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Double Dutch

Updated on November 25, 2009

Bear with me ...

Subtitling madness

A few years ago I wanted to make sure whether my linguistic proficiency could be considered as ‘up to scratch’ or rather ‘really worthless’. While doing so, I stumbled across the following website:

I decided to join this linguistic forum and instantly filled out my profile. Much to my surprise, I discovered that the owner of the site at that time, considered ‘Dutch’ and ‘Flemish’ to be two different languages. Subsequently, I decided to take part in an interesting discussion at the forum. One of the members, a Danish gentleman, did not agree with the viewpoint mentioned above.

The man wondered why someone who mastered standard Dutch would not be able to communicate with inhabitants of Flemish cities like Bruges or Antwerp.

At the time, I did not give the matter much thought. Flemish or Dutch are generally considered to be two variants of the same language. Flemish is Dutch as it is spoken in Flanders (the northern part of Belgium) and Dutch is standard Dutch as it is spoken in the Netherlands.

To me the differences between the two languages were minute and restricted to the different accents used in the 2 countries. Personally, in daily life I do not find it difficult to adjust myself to individuals I am having a conversation with: I use a Flemish accent when spoken to in Flemish and a Dutch accent when spoken to in Dutch.

In other words: I adjust myself to the person speaking to me. For my partner and I this has become a daily routine. Originally, he is from the Dutch province of Northern Brabant, I am a native from the Belgian province of Antwerp. We do not have any troubles communicating: as long as we manage to understand each other, there is no problem or might there be just one lurking around the corner?

Lately, it seems that I may be forced to review my opinion: persons speaking dialect are being subtitled on television more and more often than before. Now, this is something I am able understand: I can picture that someone living in the province of Limburg, speaking dialect, will not always be comprehensible for an inhabitant of the province of Western Flanders and vice versa. Stating this, I conveniently forget my own Antwerp dialect (according to some natives, it should be considered the number one intermediate language of the world)

At the other hand, I sometimes get the distinct impression that the differences between Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands and Dutch as spoken in Belgium are being largely overrated by some language purists. Not so long ago I was completely baffled when I discovered that Belgian (Flemish) series are being subtitled on television in the Netherlands and vice versa.

However, the most ludicrous example of subtitling madness I ever witnessed on television must have been a conversation between two well known intellectuals, both speaking standard Dutch (one a journalist of Flemish descent and one a former Dutch poet of the nation) being subtitled on demand of the Flemish broadcasting company that had organised the otherwise very witty and erudite get together between two extraordinary gentlemen …



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    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Interesting hub.

    • jackiewilliam profile image


      8 years ago

      thank you for encouraging me, you hubs are very good.

    • apricot profile image


      8 years ago from Italy

      Interesting hub! So in the end there really is 'Double Dutch'!

      At least they just put subtitles for those two gentlemen - it's a good job they didn't dub them!!

      Thanks for the read!

    • J  Rosewater profile image

      J Rosewater 

      8 years ago from Australia

      This is fascinating and so currently European - thank you for making an Australian renew an existing interest in everything Vlaams!


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