Are You Speaking Dutch or German?

Call me crazy, but I love languages.  I especially like Germanic languages. In fact, I use a few of the Germanic languages on a fairly regular basis.  A couple of the these languages that I use get mixed up so easily that it makes me laugh a bit.  Which languages are these?  They would be German and Dutch.  Why would these two languages get mixed up?  Well, they sort of sound similar when you are speaking them and if you are not paying attention you can easily think you are listening to one and actually be listening to the other.  I have done that before.  The most common thing that leads to the mix up is in the names of the languages.  Let me explain for you all if you do not get what I am trying to say.

You would not expect these two to get mixed up just looking at the words German and Dutch.  The issue mainly comes in the German name for the German language: Deutsch.  In all fairness, the words Deutsch and Dutch do look similar.  It gets even more confusing though.  You get people saying that they are Pennsylvania Dutch or that their ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch.  People automatically think that they are Dutch.  WRONG!  Pennsylvania Dutch is actually German.  Sorry, but the people that came over from Germany that are Pennsylvania Dutch are from the Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wüttemberg states of Germany.  So why is it even called Dutch to begin with?  That goes back to when Dutch was referred to as Low Dutch and German was called High Dutch in the English language.  However, since the speakers of High Dutch lived in the German Empire their language in English became known as German while the speakers of Low Dutch’s language just had the “low” part dropped and it was left at Dutch.  German is the official language of several countries.  These include, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium.  Granted, those last three only have it as one of their official languages.  In total, there are over 120 million native speakers of German as their first language!  Holy calamari!  To put that in perspective, there are about 360 million first language speakers of English.

So, if the German word for German is Deutsch, what is the Dutch name for Dutch?  The Dutch call their language Nederlands.  That comes from when the Low countries split from the Holy Roman Empire.  Back then they called their language Nederlandsch.  Nederlands is listed as an official language in Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and Suriname.  Wait, the official language of those little island nations and Suriname in South America is Dutch?  Yes!  It actually is that is because the countries are all part of The Netherlands.  Catch the difference there?  I said The Netherlands.  What is the difference there?  Here is a simple answer for you all.  Netherlands is the country with Amsterdam as its capital.  The Netherlands refers to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  Don’t like that answer, blame the Dutchman that explained the difference to me.  So what exactly makes up the Kingdom of the Netherlands?  There are four countries and three special municipalities.  The four countries are Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.  The municipalities that as a whole are called the Caribbean Netherlands are: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba.  Belgium was at one point a part of The Netherlands, but in 1830 it seceded from Netherlands in the Belgian Revolution.  Unlike Netherlands though, it does not have such a far reaching hold on territory and only has the country of Belgium as its single holding.

Well, there you have it. There are a few differences between these two languages.  Between the two, I am better with Dutch.  You would think it would be German since I sat through a German class, but nope.  I am better at Dutch.  Dutch is the language they speak in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname. Deutsch is actually German.  Pennsylvania Dutch is also German, not Dutch.

Advertisements