BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

23 September 2014
Accessibility help
Your Voice

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Your experiences of Dutch
Who do you speak Dutch with?
"Dutch is my mother tongue. I only use it at home, because my husband is Dutch too. We mix a lot of English in though and Swiss-German too as we've lived in Switzerland for 6 years and speak that dialect fluently. I read two Dutch internet newspapers every day to keep my Dutch acceptable, but I still get complaints from my family that I sound English and use too many English words." Monique"I speak Dutch with my Dutch friends who live near me. As a therapist, I also provide Dutch spoken counselling. My children only speak a little Dutch but can understand it quite well." Carla

"I am from Amsterdam (Netherlands) and live in Edinburgh. I speak Dutch and English at home to my children and English everywhere else. I have a slight Dutch accent when I speak English. I very often get a positive comment on my accent. I very often use Dutch sayings in English, which are very often not understood, but found funny. I still write in Dutch, like my shopping list and letters/emails." Jacobine

"It's a learned language rather than one I grew up speaking but it's one I began using extensively in the 1990s. First of all, I met a Dutch woman who complained that she wasn't able to sound witty because nobody ever understood her wit. I told her I'd learn it myself and so I did. At first I only read the papers and listened to the Radio but eventually I went to the Netherlands and began using it every day.I'm no longer in the Netherlands but I often use Dutch online (I'm surprised by the number of British and American people who speak Dutch)." Alcuin

About Dutch:
"This is not an unknown language in Britain. First there are large numbers of Afrikaners and a smaller number of Surinamers in London who speak dialects of Dutch (although Afrikaans is often described as a language in its own right rather than a dialect). Secondly there are fairly large numbers of people in East Anglia, parts of Lincolnshire and Humberside who speak Dutch as a second language (as well as a minority around Boston, Spalding and Norwich who originate in the Netherlands). There has been contact between the communities on both sides of the North Sea (Danish as well as Dutch) for centuries, quite possibly since our "Anglo-Saxon" ancestors came here from Friesland." AlcuinHow you feel about speaking Dutch:
"When you know a language fluently you can use it without thinking about it. Some expressions with the exact feeling attached to it exist only in a certain language, that's why we mix 'm all." Monique"I feel good about speaking my mother tongue although I have lived here for nearly 40 years. It unites me with my friends.When I arrived in England I spoke little English and wanted to take elocution lessons to minimise my Dutch accent. My British husband was very much against it and I still have a Dutch accent. I feel less embarrassed about that now." Carla
Also on Voices
Elsewhere on BBCi
Languages across Europe
Language and Culture - Dutch and Flemish
Elsewhere on the web
Dutch organisations in the UK
Anglo-Netherlands society
Association for Low Countries Studies in Great Britain

In Your Area
What do you think about your local accent?
Talk about Voices in your area

Did You Know?
The British Isles has seven officially recognised minority languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages. They are: Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Cornish, Lowland Scots, Ulster Scots and British Sign Language.
Multilingual Nation

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.

Dutch in the British Isles by Viv Edwards

The Dutch call their language Nederlands. The English name Dutch comes from Duyts(ch), which means 'from the people' in Old Dutch; the modern form - Duits - is used only to refer to the neighbouring Germans.

Dutch is spoken by an estimated 24 million people in the Netherlands, the northern half of Belgium (or Flanders) and some parts of northern France. Because of the colonial history of the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and Surinam. It is also spoken in Indonesia. It is closely related to Afrikaans, one of the official languages of South Africa, which emerged as the main form of communication between Dutch settlers and other groups in the region in the seventeenth century. More recently, Dutch has been recognised as one of the official languages of the European Union.There is often confusion about the status of Flemish, which is spoken in Flanders. Flemish is in fact a term used to describe the Dutch dialects spoken in this region which differ in some aspects of vocabulary and pronunciation from the dialects spoken in the Netherlands; it is not a separate language. The Taalunie (Language Union) regulates what is acceptable in terms of orthography and spelling in the Netherlands, Flanders and Surinam.Although Dutch is not widely studied in the UK, it is available as a subject at GCSE and A-level.

Your Comments
What is your experience of Dutch?

Simon van Rijnswou from New York
I never thought that anyone could be annoyed by dutch people starting to speak english as soon as they know that you're a foreigner. I myself have done it many times and even when me and my wife were in holland i asked directions in english instead of dutch. my wife asked me why and all my answer was was that they know english and this way she would also understand the directions. I don't think any dutch person does it conciously. By the way, i have been living in the US. now for about 6 years and hardly ever speak dutch and have almost completely lost my accent.

Edwin Cross from Bexleyheath
Ducth is my mother tongue and I taught my children to speak it. My youngest son has married a Ducth girl and their two children are bi-lingual. My children were often scolded in Ducth - at least others did not know what I was telling them!The Dutch were a considerable immigrant group in England at one time but seem to be somewhat sidelined by waves of other immigrant languages. Still the Dutch community is a significant presence and with Afrikaans supplementing the numbers I wonder when and what English will be borrowing more words for its multilingual volcabulary.

Sarah from Amsterdam
I can see it must be annoying when Dutch people switch to English, as I know they often do when they have noticed an English, or other, foreign, accent. However, I think insisting they have NO RIGHT is going a little bit far.... Dutch culture, especially Amsterdam and the Randstad is very international, and yes, the Dutch like to show of their linguistic skills (which aren't always quite as good as they think). Perhaps people who really want to practice their Dutch would be better off in more provincial parts...this worked for my mother 30 years ago.

sebastiaan form rotterdam
I'm Dutch and live in holland.I think we Dutch switch to English because we like to be helpfull to foreners. I also think that if you would ask we will let you try in Dutch and be happy about it that you like to learn the language.

Antoinette Edwards, New York City
If I were traveling to a Ducth-speaking country and only new basic travel phrase, would I seem friendlier or would be think I was nuts trying to speak Dutch to the natives?

Find more of your thoughts here.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy