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  5. How about Belgium?


How about Belgium?

I am very happy that Duolingo is giving thousands of people this great opportunity to learn Dutch in an easy and fun way. At the same time, I am slightly sad because there is not a trace of Belgium in the entire module: not on the lexical level, not on the content level, not as far as expressions are concerned, nowhere... I just want to remind the Duolingo Dutch learners that 6.5 million Belgians have Dutch as a native language and are happy to share it with anyone willing to learn.

December 4, 2014


  • 462

Don't be sad, Stof. :(

We have been trying to include Belgium and there are definitely traces of Belgium in the content of our course.

There are 19 sentences mentioning Belgium in fact.

Reasons why we do not refer to Flemish/Belgium more:

  1. Our course is meant to be teaching Dutch spoken in the Netherlands, and we therefore focus on our country. This is the task we've been given. It therefore isn't in our task description to teach both Flemish and Dutch and we do not include Flemish expressions.
  2. Yes, there may be a Flemish course in the future. This is not our decision or responsibility. Duolingo has only expressed that they are open to a Flemish course once the incubator project becomes larger. Once a course has been released there is not that much flexibility and it's difficult to change things. Changing or adding skills is even a greater and more strenuous task which takes months if not years. We are not going to present you with a Dutch course containing specific Flemish material (in a non-optional cultural or language skill) if there's the chance that there will be a full-fledged course later.
  3. We feel like Belgium deserves more than just a mere bonus skill in our course. It would not do Belgium or Flemish any justice. Thus, the reason why we don't have a bonus skill refering to Belgium and Flemish is out of respect. This doesn't mean that this possibility is completely off the table, mind you. Once we can start creating bonus skills, we may or may not ask the community what they would like to see. :)

I hope this clarifies things.
Happy learning! :)


Hello Lavinae, point taken! I should clarify that I am/was only slightly sad, - I am not planning anything radical... Duolingo remains my favorite hangout, but, as you may understand from my answer to Simius above, the issue of Flemish vs. Dutch is a sensitive one. Luckily, most of the language policy & politics debates do not affect the average, bilingual citizen like me, but this old wretch may post another comment once the Flemish module on Duolingo is a fact.

  • 462

Haha, looking forward to that comment and it's a relief that you're not too upset. ;)

I completely understand that it's a sensitive thing. I've grown up close enough to the border to see our language expressions, rules and conventions merge and of course by focusing on the standard Dutch (a standard which is more official than actually existing, like every ideal type version of a language) we're excluding a large chunk of equally valid but (supposedly) less universal Dutch expressions.

We tried to include Belgium in our course and it's a shame that those 19 sentences do not seem to be as present. Together with the team, I'll look into extending the amount of cultural references to Belgium ('België, 'Vlaams', etcetera).


It was decided that the language and culture in Belgium are different enough that we do not want to teach newcomers an awkward mix of Dutch and Flemish. That is why the course sticks to the language as spoken in the Netherlands.


Hi Simius, thanks for the reply. It reminds me of the famous American standard "Let's call the whole thing off" As I live in a "language battle zone" - one of the 6 Flemish villages near Brussels with a French speaking majority - I am very reluctant to use the term Flemish when refering to the standard (!) language as it is used in Belgium: on a daily basis, I am confronted with people who pretend 'Flemish' is a mere lingo and the genuine bearer of civilisation is French. Call me an old bore, but I am kind of high-strung about it, - without afterthoughts however.


It is very interesting to read this discussion about Dutch in the Netherlands and Dutch in Belgium. I recently came across a very interesting website called Dutch++ which deals exactly with this topic:

Het 'enige echte' Nederlands bestaat niet! Jonge en oudere mensen, in een dorp en in de stad, in Nederland en in België gebruiken verschillende soorten Nederlands in verschillende situaties. En in Suriname switcht iedereen tussen Nederlands en andere talen. [...] Deze website maakt leerders, docenten en moedertaalsprekers bewust van de verscheidenheid van de Nederlandse taal. Ze biedt praktische hulpmiddelen om daarmee om te gaan.

It has exercises for learners from A1-C2. So check it out.... if you want to learn some more about the different variations of the Dutch language.


Anybody interested in the differences between the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands and in Belgium might find this youtube channel helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm73NYBpZc8


This is a great resource- thank you for reminding me about it. I listened the the first Dutch versus Flemish video and if Dutch is to Flemish what UK English is to American English, I can't hear it yet! They both sound like Dutch to me!

[deactivated user]

    Stof, you can always apply here :) Personally, I have a Flemish raised friend that is very proud of Flemish too, so I understand how you feel. Cheer up! Be the change that you want to see :)


    Thanks for the spark, - it ignited new energy and hope :-)


    What would be very nice is to have a Dutch as spoken in Belgium course for French speaking people…

    (I know here not the place to ask for it but this discussion made me think of it.)


    Just curious, but is there a MASSIVE difference between Flemish and Dutch, or is it like Spain Spanish vs Mexican Spanish, or Standard German vs Austrian German?

    Could I understand a Flemish speaker? And could a Flemish speaker understand me clearly if I spoke Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands?

    After mastering Dutch and visiting/studying/living in the country, would it be hard to learn Flemish? Is it very very different like Afrikaans or very very similar to Dutch?


    No difference really, Belgians will just notice you're not from Belgium because most who learn Dutch will learn the Dutch accent instead of the Belgian accent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Dictation_of_the_Dutch_Language In the grand dictation, people from both NL and BE participate.

    The Flemish accent is considered to be more of a melodic version of Dutch with it being more melodic in the east than the west and being carried over into the Maastricht area of the Netherlands.

    I highly advise Duolingo against doing any flemish Dutch versions because it is a political and societal Pandora's box you do not want to open.

    • 462

    I'm not responding to your advice. What I am responding to, however, is your statement that "there is no difference really". I'm doing this because I don't want another discussion of why NL Dutch and BE Dutch are not merged together into one course. So the purpose of my response is one of clarification. :)

    For the record: I don't disagree with you! ;)
    For understanding each other, yes, there is little difference understanding spoken differences.

    But dear users, this doesn't mean that we should have one single course for both BE and NL Dutch.

    When you're teaching a course which involves teaching people the best versions of spoken Dutch and the best translations out of multiple options, there is a difference. The Dutch expressions which are preferred in the Netherlands are obviously not the same as those in Belgium.

    There is a difference. We don't teach 'proper' instead of 'schoon' or 'kleed' instead of 'dress', some of the expressions we use have different prepositions and the Northern Dutch use male pronouns in cases where the Southern Dutch do not (e.g. the cat is always a him and never a her in NL Dutch, whereas in BE Dutch the cat is seen as a female). This is already evident on the B1 level of a Duolingo course.

    This is the reason why this course teaches NL Dutch separately. You can easily use our course for learning Dutch in general, however. The Flemish will understand what you say. :)


    I strongly agree with Nutellaman. Belgian Dutch and Dutch Dutch are part of the same language. It makes me very sad to see this kind of division. It just doesn't make sense. Dialects exist everywhere, but it is the same official language. In the same logic, there should be a course for Irish-English, Scottish-English, American-English, French from Quebec, Austrian from Germany, the list is endless. But no one in those countries would say they don't speak English, French, German... Only here in Flanders/the Netherlands we make this ridiculous distinction...

    Why not just remove the (Netherlands) in the course title and stop this discussion? You don't have to change anything in the course. As someone from Flanders, I can identify myself with the pronuncation and vocabulary perfectly. And btw, it is a really nice course too.


    I have the same opinion. ;) I think this guy sums it up very nicely: https://www.reddit.com/r/duolingo/comments/2al9dq/the_possibility_of_a_vlaamsflemish_course_long/ If Belgian Dutch is added to the course it should be like this:

    • Some standard Belgian Dutch words could be added in an add on. At the end of the course

    • A slider where you can choose the prefered pronunciation. ;) f.e. Dutch-Dutch, Belgian-Dutch, Mixture.

    • A slider to chose if you want the Belgian sentence structures to be the preferred options by Duolingo.

    But words like "gij" etc should be excluded at all cost! . Because they sound uncivilised and are to most Belgians not part of the standard languarge. ;)

    But most importantly a Belgian Dutch course is still Dutch and should stay under the Dutch tab. We have a Dutch language union.

    Of course this requires a modification to the program. But as i have seen sliders for f.e. Russian. (Latin-alphabet vs Cyrillic) it might one day become a reality. :D


    I would say the situation is similar to Hochdeutsch vs. Austrian Deutsch, - or even Queen's English vs. the way they speak it in Glasgow. We have 1 grammar book, 1 official spelling list (woordenlijst.org) and 1 dictionnary (Dikke Vandaele). In the dictionnary, you may find entries that say (B.) for standard Dutch in Belgium. e.g. orange juice is 'sinaasappelsap' or 'fruitsap' in Belgium and 'jus (d'orange)' in The Netherlands ; minced meat is 'gehakt' in Belgium and 'haché' in The Netherlands. The answer to the question 'Could I understand a Flemish speaker? (and vice versa) is a full yes! People in the street may use awkward expressions and a strange pronunciation when they talk to peers, but when a third joins the conversation, they will switch to Received Pronunciation. Academics may argue that some novels are re-edited from BE-Dutch to NL-Dutch or the other way around, but that is hardly relevant for the average user in day-to-day (BE: 'dagdagelijks' - NL: 'doordeweeks') situations. I see you have level 13 in Dutch, so why not check for yourself on a Belgian site which features articles in simplyfied Dutch: http://www.wablieft.be/krant/online-krant By the way: I love the idea of learning Dutch for no specific reason!




    The 'culinary' French loan words in Dutch (jus d'orange / judderans or haché) sound hilarious to most of us, Flemish speakers. However we use even more French loan words for common objects, apparel, spare parts, tools etc.

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