In the past, the spelling of foreign names was often Dutchified,
like for instance:
'London' becoming Londen
the Thames river becoming de Theems,
'England' becoming Engeland
and the German city of Köln (called 'Cologne' in English and
French) became Keulen.
Nowadays the adaptation of foreign names is seen as part of
colonialism or imperialism, and it is not done much anymore, but I
think it was originally just meant to make an approximately correct
pronunciation easier. A Dutchman would say 'Londen' about as an
Englishman says 'London,' while 'London' said in the Dutch way would be
quite different. In the old days, people were also less familiar
with foreign languages.
Of course foreign names cannot be pronounced exactly like how locals say
A few names were translated, like De Verenigde Staten2
('The United States.')
On this page, you'll come across a few E's with two dots on top:
ë - the dots (called
in Dutch) indicate that the vowel is to be pronounced separately from
the preceding vowel(s), that
it is not part of a diphthong or long vowel - compare:
It looks a bit like the German
Umlaut, but that indicates a vowel sound change,
a completely different function.
Speaking Dutch, Holland is called
and the Dutch word for Belgium is
Ik ben in Nederland geboren.
I was born in Holland.
Ik ben in Nederland geboren en opgegroeid.
I was born and grew up in Holland.
Ik heb tot m'n zevenendertigste (37ste) in Nederland gewoond.
2I have lived in Holland till age 37.
En toen ben ik naar Amerika gegaan.
Then I went/moved to the US.
('Amerika' is of course the whole New World, but it often means 'the US.')
('fellow countryman') -
- het buitenland2
('the world outside Holland and Belgium,' "Abroad")
is a language of South Africa with roots in
Dutch. It has the nice word
Another Afrikaans word I like is
('old man') - Dutch would be
More Afrikaans Links
Many people are familiar with the Afrikaans word
for the former white supremacist ruling system of South Africa.
Apartheid ended because the other Western nations found it
unacceptable and led a boycott of the white South-African regime.
I am glad it is gone.
Still, there are many people in the world who think their religion
gives them the right, or even the mandate to rule all others, and some
of that group think their 'race' is superior to all others.
I do hope that those views too will
soon disappear or adapt to modern views of human equality:
Alle mensen zijn gelijk.
('All men, all humans are equal.')
In the 19th Century, slavery ended because the leading nations in the
West decided it was wrong. The British Navy stopped the transatlantic
slave trade, but in East Africa slaves still moved North.
Colonialism ended in the 20th Century because the Western nations
realized it was wrong, and no longer could stomach the violence
necessary to subjugate colonial subjects.
It's hard to believe for people in the West that some
groups that claim to be victims of a kind of apartheid do not look for
equality, but feel entitled to be on top themselves.
Ik ben een Amerikaan.
I'm an American.
Ik ben een Engelsman.
I'm an Englishman.
Hij is een Belg.
He is Belgian
Hij is een Fransman
He is a Frenchman.
Ze is een Française.
2She is a Frenchwoman
Zijn tweede vrouw was een Belgische.
His second wife was Belgian.
Hij is een Ier.
He is an Irishman.
Hij is een Spanjaard
He is [a Spaniard] from Spain.
As you see, the words for foreign nationals are a bit complicated. It
is much easier to say:
Ik kom uit ...
('I'm from ...')
Ik kom uit Amerika.
I'm from the US.
Ik kom uit Engeland.
I'm from England.
Ze komt uit Engeland. 2[She's from England] She's English.
Or (depending on circumstances) you could say something like:
Ik woon in Amerika.
I live in the US.
[(het)] Engels 'English' - both the language and the adjective
[(het)] Duits 'German' - both the language and the adjective
German and Germanic
[(het)] Frans 2'French' - both the language and the adjective
De Nederlandse vlag
is rood - wit - blauw23
('The Dutch flag is red - white - blue') -
Maybe (or maybe not) you'll hear the (to me) very slight difference
in the Dutch pronunciation of G and CH: vlaggen
lachen 2 ('to laugh) -
vlaggen/lachen - licht/ligt2
- as for instance in Indische jongens
'young men of mixed Dutch and Indonesian descent' -
usually refers to the old Dutch Indies, though you would expect it to
mean 'Indian' - the subcontinent. The adjective
for those things Indian doesn't sound good - it's better to say
In the colonial era, the native people of Indonesia were called
but now the word is only used for the people of India.
The Dutch word for Native Americans is
and the adjective is
This page was made because of a question from Malcolm Hatfield of London.