Flemish or Dutch?

Flemish or Dutch, what's the difference?

So, depending on where you are reading, you might have noticed the name of my website, learnflemish.be, and the fact that I refer to myself as a Flemish coach.

I wanted to write something about Flemish and Dutch: I think it’s probably the most common question I get, when I say I’m a Flemish language coach.

Is Flemish even an official language?

To be honest, I have no idea, and I don’t want to get too political either!

In Spanish, the word "flamenco" is used for Flemish, like the dance. I personally would've preferred "flamingo"!

To me, in English, the word Dutch refers mostly to what is spoken in the Netherlands, and Flemish is what we speak here in Belgium. That’s just me though, other people would say that we speak Dutch. To be honest, in Flemish, I wouldn’t easily say I speak “Vlaams”, but I also use the term “Nederlands”. The point I’m trying to make by choosing Flemish, is that I teach the language spoken in Belgium. Well, one of the three official languages of Belgium, of course 🙂 (which are the other two again?)

Alright then, what is the difference between Flemish from Belgium and Dutch from the Netherlands then, you might ask? Why do I have to position myself as a Flemish coach and not just a Dutch language coach?

Well, it’s not a huge difference. Some people would say that it’s the same as the difference between British English and American English. I disagree. For me, the pronunciation difference between Dutch and Flemish is a lot more significant. I think this is something that has probably evolved even more in the last century, because Flemish TV became a lot more “Flemish” and it was also more “accepted” to speak with a Flemish accent, instead of aiming to sound as “neutral” (close to the Netherlands) as possible.

As for vocabulary, there are also many more differences than we would think! Not so long ago, a learner and I were going through some material that came from a Dutch book, and the theme was “around the house”. I think I changed roughly 1 in every 10 words for the Flemish version. That’s a lot, and it doesn’t happen all the time, but enough for me to stop working with Dutch material for Flemish learners.

Now you might wonder if you made a big mistake, getting a Dutch NT2 book to start studying Flemish? No, you’re probably fine, as long as you have some Flemish people in your life to tell you which words and expressions are too Dutch. The grammar structure and rules are, with some exception in spoken language, identical.

But now you know why I chose to be a Flemish language coach instead of a Dutch one!

Do you have good examples of words that are different in Flemish and Dutch? Or do you have a question about Flemish? Don’t hesitate to drop me a line or comment below, I love hearing from you!

PS: Did you know that we hardly ever dub films, but if we do, like cartoons or Disney films, there are almost always two versions: Flemish and Dutch? You can hear Elsa from Frozen sing “laat het los” (let it go) in both Dutch and Flemish in this youtube video. Can you hear the difference?

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