, Antwerpen 2010-05-26

I am Flemish to the core. But my mother tongue is Dutch, Nederlands. If anyone calls it anything else, I certainly don't see that as a compliment. On the contrary : it means that the person in question doesn't even know which language I speak.
I speak and write Dutch . Not Flemish. I have never known it otherwise : and I challenge anyone to prove to me that he or she has ever had ONE single lesson in or about the 'Flemish language'. There is no such thing.
One of the earliest programs on Flemish tv in the 1950s was called 'Hier Spreekt Men Nederlands'

The reality is that most English speaking people are under the vague or distinct impression that Dutch and Flemish are two different languages.
Saying - or giving that impression by going into confusing non issues - that the language used by the 6 million Flemish people is a different one from that used by the 17 million Dutch people does us no service whatsoever.

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Thijs, Nederland 2010-04-25

I'm from the Netherlands, and I don't think Flemish is a separate language - even though I have difficulties understanding people from West Flanders, and despite the fact that those people are subtitled on tv, it's still the same language. I can't understand people from Drenthe/Groningen either, I'm happy they're subtitled as well!
By the way, there could never be a "Flemish" as a separate language, because the dialects in Flanders are very different from each other as well. That's why "Standard" Dutch (AN) is spoken on television. I think some Flemish people just think the word "dialect" is negative, but I think they should just be proud about how they speak, even though it's not a separate language.

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Ro, South East, UK 2010-01-17

They routinely subtitle Austrian German in Germany. It's still German.

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Rob, UK 2009-11-05

The comprehension factor is irrelevent in the dialect/language debate. I can think of several English dialects that English people in general would struggle to understand, Jamaican patois for instance or Singlish.

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Miriam, Brugge 2009-09-19

The Flemish should create a separate Standard language which will suit them best. Then they don't have to be told by the Netherlands what is standard Dutch and what is not.

Just like the Netherlands created standard Dutch which suits the Dutch best the Flemish should create standard Flemish which will suit them best.

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Vikki 2009-06-08

I spent the majority of my secondary school education at an International School in the Netherlands and learnt Dutch. However, we lived in Noord Brabant, about 45 minutes from the Belgian / Dutch boarder. I found, that I could understand the Dutch / Flemish spoken on both sides of the boarder quite easily, just as I could understand someone form Den Haag of Amsterdam. As part of my school leaving exams, I studied Dutch and we had to read two novels, one in Dutch and one in Flemish - indicating to me that they are considered one in the same language.

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Stefan 2008-09-17

I don't like it at all when people call my language Flemish. I might be Belgian but speak Dutch and that's it. In fact, my local Antwerp dialect is not even from Flanders but from Brabant, just like the regional dialect(s) up in the province of Northern Brabant in the Netherlands. Everything else is politics sadly enough...

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