The Dutch you learn in this book is standard Dutch, i.e. Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands. But what about the Dutch spoken in Belgium/Flanders? Is it the same?
What is Flemish?
Flemish (Vlaams) is the Dutch language as spoken in Flanders and parts of the Netherlands. It is a special case- not a language and not a dialect. It has no official status or anything comparable. Wikipedia says that Flemish is the term for a limited group of non-standardised dialects.
This lesson is about Flemish, i.e. the differences between Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands and in Flanders (Belgium). It does not contain all differences, but the main ones.
Why should I read or learn this?
To learn Dutch, this lesson is not required. If you e.g. want to go to Flanders, Flemish people have certainly no problem understanding the standard Dutch you learn. However, Flemish people find it generally hard to speak standardized (northern) Dutch. You will hear Flemish pronounciations in their replies, so if you want to understand them well, it is a good idea to read this page.
Where is it used?
Flemish can be seen as a group of dialects spoken in Flanders. Flemish is spreektaal, this means it is not commonly used as written language, but as spoken language. For written language, everyone in Flanders will use standard Dutch. In spoken language, they will use their local Flemish dialect. A somewhat cleanly pronounced version of Flemish is even used on TV programs and in schools (by teachers). In short, people using standard Dutch in informal situations seems strange to most people.
Flemish dialects differ vastly in pronounciation and habits even within Flanders. The dialects spoken in Hasselt, Antwerp, Ghent or Kortrijk are all very different. Locals can pinpoint where others were born and raised sometimes within a radius of 20km, just by the way they speak. The strongest Flemish dialects, like the one spoken in the Ypres region of West-Flanders, are so specific that they are hard to understand even by other native Flemish speakers.
The second-person singular jij/je is rarely spoken in Flanders. Instead you'd hear gij/ge (in standard Dutch this is archaic and only used in religious contexts).
Consequences in verb forms
The form gij always needs a t at the end of the following verb form (persoonsvorm). In regular verbs, this does not have any consequences, but irregular verbs become either regular or even more irregular:
- zijn (to be): "jij bent" (you are, singular) → "gij zijt"
- Maybe you think: "Bent" ends on -t, doesn't it? You will hear "gij bent" too, but less. For some speakers "gij zijt" is a bit too dialectal.
- zijn (to be): "jij was" (you were, singular) → "gij waart"
- zullen (will, shall): "jij zult" or "jij zal" (you will, singular) → "gij zult"
- mogen (to be allowed to): "jij mag" (you're allowed to, singular) → "gij moogt"
If your knowledge of Dutch is good, you may notice that these irregular forms are actually more regular than the normal forms (moogt < mogen (stem = mo[o]g) + t, instead of "mag").
When using inversion in standard Dutch, you don't use the ending "t", i.e. "jij bent" → "ben jij". But when using "gij", the ending "t" has to stay:
- "Zijt gij ...?"
- The "t" can also be replaced by a softer "de"; "Zijde gij ...?"
- In some sentences, without stress on "gij", you can just omit the word i.e. "Zijde ..."
- When using the first form, with the ending "t", you always pronounce that letter. Except the often used form "zijt gij" (or, in general, "gij zijt" can also be just "zij gij" / "gij zij".
Note that "ik zen" is also used instead of "ik ben".
When using the second-person plural form, you can use "gijle" ("jullie" in standard Dutch). This form uses the same verb forms as "gij", which is not the case in standard Dutch, so:
|English||you walk||you walk|
|Dutch||jij loopt||jullie lopen|
|Flemish||gij loopt||gijle loopt|
You see the difference?
In standard Dutch the form u is formal and jij is informal. In Flanders, u is used for both formal and informal. This is not the case in subject, but rather in object.
To understand example sentences, you should know the following:
|Dutch||jij, je||je, jou||jullie||jullie|
An example (note that this is a sentence which is very strange, but it shows better what this is about)
- (English) You give this to you
- (Dutch) Jij geeft dit aan jou
- (Flemish) Gij geeft dees aan u
Other personal pronouns
The form "gijle" influences the other personal pronouns; i.e. you will sometimes hear "wijle" instead of "we"/"wij" (we) and "zijle" instead of "ze"/"zij" ('they). Note that "gijle" uses singular verb forms, while "wijle"/"zijle" uses plural verb forms, but all of them have plural meanings.
Dutch has diminutive forms, and in Flemish a lot of those forms can be replaced by the form: -(...)ke. Examples:
- Dutch (English): Dutch diminutive → Flemish diminutive
- boek (book): boekje → boekske
- huis (house): huisje → huizeke
There are some differences which are often considered erroneous rather than just dialectal.
- In the comparative form, the word "dan" (than) is often replaced by "als", and the following personal pronoun is often formed with the object where it should be the subject
- English: I am bigger than you
- Dutch: Ik ben groter dan jij
- Flemish: Ik ben/zen groter als gij/u
- Compare German: Ich bin größer als du
- The active form "noemen" means "to call", and passive "genoemd worden" is "to be called" ("heten" is usually used in Dutch) but in Flemish the verb "noemen" is used for the second meaning (This is a gallicism.)
- English: What is your name?
- Dutch: Hoe heet jij? (or Hoe word jij genoemd?, grammatically correct but a rather awkward formulation)
- Flemish: [H]oe noemde gij? (litt. How do you call? but used for How are you called?)
- Compare French: Tu t'appelles comment? (litt. How do you call yourself?)
Articles and pronouns
The articles and some pronouns differ from standard Dutch. In this case, Flemish retains more gender distinctions.
Indefinite articles: In Dutch, the difference between gender has no or little influence on these articles. Native speakers cannot distinguish masculine and feminine words. For native speakers in Flanders, they just have to follow this rule/thing to distinguish them:
- Masculine words
- een auto → nen auto
- een man → ne man (-n for easier pronunciation)
- Feminine words
- een vrouw → een vrouw
The reason for this difference is that in the north the nominative replaced the accusative case, but in Flanders it went exactly the other way around. Originally Dutch had:
|nominative||een man||een(e) vrouw||een kind|
|accusative||eenen man||een(e) vrouw||een kind|
In the north, opting for the nominative, all genders have een now, but the definite article still distinguishes neuter (het) from m/f (de). In the south, opting for the accusative, the indefinite article has kept masculine and feminine distinct as well.
Demonstrative pronouns: Some examples:
- Masculine words
- deze auto → dezen auto
- deze man → deze' man (no pronounced -n, to simplify pronunciation)
- die auto → dien auto (it can often differ slightly, e.g. "dieën" or "dienen")
- die man → die' man/dieë' man (no pronounced -n, to simplify pronunciation)
- Feminine words
- Like in AN: die vrouw, deze vrouw
- Neuter words (dat, dit)
- dat boek → da boek (word-final letters which are not pronounced)
- dit boek → dees boek
Flemish has a lot of influence from French. See w:nl:Lijst van verschillen tussen het Nederlands in Nederland, Suriname en Vlaanderen for a complete list.
Flemish people often do not pronounce word-final letters. Some examples:
- maar (but) → ma
- wat? (what?) → wa?
- niet (not) → nie
While in the Netherlands the r is being less spoken, in Flemish the h is rarely pronounced:
- mogelijkheid (possibility) → mogelekeid
And of course, like in the whole area of the Dutch language (except the West Flemish and Low Saxon areas), the n' in the suffix -en is rarely articulated:
- This suffix occurs in verbs; werken (to work) → werke
- And also in plural; boeken (books) → boeke