Dutch and Deutsch

german-dutch

Dutch. Deutsch (German). Sounds similar, right?

Netherlands is literally next door neighbours with Germany. Both countries have a history of the settlement of Germanic peoples until there was an evolution into separate cultures. Both German and Dutch including English are classified as West Germanic languages.

This article focuses on German and Dutch because there are a lot of languages features that are more similar to each other than to English. There are Dutch and German words that are not only similar to English but also closer to each other and not to English.

Because of the many similarities between Dutch and German, a German-speaker will probably learn Dutch more easily than an English-speaker would. The same way a Dutch-speaker will probably learn German more easily than an English-speaker would. This does not mean that the English-speaker is screwed. Learning either Dutch or German first would make learning the other easier later on. Or in my case, I learned German first and then I had an easier experience learning Dutch. Even though I am more comfortable speaking German than Dutch.

Here are some of the comparisons between Dutch and German. The comparisons show how much the two are related to each other and how far they are from English.

I doubt I’ll be able to cover a lot of concepts of the two languages. e.g. pronunciation

Nouns

There are some attributes of Germans nouns that are different to Dutch nouns. Dutch nouns are not capitalised like in German.

e.g. vogel (NED) vs Vogel (GER)

Dutch nouns do not have genders. In German like French, Spanish and Greek, every noun is either masculine, feminine or neuter.

e.g. Stuhl (chair) = masculine, Zeitung (newspaper) = feminine, Haus (house) = neuter

Although Junge (boy) is masculine, because boy is male, Mädchen (girl) is neuter NOT feminine. Any noun that ends with ~chen is always neuter.

There are some Dutch nouns that are similar to German. Some Dutch nouns have similar concepts as German nouns.

Dutch German English
vogel Vogel bird
brood Brot bread
kerk Kirche church
stad Stadt city
hond Hund dog (hound)
paard Pferd horse
ziekenhuis
(ziek = sick) + (huis = house)
Krankenhaus
(krank = sick) + (Haus = house)
hospital
keuken Kuchen kitchen
vlees Fleisch meat (flesh)
aardappel
(aard = Earth) + (appel = apple)
Erdäpfel (Austrian German)
(Erd = Earth) + (Apfel = apple)
potato
regen Regen rain
straat Straße street
vrouw Frau woman

Verbs

In both Dutch and German, every infinitive (e.g. to go, to do, to see) except for to be (sein (GER), zijn (NED)) all en with ~en. See below for examples.

Also in both languages, the past participles of almost all verbs begin with ge~.

e.g. German = gegangen (gone), gehabt (had), gesprochen (spoken), gewesen (been)

e.g. Dutch = gegaan (gone), gehad (had), gesproken (spoken), geweest (been)

Like English’s to make and to do, there are counterparts in both Dutch (maken and doen) and German (machen and tun). However, unlike in English where one would use to do instead of to make to describe someone doing something, German uses machen more than tun.

English What are you doing?
German Was machst du?
Dutch Wat doet u?
English I’m doing my homework.
German Ich mache meine Hausaufgaben.
Dutch Ik doe mijn huiswerk.

These are some Dutch verbs that are similar to German and distant from English.

Dutch German English
annkomen ankommen arrive
zijn sein be
kopen kaufen buy
weten wissen know a fact
kennen kennen know someone
spelen spielen play
lesen lesen read
verkopen verkaufen sell
slapen schlafen sleep
spreken sprechen speak
blijven bleiben stay
bezoeken besuchen visit
schrijven schreiben write

Grammar

Both languages have a similar grammatical system that is further from English that would make an English-speaker drop from a migraine at first encounter.

Like English, both German and Dutch, for most simple sentences, follow the format:

Subject-Verb-Object.

 English  I am a boy.
 German  Ich bin Junge.
 Dutch  Ik ben jongen.
English There is a house.
German Es gibt ein Haus.
Dutch Er is een huis.
English I eat bread for breakfast.
German Ich esse Brot zum Frühstück.
Dutch Ik eet brood voor de ontbijt.

However when there is an auxiliary verb like for perfect tense or using modals, unlike English, German and Dutch take the format:

Subject-Auxiliary-Object-Verb.

English You can play football.
German Du kannst Fußball spielen.
Dutch Jij kunt football spelen.
English She has visited her dad’s company.
German Sie hat seinen Vaters Firma besucht.
Dutch Zij heeft haar vaders vennootschap bezocht.
English We will drink wine.
German Wir werden Wein trinken.
Dutch Wij zullen wijn drinken.

German has a lot more definite articles for each case (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative).

Masculine Feminine Neutral Plural
Nominative der die das die
Accusative den die das die
Dative dem der dem den
Genitive des der des der

e.g. Der Mann (Nom) hat  den Kuchen (Acc) gegessen. The man has eaten the cake.
e.g. Der Mann (Nom) hat  im (in dem) Haus (Dat) den Kuchen (Acc) gegessen. The man has eaten the cake in the house.

Dutch on the other hand only has two definite articles: de and het. Het can also mean it. While, Dutch has fewer definite articles and no genders for nouns, they do have nouns that are always either de or het. Although there are more de nouns than het nouns.

e,g het huis (the house), de kat (the cat), het boek (the book), de school (the school)

Other words

There are other words like conjunctions, prepositions, etc in Dutch that are similar to German.

Dutch German English
ander ander other
ook auch also
op auf on (horizontal surfaces)
niets nichts nothing
Natuurlijk! Naturlich! OK!/Sure! (lit. naturally)

Those are some of the comparisons between Dutch and German and how very much similar they are to each other. There is actually too many to cover in one article. If you’re thinking now that German is probably harder to learn than Dutch because it has more rules, I haven’t talked about trying to listen to spoken Dutch.

If you’re a German-speaker who wants to be a polyglot, try learning Dutch. Hopefully you will find it easier to learn and easy to include into your collection of languages. Or the other way around, if you’re a Dutch-speaking polyglot, try German. Although, I’m guessing that people in the Netherlands can learn English and/or German in schools and there is a German-speaking community in Belgium.

Or if your only language is English and you want to increase the number, here are two languages you can learn in order to increase the number of languages you know more easily.

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4 thoughts on “Dutch and Deutsch

  1. Hello Jonathan!
    I’m from germany and just wanted to say that the german word for bird is also wrote with a “V”, so it’s “Vogel”. 😉 Also the word for boy has an “e” in the Ending, like “Junge”. Maybe it’s different in austria and also some german dialects, but this is the standard “high” german. =)

    I hoped i helped you! If you want to exchange a bit, you can write me an email. Im also a very motivated language learner, although right now i don’t speak that much languages. But if you are interested, you should search a bit for “Esperanto”. This languagee i learned some years ago and its the simplest language in the world… It gave me the believe in that I’m able to learn other languages except my native and english, which is nearly standard in europe.

    Greetings,
    Another Jonny 😉

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