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Is Dutch and German really similar languages and what is similar?

Hey Everyone. I thought for some reason that 'similar' would mean that one person could pick up words and sentences from the other language. This as I have found out is not the case. Some words and word also I think word order is similar but a German and a Dutcher can't have a conversation. This thinking was foolish thinking since they're different languages but everyone kept saying that they're similar so I guess I was confused.

eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn

een, twee, drie, vier, vijf, zes, zeven, acht, negen, tien

As we see in using the numbers there are some that are similar like een, and drie. And some're exactly the same like vier and acht. Then there are some that are more close to english that german. twee and zeven are good examples of this. So now in my opinion after evaluating all these similarities and differences is that something that's similar is very vaguely related to the other language in some words. But not close enough to even have a sentence understood by both groups.

This is also just my opinion. If you have other thoughts then please mention it down below. Thanks.

grüße liebe,


November 21, 2017



Hi Cluney,

it is right and it is wrong. so I'm from the south of germany and for me it is harder to understand people from the Netherlands. But for someone from the north it is easier. The northern dialect are more related to the Dutch and to English by the way.

It is really weird when I listen to dutch and I know for many people it's the same. I can asume the meaning of many words and sometimes even understand the meaning of some sentences. With other words it doesn' work at all. I asume something and I'm totally wrong. So the language sounds very familiar but the most meanings I have to guess. And sometimes I loose sometimes I win.

If you hear dutch numbers spoken and listen to a german from the north you can hear the similarity.

best regards Angel

this is how you count in platt-deutsch http://www.radiobremen.de/wissen/dossiers/plattdeutsch/plattdeutschkurs/zahlen100.html


Is platt-deutsch similar to southern German dialects?


Dutch and German are from the same language family "Germanic", so one would presume they are fairly similar, as the Romance languages are.


I hate to be mean but you don't appear to have learnt German or Dutch so how can you know? And I guess what I was saying is that they're not understandable to each other so they're 'similar' but not close enough to be understood by the other.


EdwardNerd was just saying that they are related languages, which is a fact. So, just because someone hasn't learnt a language, doesn't mean they know nothing about it


This would be a good time for you to go to Wikipedia and look up "German language" and "Dutch language." For example, you will learn:

The family tree for German: Indo-European > Germanic > West Germanic > High German > German

The family tree for Dutch: Indo-European > Germanic > West Germanic > Low Franconian (Frankish) > Dutch


Actually there is a Dutch fellow in my German class and we were talking about this a few weeks ago. I asked him how much difference there was between German and Dutch. His answer was that the pronunciation is similar and there is some shared vocabulary, but grammatically the languages are very different.


I agree with that. Germans understand some words or some sentences but it is not enough to have a conversation.


When a language is similar to another, it doesn't mean necessarily that the speakers of one language can understand the other. But that they are closer than with other languages. For example: (I'm a native Portuguese speaker, so excuse me if I write something wrong)

German, Dutch and even English are similar. Portuguese and Spanish are similar. Compare:

Dutch: Een, twee, drie. German: Eins, zwei/zwo, drei. English: One, two, three. Portuguese: Um, dois, três. Spanish: Uno, dos, tres.

You can see the similarities between them. "Um" is not similar to "Eins". But "Een" is. Although the pronunciation is different.


Dutch and German are extremely similar! In my opinion, German is more difficult because it has cases. The grammar, word order, and sentence structure of the languages are very similar. Although there are some differences, of course, a sentence in Dutch is mainly structured the same as it would be in German. The vocabularies of the two languages are very similar, as well. Obviously, not every single word in the two languages is the same, but there is a significant number that are closely related.


The vocabularies of the two languages are very similar, as well.

As a native Dutch I don't agree with you.
There are too many very confusing "false friends" and German grammar is very hard.
Nowadays, Dutch has absorbed a huge lot of English words. Children are immersed in English by TV, radio, computer games etc. Professional literature is often written in English instead of Dutch.

My whole life, I live at most within an hour drive by car from the German border, but standard English is much easier for me to read, write and speak than standard German.
Only understanding spoken German is sometimes easier, because the English people often speak with the heavy accent of their dialect.


But isn't that also because American English is taught quite early in the Dutch schools and is the preferred second language because of its usefulness? The command of American English is absolutely amazing in the Netherlands, at least in Amsterdam..


In my youth, the English (and German + French) lessons started in secondary education (from age 13). In that time we only learned British English and not American English.

From 1986, English in primary education is a legally required course in group 7/8 (age 11-12) in the Netherlands.
Nowadays, many schools are teaching English from a younger age.

Amsterdam is not representative for the Netherlands.
However, almost all Dutch people from 10-80 are able to speak (some) English.


Hi Pantaan,

in Germany the progress is similar. Almost everyone learnt English at school (more or less). The start of english lessons is also earlier than in my school days.

best regards Angel


Hi Cluney,

another thing about these two languages. Many Dutch understand and speak German pretty well. But I know only a very few Germans who speak Dutch. Same on us.

best regards Angel


OK. That's interesting. I guess when they live in such close proximity to each other that it would come in handy to have the language.


I can't understand Dutch. I can understand people speaking Limburgs dialect if they are not too fast and they want me to understand. That's the dialect of the people just across the boarder from Aachen, where I live. Many other Dutch consider them as more German than Dutch....


In general:

As a Dutch person I have to say that German is pretty easy to understand, not very difficult to learn how to use to effectively communicate, but quite difficult to actually speak well. I do have to add that I am from one of the provinces bordering Germany, so it might be different for someone from the Western parts of the country.

Really, the key to comprehending German by using Dutch is by figuring out 'general sound shifts': which sounds in German correspondend to a certain sound in Dutch. It is also a pretty handy technique for understanding people who speak different dialects: you just switch around a few sounds in your head and you suddenly understand stuff.

Many words are quite similar so if you just use this technique to change one or two sounds the right way, yu can 'Germanify' Dutch words. It does not always work though, you always have those nasty false friends.

In response to some things:

I thought for some reason that 'similar' would mean that one person could pick up words and sentences from the other language.

You thought right! With sufficient exposure to a language you can most certainly pick up some vocab using a closely related language as a crutch. I was somehow able to pick up the French word for church because of my Spanish knowledge.

a German and a Dutcher can't have a conversation./But not close enough to even have a sentence understood by both groups.

I'm afraid you are wrong about that. At least, about the Dutch side of things. Most Dutch people when listening to German can understand what is being said in many cases. It takes a bit of focus but it is perfectly possible to watch (or listen to) somehtin g in German and get the gist of waht's being said. However, I do not know if this holds the same for Germans: some sources suggest that Germans are not as good at understanding Dutch as we at understanding German. Still, if I were to say: "Ich bin sehr wütend und ich will schlafen" and: "ik ben erg woedend en ik wil slapen" I think both Dutch and German people will undersand these sentences. Of course, exposure is also quite important. You cannot expect to understand German/Dutch perfectly if you have never even heard it spoken before!

Another factor that needs to be taken into account when figuring out wether Dutch and German people understand each other is the region that the speakers are form and which dialect(s)/regonal language(s) they speak (if they speak any). Like someone has already mentioned, people from Northern Germany will find Dutch easier to understand than people from Southern Germany and in the Netherlands people from a region where Low Saxon is spoken can generally communicate with the Germans in Northern Germany, especially.

Some vids about German, Low Saxon.Low German and Dutch. Just for 'experimental prposes'.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr4l-osIuyg The parts in Low German are quite easy to follow, the parts in standard (high) German require a bit more focus, but not too much. Any other Dutch (speaking) people want to give their opinion?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJe23yc_wKE I am quite curious about how much German speakers could understand of what is being spoken and what the subtitles say.

  • PS: It is not Dutcher. Use Dutchman or Dutch person. Dutcher sounds weird. If you want the Dutch term: For males: Nederlander. For females: Nederlandse. Plural: Nederlanders



thanks for your post. For me as a Bavarian it is almost impossiple to understand all of your second link. I have already problems to understand Plattdeutsch. But I agree with you that I can understand al lot of conversation (including guessing) if the conterpart is so kind to speak slowly.

It is interessting for me that you say it is rather easy to understand and to learn German for Nederlanders. I don't find it easy at all. But I'm not able to speak Platt, so....

What do you understand of German Platt? https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=veSot3-oePA

best regards Angel


I have to say, he's pretty difficult to understand. Might be the (perceived) heavy German accent or the specific dialect, which is (I believe) Oostfreisk (East Frisian) which is apparently quite close to the dialect of Groningen which differs quite a bit from most other dialects in The Netherlands (probably the Frisian influence). So no, I don't understand a lot of it. If I would get some more exposure to the specific dialect it would probably get easier.

A sample of Grunnegs (from Groningen)


Unfortunatly the video doesn't work correctly on my PC. I can't tell you what specific dialect he's speaking. To be honest northern dialects are all Greek to me.

I'm happy if I understand specific bavarian dialects or dialects from other areas of Germany. But it is rather easy for us to understand people from Austria.

best regards Angel


Did you try copying the entire link? For me that was required to make the German Platt link work. It could also be because the video is not public. (I got the link off the Low Saxon Wikipedia) You could try looking there for a video that works.

The reason that I think he speaks East Frisian is because the channel is called "De Schwatten Ostfrees Jung" which would translate to something like "The black East Frisian boy." The word 'Jung' could have a slightly different meaning than 'boy'. It is sometimes difficult to get the meaning of specific words in specific dialects.

The word for man in Low Saxon is often something like 'Keerl' (cognate: DE: Kerl, NL: kerel) and 'Jong' (cognate: DE: Junge. NL: jongen) is for 'boy'.

Incase you are curious about words for 'woman' and 'girl' now: 'deerne' or something similar (dere, deere, deerntjen) is often used to mean ''girl'. 'wief' or 'wicht' both mean 'woman', but some dialects have a word similar to [DE: Frau and NL: vrouw]. Do note that both the words for 'woman' (wief and wicht) are considered insults in standard Dutch.

The 'male words' are a rather nice example of cognates.


Knowing a little bit of Dutch, I understand, well, more than half of the Grunnegs video, but my understanding is definitely coming from Dutch. I think I can safely say: exclusively from Dutch, nothing from German.

When the man says "in combinatie", it sound a lot like what I'd perceive as a Hamburg accent.


dialect, which is (I believe) Oostfreisk (East Frisian) which is apparently quite close to the dialect of Groningen

is a dialect of the language Frisian and it is definitely not close to Gronings!
I cannot understand anything of that video.

The Groninger video is easy to understand for me. It is more close to Dutch, than the Groninger dialect near the border of Germany.


Tja, ik geef toe dat het filmpje inderdaad wel heel wat anders klinkt dan het Gronings. Ik kan er ook niet helemaal zeker van zijn welk dialect hij daadwerkelijk spreekt zonder (goed verstaanbare) informatie over waar hij vandaan komt. Het is ook maar een vermoeden.

De reden dat ik het over het 'Oost Fries' heb is dat er niet alleen 3 Friese talen zijn, maar ook een niet-Friese, maar Nedersaksische/Platduitse taalvariatie in Duitsland genaamd het Oost-Fries Nedersaksisch. Wat, als je naar de kaart kijkt, grenst aan het Gronings spreekgebied.

Uit nieuwsgierigheid: welke Friese taal spreekt hij dan? Westerlauwers Fries zeker niet aangezien het geen Nederlander is en dat het niet klinkt als enig Fries dat ik ooit van een Fries heb gehoord. Het Saterfries misschien, dat ook ergens in de buurt (of middenin) het Oostfriese taalgebied wordt gesproken? Of misschien zelfs het Noord-fries dat net onder de Deense grens gesproken wordt?


I absolutely agree with your comment. Thanks for making the effort :)

As a German (from the south) who has had some exposition to Dutch (Fryslân), I'm not the perfect labrat, but: Low German, like in the first video, sounds like Dutch with a heavy German accent to me. I'm familiar enough with Dutch to know she's using non-Dutch words, but where I live, I think many people would take it for Dutch.

The second video - not looking at the subtitles, I've got to admit that at first I didn't understand anything, and I'm having a hard time to get the hang of it. The description says he speaks Tweants - I guess I'm supposed to understand that more easily because it's geographically closer to Germany? I've been told the same about Frisian - they said it must be easier for me to understand than Dutch (AN), because there's people on the other side of the border who speak a similar language. Erm, no, sorry. :D (I appreciate the good intentions, of course.) Frisian, to me, was just another "general sound shift" for me to learn (I didn't, though, because there wasn't much Frisian around me).

As you said, with bits like "...de radio in de vensterbank te plaatsen", any German would understand "Radio" and "Fensterbank", but then they'll likely be confused about how an explosion figures in there... because, yes, we've got the word "Platz" (the place), and "platzieren" (to place), but in order to understand that "plaatsen" means "platzieren" (and not "platzen" = to burst), a German mind needs to go to "imaginative mode".

I've shown a Dutch Harry Potter book to several German friends, and I told them the same as you wrote: that it's really all about "general sound shift" and "imaginative mode" (and exposition / training; and basic vocab like pronouns!). The more imaginative ones understood much of it, once I told them the pronunciation of the more tricky spellings (e.g. "oe" is neither "ö" nor "oy", but "u"; "uil" (owl) sounds much like "Eul(e)", but you wouldn't recognise it in writing). I translated a few paragraphs into "literal German" for them, and they saw how the Dutch words corresponded with the German ones. They agreed that it's really not that hard once you know how to go about it.

Example of Harry Potter in Dutch, "literal German" and proper German:

"Als je niet zorgt dat die uil haar snavel houdt, vliegt ze eruit!" - "Als du nicht sorgst, dass die Eule ihren Schnabel hält, fliegt sie heraus!" - "Wenn du nicht dafür sorgst, dass diese Eule ihren Schnabel hält, fliegt sie raus!"

Harry probeerde opnieuw om het uit te leggen. - Harry probierte aufs Neue, um es auszulegen. - Harry versuchte noch einmal, es zu erklären.

"Ze verveelt zich," zei hij. "Ze is gewend om buiten rond te vliegen." - "Sie 'verfehlt' (?!) sich," sagte er. "Sie ist gewohnt, um draußen rund zu fliegen." - "Sie langweilt sich," sagte er. "Sie ist es gewöhnt, draußen herumzufliegen."

Words like "aufs Neue" or "auslegen" aren't normally in use in German. They're outdated or very sophisticated or are used in different contexts ("auslegen" means "interpreting" a text like the bible, or sometimes a theatrical director "interprets" a drama / an opera as an allegory to the fact that the world will one day run out of oil), so our brains aren't really set to understand those words right away. And e.g. "verfehlen" (to miss an aim) has no connection at all to "being bored"... and some things, like "maar" = "aber" you just have to learn. And some things you connect to English (hij = he), "buiten" is actually a word the older Germans would know, because there used to be a regional program on tv called "Buten und binnen".


Thanks for your interesting comment. It is quite fascinating to learn new things about these sort of things, wouldn't you agree? It seems like German and Dutch have some more false friends than I thought, but that the 'general sound shift' trick words both ways. I imagine that the many uses of the word 'er' can be a bit confusing in the beginning for Germans. The meaning is certainly very different. One of the things that really tripped me out (and is till a bit bothersome at times) is the verb 'werden' which sounds a lot like 'worden' but actually means 'zullen' (shall). False friends may lead to some rather difficult, weird or sometimes even offensive or rude situations, but they are also very good material for (multilingual) jokes:

I've been hearing this one time and time again: "Haben Sie gebelt? Nein! Ich habe geklingelt!"

'Bellen' means 'to call someone on the phone'. A related word is 'aanbellen' which means 'to ring the (door)bell'. 'Klingelen' is also a Dutch word, but is used more to talk about old-fashioned bells (the sort of shape church bells have). [kerstklokje, klingelingeling, kerstklokje kling: a christmas song]


As you might know, many Germans speak a local dialect in addition to Standard German. Some of these dialects did not go through the transistions that created the High German dialects, to which Standard German belongs. That includes all northern dialects and in particular the Low Rhinish dialects. These dialects and Standard Dutch are mutually intelligible.

My Grandfather could speak Krieewelsch, a Low Rhinish dialect, and was fluent in Standard Dutch; my father and I are fairly fluent in Kölsch and can muddle through. In fact, Grandpa supposedly talked Krieewelsch with our relatives in Limburg province.

I imagine Germans speaking a southern dialect to be totally lost when addressed in Dutch.


Hi Stusstrupp,

you are right, we are lost when we addressed in Dutch but also when we are addressed in Kölsch. I had friends in Köln so I know what I'm talking about, hihi.

So it seems to be important from which part of Germany you are.

best regards Angel


Yes! I once was at a concert where the singer of BAP (they're from Cologne) sang a song in Kölsch and, halfway through, asked the audience to sing along. I hadn't even figured out what the song was about! :D



I was even on a 'Karnevals-Sitzung' but thank god I had translators otherwise I would have missed every second joke. hihi

best regards Angel

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