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Dutch and Flemish Dialects

When you translate Dutch you must remember there are different Dutch dialects. Learning more about dialects can be very important when working with language translation and language translation software.

Dutch is spoken by approximately 30 million people worldwide, with a majority of them living in the areas of The Netherlands, Belgium, and Surinam. Pronunciation and usage of the spoken Dutch language varies between countries, however regional differences are not so great as to make the language unintelligible to speakers from different areas.

For example, the difference between Dutch and it’s largest dialect of Flemish, is similar to the differences between American and British English. If your audience speaks Dutch then they can easily understand Flemish.

Understanding Dialects of a Language

A dialect refers to the variations in speech (vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation) which are present between geographic locations or social classes of people.

English Dialects / American English Compared to UK English

To better understand language dialects, let’s take a look at American and British English. If you know English, you can generally understand the language spoken both in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom. For example, if you are an American traveling and hear a British woman say that she is going to go change her baby’s nappy, you can easily understand that to mean that she is going to change her baby’s diaper. In American English we use the word “diaper” where in British English they use the word “nappy.” This is an example of words from two different English dialects.

In Systran’s Software we have built in the ability to translate using either UK or American English.

Dialects: Translate Flemish / Translate Dutch

While there are many smaller regional Dutch dialects in existence today, the Dutch dialect spoken in the northwestern region of Belgium is clearly the largest. It is a dialect called Flemish. The difference between Dutch and Flemish is about the same as the differences between UK and US English. In fact, when most people who speak Flemish are asked what their native language is they will simply reply Dutch. For this reason, the words “Dutch” and “Flemish” are generally used interchangeably by most people.

What is Dutch Localization?

The term localization refers to when you modify a translation to take into account a specific dialect and region.

Systran’s Translation Software uses the International Dutch Dialect

Systran’s translation software uses the International Dutch dialect for the translation. You can easily customize the Dutch translation to another dialect, such as Flemish, by training the software to recognize different words for another dialect by building your own custom dictionaries building translation memory, and more. For example, you can very easily create a “Flemish Dialect” dictionary.

Overall the differences between the various Dutch dialects are relatively minor, so if you translate with the software usually a person who speaks the language can understand the minor differences.


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