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English Words Used in Dutch: Do You Speak Dunglish?

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Did you know that the Dutch language has close ties with English? 

English words are used in Dutch in many different ways, including through Dunglish (a crazy mixture of both languages) and loanwords. It’s important to know the difference between these two types of English words in Dutch, as loanwords are more widely accepted than Dunglish. 

The good news is that Dutch is full of English loanwords. Having these ‘freebies’ in your memory bank will make learning the language a bit easier. But the language exchange actually goes both ways, and you’ll also find basic Dutch words in English.

Are you ready to discover the ties between the Dutch and English languages with DutchPod101.com? We’ll teach you everything you should know about Dunglish, English loanwords, and common Dutch words in English—and all this in a fun and easy manner!

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Are you speaking Dunglish or Dutch?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch Table of Contents
  1. Introduction to Dunglish
  2. Dunglish Examples
  3. Loanwords vs. Dunglish
  4. Common Dutch Words in English
  5. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

1. Introduction to Dunglish

Dunglish is a mixture of the Dutch and English languages. In this section, we’ll give you some insight on its history and usage, so that you really understand what it is and what role it plays in Dutch society.

1 – Its History

In Dutch, Dunglish is also called Nengels or steenkolenengels (“coal-English”). 

Steenkolenengels is a well-known term in the Dutch language, but few people know its origin. It goes all the way back to the early twentieth century, when Dutch port workers tried to speak a creative form of English in order to communicate with workers from the English coal ships.

2 – Its Usage in Dutch Culture

Dunglish is mostly perceived as being the mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English (but it can, of course, also be the other way around).

Dutch people manage the English language relatively well. They learn the language from a young age, as it’s a basic school subject throughout their educational career and it often continues to be practiced in universities where there are a  large number of courses and programs in English. But the English language is also part of the cultural scene in the Netherlands. The Dutch listen to a lot of music in English and watch a lot of English-language movies with Dutch subtitles (as the Dutch don’t dub movies). 

However, they still make mistakes when speaking English. Errors range from mistakes in pronunciation and word order to incorrect conjugation. Even political leaders can be found guilty of speaking some Dunglish. To give a funny example: 

Dries van Agt, the former Dutch prime minister, supposedly once said: “I can stand my little man,” a direct translation from the Dutch saying: Ik kan mijn mannetje wel staan. (“I can stand up for myself.”)

2. Dunglish Examples

To start, let’s have a look at some examples of Dunglish. If the Dutch make these mistakes when speaking English, you’re bound to make them as well when speaking Dutch! 

1 – Incorrect Meaning of Words

Applying incorrect meanings to English words is the most typical Dunglish mistake of all. Words are incorrectly translated, which often leads to some understandable but funny mistakes. 

There is a funny story about a meeting between the former Dutch prime minister Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy and Winston Churchill in London. When Gerbrandy shook Churchill’s hand, he supposedly said “Good day,” to which Churchill responded, “This is the shortest meeting I have ever had.” Goedendag (“Good day”) is a common Dutch greeting, but in English it’s most often used when saying goodbye. A logical Dunglish mistake to make if you don’t know this little difference between the two languages.

Because Dutch and English are so similar to each other, incorrect translations are bound to happen. Let’s take the Dutch word eventueel for example: it means “potentially” in English, and not “eventually.” Another example is the Dutch word actueel, which means “current.” It is sometimes mistakenly translated as the English word “actual,” which means “genuine.” 

You can imagine how some humorous mistakes can be made due to incorrect translations like these! 


2 – Word Order

A Woman Standing in Front of a Blackboard that Has Speech Bubbles Drawn on It

Let’s try to avoid these Dunglish word order mistakes.

Another typical Dunglish mistake is to use incorrect word order, as the Dutch and English languages do not follow exactly the same word order. A typical word order mistake the Dutch make when speaking English is saying: “What mean you?” This is a literal translation of the Dutch question: Wat bedoel je? As you can see, the word order is different, which explains this Dunglish mistake. 

These word order mistakes are especially common in questions, as there is a particular difference between Dutch and English question word order. It’s common for English speakers to use the Dutch word doe (“to do”) when asking yes/no questions. Contrary to English, the Dutch don’t use the auxiliary “do” in questions. So don’t use it, otherwise your Dutch question word order will be incorrect. 

For example: “Do you like dancing?”

  • Correct: Houd je van dansen?
  • Dunglish: Doe jij houden van dansen?

Another common word order mistake has to do with not knowing when to split the verbs in sentences. 

This mistake is so prevalent because while the Dutch like to split their verbs, this is not done in English. When there are multiple verbs in a Dutch sentence, one part of the verb will be at the beginning of the sentence and other parts will be at the end. So the complicated Dutch present perfect sentence De jongen heeft in het huis de gele deur met zware verf geverfd, may be literally translated to: “The boy has in the house the yellow door with black paint painted.” However, this should be: “The boy has painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”

When should you be aware of this verb-splitting in Dutch? Be cautious when using present perfect, past perfect, future simple, future perfect, conditional, and conditional perfect verbs. In such cases, you may need to add a verb to the end of the sentence. Here is the sentence structure for these tenses:

Subject + Working verb + Adverb + (Adjective +) Direct object + (Adjective +) (Indirect object +) Other verb

    → Would you like to learn more about Dutch word order? Have a look at our useful article on the subject and avoid this typical Dunglish mistake.

3 – Verb Conjugation

Aside from verb-splitting, English and Dutch verbs actually share many things in common. This sometimes causes Dutch speakers to conjugate English verbs according to Dutch grammar rules, and vice-versa.

Example of this Dunglish mistake made by Dutch speakers: We drinken het bier

  • Correct: “We drink the beer.”
  • Dunglish: “We drinken the beer.”

Example of this Dunglish mistake made by English speakers: “They kiss each other.”

  • Correct: Zij kussen elkaar.
  • Dunglish: Zij kus elkaar.

Although both languages use the infinitive (kussen or “to kiss”) in the plural form, the infinitive is different, causing confusion for Dutch and English speakers. 


4 – Errors in Pronunciation

As is to be expected, pronunciation mistakes abound between speakers of the two languages. One of the most common Dunglish pronunciation errors for Dutch speakers has to do with the difference between the English sounds ‘th’ and ‘t.’ For example, the Dutch may pronounce “third” as “turd,” “the” as “duh,” and “three” and “tree” as “dreeh.”

Another set of English pronunciation mistakes the Dutch make comes down to the tricky difference between the words “bat” / “bad” / “bet” / “bed” and “back” / “bag” / “beck” / “beg.” The difference between these sounds does not exist in the Dutch language, so they tend to pronounce these words the same way.

However, Dutch pronunciation may be even more difficult for English speakers. Do you remember those tricky diphthongs? A diphthong is the combination of two vowels that, together, make a particular sound—a sound that no vowel in Dutch makes on its own. 

A common Dunglish mistake that Dutch learners make is to pronounce the letters separately, rather than as one fluid sound. Let’s have a look at the nine Dutch diphthongs:

Letter(English) PronunciationExample
aiPronounced as [I], as in “I am” in Englishmais (“corn”)
auPronounced like [ow] in the English word “now”auto (“car”)
eiPronounced as the [i] in the English word “find”ei (“egg”)
euThis sound doesn’t exist in English, but you may know it from the French word “beurre.”leuk (“fun”)
iePronounced like [ee] in the English word “bee”mier (“ant”)
ijPronounced exactly the same as the Dutch ei diphthongwijn (“wine”)
oePronounced like [oo] in the English word “pool”moe (“tired”)
ouPronounced exactly the same as the Dutch au diphthongkoud (“cold”)
uiThis sound doesn’t exist in English, but it’s a combination of the [a] sound in “man” and a long Dutch u.muis (“mouse”)

Another pronunciation mistake English speakers make has to do with the pronunciation of sch as sk (with too much of a k sound).

Let’s have a look at how you should pronounce this: 

Letter(English) PronunciationExample 
schPronounced like an [s] followed by a harsh [ch], as in the Scottish word “loch”schaap (“sheep”)


Netherlands Flag Inside a Speech Bubble

Use these tips to improve your Dutch pronunciation.

3. Loanwords vs. Dunglish

In addition to Dunglish, there are also plenty of English words in the Dutch language that are used on a regular basis. In this section, we’ll discuss the difference between Dunglish and loanwords, and introduce you to some of the most common English words in Dutch.

1 – Loanwords vs. Dunglish: What’s the Difference?

Do you already understand the difference between loanwords and Dunglish? While both are a mixture of the Dutch and English languages, one is correct and the other isn’t. As may be clear from the previous section, Dunglish may be cute but it’s not correct.

So if you want to make use of the English language while speaking Dutch (or vice-versa), then it’s better to use loanwords. These are words that are borrowed from another language with little to no changes—in this case, these are English words used in Dutch with the same meaning and similar (if not identical) spelling. 

And lucky you! The Dutch language is full of English loanwords. It’s easy vocabulary that you don’t even have to study.

2 – List of English Words in Dutch

Some English loanwords in Dutch have become so common over time that they’ve become “Dutch” verbs. Let’s have a look at them:

Checken
 “To check”
Ik wil nog even met jou de route checken.
 “I just want to check the route with you.”

WhatsappenIk whatsapp je nu.
 Literally: “I Whatsapp you now.”
 Meaning: “I’m sending you a Whatsapp message now.”

It literally means “to Whatsapp,” but its meaning more closely relates to “to send a message with Whatsapp.”

Downloaden
 “To download”
Hij heeft de film gedownload.
 “He has downloaded the movie.”

Apart from this funny vernederlandsing (“Dutchification”) of English words, there are also some English loanwords that are directly incorporated into the Dutch language.

AirconditionerKun je de airconditioner aanzetten?
 “Can you turn on the air conditioner?”

Because compound words are so common in Dutch, the English word “air conditioner” is changed to airconditioner. The same thing happens to the English loanword “credit card,” which is written as one word in Dutch: creditcard.

Although the Dutch use the word airconditioner, it’s more common to hear them say the short version: airco.

LaptopIk werk op mijn laptop. 
“I work on my laptop.”

OutfitIk heb mijn outfit voor het feest al klaar liggen.
 “I already have my outfit ready for the party.”

E-mailIk vroeg hem in een e-mail of hij me kon helpen.
 “I asked him in an email if he could help me.”

Happy hourLaten we naar die bar gaan waar het nu happy hour is.
 “Let’s go to that bar where it’s happy hour now.”

HelpdeskIk heb de helpdesk gebeld en ze hebben het probleem opgelost.
 “I called the help desk and they solved the problem.”

As you can see, this is another example of the Dutch turning an English loanword into a compound word. 

JunkfoodIk heb echt zin in junkfood. “I’m really craving junk food.”

Yes, “junk food” has also become one word in Dutch.

With this list of English words in Dutch, you’ve learned some new Dutch vocabulary without having to study for it. Do you know any other English words in Dutch? There are many more, as the Dutch language is greatly influenced by English.

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Doesn’t this make learning Dutch more fun?

4. Common Dutch Words in English

Did you know that there are also many English words of Dutch origin? It makes sense, as the Dutch were some of the first European settlers in the United States. In Holland, Michigan, and New York’s Brooklyn and Harlem, you can still see some of these Dutch roots.

Let’s have a look at these common Dutch words in English:

“Boss”This word comes from the Dutch word baas, which has the exact same meaning as the English version.

“Yankee”This is the combination of two of the most popular names for boys in the Netherlands at a certain point in history: Jan and Kees, which makes Jan-Kees, leading to “Yankee.”

“Coleslaw”The Dutch word for “coleslaw” is koolsla. Pretty similar, right? It literally means “cabbage salad.”

“Waffle”“Waffle” is taken from the Dutch word wafel, which is pretty similar and has the same meaning.

“Cookie”The English word “cookie” is based on the Dutch word koekje, which literally means “little cookie.”

“Wagon”In the Netherlands, they used to call “wagons” wagens when referring to trains.

“Dollar”“Dollar” originates from the Dutch word Daalder. This is an historical Dutch coin and is also what the Dutch sometimes called their currency before the euro (de Gulden).

“Santa Claus”‘Santa Claus’ is taken from the fictitious Dutch character Sinterklaas, named after St. Nicolaus, a bishop who lived in Turkey.

Some claim that the Dutch settlers in New York City (a former Dutch colonial town) reinvented the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition.

“Deck”The English word “deck” derives from the Dutch word dek, which refers to the floor of a ship. However, the word dek in Dutch can also be used to mean “covering.”

“Yacht”It comes from the Dutch word jacht, meaning “hunt,” and it’s short for jachtschip, meaning “yacht ship.”

Quite a few English words relating to the sea or to sailing are derived from Dutch. For example, “cruise” comes from the Dutch verb kruisen (“to cross”) and “buoy” comes from the Dutch word boei. With the Netherlands being one of the leading seafaring nations, it’s not surprising that the English language has been influenced by Dutch in this particular way.


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How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn More Dutch

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about Dunglish, from its history to its usage in modern times. You’ve also learned why you should avoid it, how to keep from making the most common mistakes, and what makes loanwords different. We even introduced you to some basic Dutch words in English. This just makes learning Dutch a bit easier—after all, it’s free vocabulary you don’t have to study.

Are there any other English loanwords in the Dutch language you know? Or some other basic Dutch words in English?

If you enjoyed this article and want to continue your Dutch studies, keep in mind that DutchPod101 has tons of effective learning materials: vocabulary lists with audio recordings, free resources to boost your studies, and entertaining audio and video lessons for learners at every level. 

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching. When you use this system, you’ll have your own private teacher who can show you other useful ways to use your English knowledge when learning Dutch. Along with pronunciation exercises and personalized assignments, your teacher will review your work and answer any questions you have.

Happy learning on DutchPod101.com!

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