Dutch Language Blog

Why English speakers have a one-up when learning Dutch… and it’s not what you think Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Dutch Language

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English speakers have an easier time learning Dutch because they’re both Germanic languages, blah, blah, blah.

But that’s not the only reason native English speakers have an advantage when it comes to learning Dutch.

So what’s the other thing that gives English speakers the upper hand?

A surprising amount of modern Dutch comes directly from English.

That’s right. The Dutch may have contributed a tremendous amount to English as we know it today, but now it seems they like what the language has become so much that they’re borrowing back from it.

Here’s a list of just a handful of English words that have been Dutchified:

computeren – to use the computer
daten – to date
meeten – to meet
printen – to print
saven – to save
updaten – to update
uploaden – to upload

But, wait, there’s more.

How about these doozies, straight from the mouths of Dutchies…

“Je moet out of the box denken.”
You need to think outside the box.

“Dat was een beetje awkward.”
That was a little awkward.

“Binnen no time was alles uitverkocht”
In no time everything had been sold out.

“Hij heeft een hands-on mentaliteit.”
He has a hands-on mentality.

“Ze wonen echt in de middle of nowhere.”
They live in the middle of nowhere.

“Ik was helemaal happy toen hij mij beldde.”
I was so happy when he called me.

“Kom eens even to the point.”
Get to the point.

“Het was so last-minute wij hadden geen tijd om na te denken.”
It was so last minute we had no time to think about it.

This phenomenon has a name: Dunglish – a combination of Dutch and English. It always tickles me when I hear these gems, so matter how often I hear them (which is pretty often).

If you’re in a conversation and are at a loss for a particular word in Dutch or just don’t know what to say, try tossing in a bit of English. Odds are, it’ll go by completely unnoticed. You’ll be amazed how often it works.

While some language purists frown upon this influx of English to the Dutch language, it’s really no surprise. So many Dutch speak excellent English.

In addition to it being taught in schools at an increasingly early age (sometimes as young as two or three), there’s a very mainstream English influence.

Television shows and movies are subtitled instead of dubbed and English language film and television shows are ubiquitous.

Much of what’s played on the radio is in the English language. A large number of Dutch artist have made a conscious choice to produce music with lyrics in English.

It’s still debatable whether or not this pays off our debt to the Dutch in full, but hey, it’s a start.

What are some other Dutchified English words you’ve encountered? Or have you recently heard a bit of Dunglish you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.

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About the Author: tiffany

Tiffany Jansen is an American magazine and copywriter in the Netherlands.


  1. Catherine McGill:

    Love it! How about “Dat is zo jammie (yummy spelled in “Dutch” lol

    • tiffany:

      @Catherine McGill That’s a good one too! I’ve also seen it spelled jummie. Too funny

  2. Mark Bossi:

    At least I won’t starve when I’m visiting …
    (e.g. hot chocolate = warme chocolademelk)

  3. Scott Smith:

    I am constantly amazed by the “Dunglish” I hear, even on the news. The worst one so far was “ge-double check-d” on NOS journaal.

    • tiffany:

      @Scott Smith I agree. It really is amazing how English has infiltrated the Dutch language.

  4. FR:

    Computeren comes from computare, which is latin, which is the basis for many words in Germanic languages, there is no such thing as Dutch developed from English or English developed from Dutch or whatsoever.

    There is only one origin, that is the indo-european, proto-germanic language which all Germanic languages have as basis.

    The problem is that Dutch people have absolutely no fucking clue where their language comes from and how to use it correctly.

    They also lack the ability to refuse Dutchification, too easy adapting to others and being soft on non-Dutch speakers, resulting in the fact that they will never be tested in Dutch, because Dutch people switch to English for your convenience.

    When a Dutch person talks to me using English terms in his way of talking, then I do not even take him seriously anymore.

    Corrections for those interested in speaking proper Dutch:

    Daten should be dateren. Or uitgaan.

    Meeten is moeten, in old times people used to say ik moet hem, which meens I meet him.

    Printen should be prenten

    Saven should be sauveren

    Update should be opdateren

    Upload should be hoogladen

    Do not exaggerate that English speaking people can so easily talk Dutch because of a limited amount of words that are Dutchified.

    There are not hundreds of Dutchified words. The way you put it makes it look like there is a great deal of words Dutchified.

    Also I never heard anybody say das was een beetje awkward in Dutch, maybe you talk to people who find themselves quite populair, similar to Americans?

    Kom even to the point… Never heard it in my entire life and I went from primary school all the way to university, native Dutch speaker as I am, but I can say it is not representative at all.

    That goes for most of the text, not representative. When you do not speak Dutch and you want to try to toss in a few English words, maybe you should try to learn Dutch better and then toss in a few Dutch words next time?

    That would show more respect for the Dutch language, seeing that you are intested in learning and speaking it properly.

    • tiffany:

      @FR Thank you for your input. It’s great to have both sides of the coin.

      • Janice:

        @tiffany I’m a native Dutch speaker and I don’t agree with you, many of the translations you’ve given don’t even exist anymore. For example the Dutch word for “saven” should be “opslaan”. I hear “awkward” all the time, that really depends on the people around you. I’m 16 and you have no idea how many English I hear around me. If you don’t know a Dutch word you can easily try the English word for it because most people will understand you anyway. I happen to meet a lot of native English speakers because I live in a town which is very touristic and where a lot of native English speakers come, also I work in a supermarket where I get a lot of English questions. When I speak in English I sometimes don’t even notice it because it goes automatically. I don’t know what it’s like to learn Dutch when it’s not your native language, but all I can say is that the way you pronounce words is very important, otherwise people won’t understand you, no matter if your words and grammar are correct. Good luck!

  5. FR:

    I personally never came accross any native English speaking person with a talent or feel for other languages…

    • tiffany:

      @FR Sorry you feel that way, FR.

  6. Bill Barrow:

    FR, why so rude and crabby? Doesn’t make me want to take seriously what you’re saying.

  7. FR:

    I might have sounded angry or annoyed towards tiffany, not meant it that way to be honest.

    I just dislike the fact that so many Dutch people Englify the Dutch language.

    I think you should stick to your roots and I do not think it sounds strange.

    Americans also proudly hold on to their consitution, so why would a language be different?

    Why to overturn it, abolish it or to alter it into an unwanted direction?

    Then why not make one universal language and abolish all others? I think everybody should be proud of their language and its heritage and continue to develop it independently.

    I apologise to Tiffany.

    • tiffany:

      @FR No offense taken whatsoever. I do understand where you’re coming from. That’s why I find it so amazing the amount of English I hear from Dutch people. The examples I gave are not from foreigners. They’re from the Dutch. I’ve heard these things on TV, on the radio, in passing, listening to my Dutch husband and his friends, when I would go into Dutch schools. Englifying Dutch is very much the in thing to do right now. And, the fact of the matter is, if you were to go back 500 years and speak the Dutch you speak now to the Dutch who lived then, they’d have a hard time understanding you. The same with English. Just try reading some of the original text from 14th century England. The fact is that languages change and evolve, no matter how much we wish they wouldn’t

  8. FR:

    I have one tip for those interested in the Dutch language and its etymology:


    One other way to find out where English words came from and how they would most likely be like in other languages is:


    I am always looking up words to understand the context and the origin so that I can google and find in old Dutch language the equivalents that have gone lost in usage over time…

    Did you ever ask what would be move in Dutch? That would be moveren.

    Move your ass would then literally be moveer je aars (arse)!

    • tiffany:

      @FR That’s brilliant! Thanks for the links 🙂

  9. FR:

    The sad thing is many young Dutch people can not even produce a proper letter without grammar and spelling mistakes.

    That is to a degree also because of the influence of English words in mostly American television series.

    The incapability of the Dutch school system teaching them proper Dutch is also an issue.

    They copy it and then use it and it becomes the new ‘standard’.

    I am therefore not a big fan of classes being given in English lessons more and more.

    I would then think it would be more logical to do that in Chinese, because that language is the native language to 1.3 billion people, whereas English is a (sort of forced upon) ‘standard’, more or less coming forth from the British empire and its influence on the world.

  10. FR:

    Indeed languages evolve, but Old English became Modern English and not Dutchlish so to say.

    What we have here is that my language is completely overtaken by foreign influences and being marginalised.

    Where you come from, the United States of America, you have 300 million+ people with English as native language, but we are a small language, we can hardly fend off such intrusion.

    When this would go on and on and on, and increasinly so, one day the Dutch language will be like an almost extinct language.

    I am exaggerating at the moment naturally, but this is a very serious development in my opinion.

    • tiffany:

      @FR What we know as English today is actually thanks to a HUGE French influence. And that’s how English became Old English. There was also a Dutch influence, which is one of the reasons that American English is so different from British English.

  11. FR:

    I would only have one suggestion to the American English speakers, please stop using the word like in all sorts of situations and manners.

    The most irritation towards Americans comes from the word like. The Americans use it so often, that I personally feel they lack the way of communication in a creative manner.

    I was like, there were like, and then she said like, and he was like, and it was like.

    In the metro I sat accross an American girl and I counted how many times she said in 1 minute the word like. I came to 7, 8, 9, sometimes even 10 or 11 times when I measured it.

    There are substitutes, like ;-), such as, about, more or less et cetera.

  12. Michail:

    @ FR. As a native Dutch speaker i can somehwat relate to what you are saying. But in my opinion “you are eating the soup hotter than it is served” (For English speakers, a spoof on a well known Dutch saying :)). There is only a part of Dutch people that speak poor Dutch and there is a variety of reasons for that. Dunglish is just a very minor part of that. What i think is happening is that The Netherlands is one of the pilot countries of language evolution. Leading up to full integration, whether that integration means going fully to English or some European hybrid is to be seen. It may take another few hundred years but it seems we are heading that way. Especially because it’s not just a Dutch thing, it’s happening all over. Of course the internet has a huge contribution to this. I personally welcome this as misunderstandings in commication just slow things down. Evolution in language to me means progress. Maybe we should focus less on how we speak about things, and focus more on what we speak about and how to solve the problems of our time and the future. In whatever language that happens, to be honest i could not care less! For the record, i love the English language, but i still love Dutch the best as a native speaker. But there is only one thing permanent and that is change! Take care, Peace!

    • tiffany:

      @Michail Interesting that you bring this up. I completely understand that people don’t want their language to change, they want to keep it ‘pure.’ But the truth of the matter is that none of us are speaking the ‘pure’ version of our respective languages. What we speak now was once influenced by other cultures and other languages as well. Dutch people from even a century ago would most likely be terribly offended by even what is considered pure/official Dutch

  13. Michail:

    Addendum to FR: I just read your comment saying: “I personally never came accross any native English speaking person with a talent or feel for other languages…”

    “DUDE” that is so insulting! I know several native English speakers who speak almost perfect Dutch. Where do you get your info? Maybe from your closed little world? You should not project your own limited experiences on others. And i know one that speaks English, Dutch and French fluently. Can you do that? No of course, but you speak perfect Dutch. Well good for you!

    Do you like the word “dude”?? Haha

    • tiffany:

      @Michail I know some really excellent Dutch-speakers whose mother tongue is English as well. Some of them even Dutch people swear are Dutch. But, depending on where FR lives, where he’s traveled, and who he’s met, I can imagine he’s found native English speakers who are terrible at languages.

  14. Ah well:

    ??? This is just a little far-fetched FR:
    “…Corrections for those interested in speaking proper Dutch:
    Daten should be dateren. Or uitgaan.
    Meeten is moeten, in old times people used to say ik moet hem, which meens I meet him.
    Printen should be prenten
    Saven should be sauveren
    Update should be opdateren
    Upload should be hoogladen..”

    We Dutch don’t say ‘Saven’ because of ‘Sauveren(never heard of the word)
    Updateren??? Hoogladen?? That’s maybe where the English words origines from but not the Dunglish.

  15. Ah well:

    I mean if you want to learn proper Dutch AND want the Dutch to understand you, don’t use ‘prenten, sauveren, opdateren, hoogladen…they won’t have a clue what you’re trying to say.

  16. Sam:

    You call this phenomenon Dunglish, but it’s not. We call it “Anglicismen” – Anglicisms. Dunglish is somthing different: it’s when we directly translate our grammar, syntax and even whole idioms and expressions into English. Here are some examples: http://www.reddit.com/r/Dunglish

  17. ro:

    Lissen we use a lot of english in Our (volkstaal)the language amoung common folk. But if we dont want yall to understand us u wont. We have many words for the same thing. We Just cut the (universal words

  18. sclytrack:

    Ik zal de hele namiddag computeren.
    Wil je met mij uitgaan?
    Ik wil je ontmoeten.
    Ik will het blad afdrukken.
    Ik will het bestand bewaren.
    Ik zal de gegevens op punt stellen.
    Ik zal de foto uploaden.

  19. Jackie Fairchild:

    This site won’t display correctly on my iphone – you might wanna try and fix that

  20. rod starns:

    i think the freiske words for bread and cheese sound similar to english but are spelt diferenly

  21. Noelle:

    Tiffany, you my lady are a very patient person.

    As far as native English speakers being awful at learning languages, I that is analogous (I didn’t use like!) to saying that all Americans are fat. It really does depend on the person, doesn’t it?

    I think Europeans have a slightly exaggerated hubris when it comes to their multi and second language abilities. The majority of them who feel they know many languages only know languages that have a lot of grammar and vocabulary similar to their own. I don’t find it all that impressive that a Dutch person should speak Dutch, German, French, and English. It is more impressive than speaking no second language. But it is not difficult relative to their knowing for example, Arabic, Japanese, Hindi, Dutch.

    I wonder how many Americans know Chinese compared to how many Dutch know Chinese and so on. Just because an American you meet does not speak your language does not mean they do not know a foreign language. I have studied Japanese for years. I can watch most Japanese tv programs without subtitles and understand almost all of what is being said. I have even done a bit of fansubbing on Viki just on a lark but soon stopped because I don’t see the point in working for free. I would argue that arbeicht does not macht frei, not when it is slave labor.

    When I am traveling anywhere but Japan, I am sure that the people there assume that I am a stupid American who does not know any languages. When I speak French badly in France and German badly in Germany, I am sure many of them assume that I am a stupid American who can’t or can’t be bothered to learn a second language. They don’t know that I am fairly fluent in Japanese.

    When I travel, I am not particularly impressed by the hoards of people who speak English and are so very proud of it. Most of them only speak English and no other second language or maybe only English and a language that is very similar to their own. Often, they think they speak English much better than they actually do. When they seem to be using me as a practice dummy or to show off to their friends, I just speed up my English to a normal level and use difficult vocabulary. Usually, they now can’t understand me and end up embarrassed. Most of them are very lucky that most native English speakers are too kind to do the same as I do.

    As far as the idea that Dutch should stop learning English in school and learn Chinese as well. That is not at all a good idea. First, Chinese would be a very difficult language for a Dutch person to learn. It is not in any way similar to Dutch so it would take easily 10 times or longer to master the listening and speaking alone. The writing system would take even longer to master. And what would be the point?

    The world learns English because it is the lingua franca just as once Latin was the lingua franca. Even centuries after Italy was no longer an empire, other cultures used Latin to access history, literature, science, and math.

    Even the Chinese use English as a lingua franca. When a Chinese person and an Asian from another country meet, what language do you think they usually have to use to communicate? English. I have seen it over and over. It is amusing for me to sometimes see people from differing countries using broken, nearly unintelligible English to communicate with each other because otherwise they could not.

    Maybe China will become the dominant power in the world, but that is not happening anytime soon. It is just as likely that there will no longer be a world as opposed to anybody needing to learn Chinese. The only way China is going to become preeminent is through war and that will be the war to end all wars no doubt. U.S, Japan, South Korea, England, Israel (maybe even the European countries despite how cowardly they generally are) versus China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia. Would anybody survive it? It would likely be nuclear holocaust for most if not all of the world. Who would be left to speak Chinese? The few remaining stragglers dying of radiation poisoning? Whatever elites managed to make it to the secret bunkers the rich and powerful have built for themselves with the money they taxed and stole from the rest of us? Do you think second language acquisition will be big on the list of priorities for the survivors of the last world war?

    By the way, I started learning Dutch because my boyfriend might be working there for a few months. It is much easier than learning Japanese was. So, yeah, I am not really so impressed that Dutch people often know English. I also have a plan to stop them from speaking to me in English when we are there. I am going to pretend to be Italian. For whatever reason, when my boyfriend and I were in France, people kept thinking we were Italian when they saw us. So I am going to learn a few phrases in Italian, such as, “I don’t speak English. Do you speak Italian?” I will bet the majority of the time, the polyglot Dutch will have to switch to Dutch. Ha ha ha ha ha. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

  22. Noelle:

    Is it arbeit? I think it is. As I said, my German is pretty bad.

  23. Peter:

    Wesley Sniper!!!ftw

  24. Wolfman:

    Dutch and English are so similar that you don’t even need to learn it as a foreign language. You can read Dutch as English provided there’s a glossary at the bottom to translate some words that have no English counterpart. More literal translations show that Dutch is even more similar than this shows to English. For example, beetje would translate to bit (as in a bit).

    Spoken Dutch is much harder to understand than written Dutch, but the fact that a lot of words can be picked out makes it sound almost like English with an EXTREMELY thick accent.

  25. Another FR:

    Too much air, people should learn languages to widen their culture. It is fun to try a few words on a different language and failing all if you can read more than one language, you will have the enjoyment of reading original works. And to the purists, listen to Tiffany, languages evolve and change as long as they are alive.
    tot ziens!

  26. Interested:

    Well, English has an enormous amount of loan words from numerous languages; it makes sense to me some languages borrow from English. 🙂

  27. Don:

    I began learning Dutch, on my own, last June at the age of 60. Soon after I started (had gone through the first eight lessons of the Pimsleur’s Dutch course) I met two people who were from the Netherlands. The gentleman asked me three times why I wanted to learn Dutch? Why Dutch? I could not satisfy his curiosity. I guess the truth is I am a constant learner, I can’t help myself. I am interested in other people and other cultures. I read that learning a second language later in life can hold off dementia for some years. I love Anglo-Saxon English and am loving the Dutch language too! I have a number of Dutch ancestors. I have a good ear and it comes easily to me. Also, I walk five days a week on a treadmill. So think of all the stupid political stuff I missed in the past many months while I dutifully studied my Dutch. But finally I said to my Dutch acquaintance, “why not Dutch?”
    I have enjoyed reading the various opinions expressed in the lively conversation above. I am going to look into the links. Thank you very much for your blog and to the contributors for their comments.

  28. Edward Roland Cruttenden:


    Oftewel, KOETERWAALS, GEBRABBEL, KROMTAAL noem maar op!
    Wat een gelul! Taalverloedering van het zuiverste water die uitsluitend gebezigd wordt door ” grote kinderen ” die de verleiding niet kunnen weerstaan om te pronken met hun beperkte kennis van het Engels. Ze zouden zich moeten schamen voor hun verwerpelijke woordensmederij!!!
    Trouwens, ik ben Engels en er enorm trots op.

  29. Vangelis:

    why all this BS about duch english chinese and so on you all use Greek (mostly in science) but we don,t gloat about it…..also Mis Noel or whatever cowardly Europeans…hahaha….you cannot teach some European countries what courage means….not in a million years!!

  30. Mark:

    Learning other languages is the best way to make war extinct