I am a fluent English speaker (lvl C2) and a decent German speaker (lvl B2 and fully prepared for C1). I recently started following a Dutch course for beginners. My fear is that I will eventually forget German due to the fact that I don't use them often anymore and also there is a great overlapping and many common sounds with Dutch, which eventually will create confusions.

For this reason, I was thinking that maybe it is a good idea to translate Dutch vocabulary to German (instead of English), so that I don't forget German.

Is there anyone who can justify which one of the two options will be the best one? Is there something I should specifically take into account before I dive into Dutch language?

  • 2
    You're being paranoid. You don't forget a language. It takes a day or two being among native speakers until it all comes rushing back.
    – Ricky
    Nov 17, 2015 at 21:33
  • 1
    1. Any time, chief. 2. No, you didn't. 3. Answering a question is hardly ever necessary. 4. Nonetheless, let me reiterate: once you've mastered the general flow of a language, it stays with you forever. Spending a few days in Germany would certainly bring it all back. 5. My comments are never mean. 6. Sheesh.
    – Ricky
    Nov 17, 2015 at 21:47
  • 4
    I agree that this cannot be answered objectively. But I'll just mention that I had experience of parallel German and Dutch classes, and I had a terrible interference between their vocabularies. Looking back, I think it would help if I contrasted them for myself explicitly. Nov 18, 2015 at 4:06
  • 3
    You should ask this at languagelearning.stackexchange.com for advice about how to deal with learning overlapping languages
    – Mitch
    Oct 26, 2016 at 13:09
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions about language learning belong to the new Language Learning and are off-topic here. May 9, 2017 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


In my experience learning 8+ languages, the best approach is to use the best translation (etymologically, or in terms of meaning) and/or explanation in language that I understand. That closeness helps with remembering the new vocabulary.

These are really my notes to myself, they needn't be somehow consistent. I thus end up with a mixed list; in your case I do believe the list will be more German than English, for example:

Eet smakelijk! - Bon appetit! (lit "Esst schmacklich")
ziekenauto - Krankenwagen (sick + Auto)

ziek- has no German cognate that occurs to me, but a very obvious English one, so I would use that. And schmacklich is not a real German word.

Regarding preserving your German skills, learning Dutch will definitely cause some interference, but it is still better than not using German or Dutch at all.

What happens in practice? I learnt Spanish very fast thanks to Italian, but then I of course had trouble speaking Italian, even though my understanding actually improved a bit, due to knowing and using even more Latinate vocabulary. It takes more than a few days to completely erase all effects. On the other hand, even learning and speaking Russian interferes with my Italian and Spanish, for example I have said лучшее (meaning better but phonetically a bit similar to luce, light) when I meant megliore (better).

Veel succes!

  • The German cognates of ziek are siech, siechen, Siechtum, and Sucht. With the exception of the last word they are more or less archaic. Nov 18, 2015 at 14:45
  • Thank you, I had no idea. My guess is that most of the words have cognates in both English and German, but the idea is that the learner should use whatever is known or clearest to him. Nov 18, 2015 at 18:27
  • In hindsight, siech is a (Alemannic) dialect word, but not one I hear in the standard language. Sep 9, 2019 at 8:35

Well, There are much more similarities either etymologically or grammatically in order to translate Dutch vocabulary into German (rather than into English):

NL: Ik heb je/u niet verstaan. -> DE: Ich habe dich/Sie nicht verstanden.

NL: De stad is weinig groen. -> DE: Die Stadt ist wenig grün. (But, in Modern German we often say: "Die Stadt ist nicht sehr grün" instead of using "wenig" this way.

NL: De stoel, die ik gekocht heb. -> DE: Der Stuhl den ich gekauft habe. ...

Using some similarities among verbs, it will be clear (the first verbs are German):

backen=bakken; beginnen=beginnen; bewegen=bewegen; beten=bidden; bieten=bieden; beißen= bijten; bleiben=blijven; braten=braden; brechen=breken; denken=denken; tragen=dragen; essen=eten; genißen=geniten; gießen=gietn; hängen=hangen; haben=hebben;kaufen=kopen; lesen=lezen; liegen=liggen; nehmen=nemen; raten=raden; rufen=roepen; schenken=schenken; shießen=schieten; scheinen=schijnen; schreiben=schrijven; erschrecken=schrikken; schlafen=slapen; schnieden=snijden; sprechen=speken; springen=springen; stehen=staan; stehlen=stelen; sterben=sterven; treten=treden; treffen=treffen;fallen=vallen; fangen=vangen; fahren=varen; vergessen=vergeten; finden=vinden; fragen=vragen; werfen=werpen; werden=worden; sagen=zeggen; sein=zijn; suchen=zoeken; etc.

So, in conclusion, I would say in most cases you only need to change:

'Pf' letter to 'p' => Pflicht to plicht, Pfond to fond;

'ei' to 'ij' => frei to vrij, bei to bij, mein to mijn

'f' to 'v' => schlaf to slap

'au' to 'ui' => Haut to huid, aus to uit

'z' to 't' => Zunge to tong, zwei to twee, Zange to tang

'b' to 'f' => ob to of, lieb to lief, Staub to stof

'sch' to 's' => schmal to smal, schnell to snel, schlecht to slecht

's','ss' to 't' => wissen to weten, das to dat, lassen to laten

't' to 'd' => Tag tp dag, Tod to dood, Tal to dal

'schw' to 'zw' => Schwager to zwager, schwach to zwak, schwer to zwaar,

'ch' to 'k' => brechen to breken, ik to ich, rechnen to rekenen, welche to welke

'b' to 'v' => sterben to sterven, leben to leven, Silber to zilver

'f' to 'v' => fliegen to vliegen, fett to vet, finden to vinden

'u' to ' oe' => Blume to bloen, Hut to hoed, Stuhl to stoel, gut to goed

'soft and smooth "S" ' to 'z' => Sicht to zicht, sorgen to zorgen, so to zo, See to zee

Besides this fact that we don't have 3 genders like in German, in dutch we only have 2 genders, and since 1940 there are no more noun cases such as "accusative", "dative", "genitive" in standard dutch practically anymore.

  • 1
    Your dutch should be 'Ik heb je' and 'die ik gekocht heb'
    – J_rite
    Jul 23, 2019 at 6:59
  • You're right dear @Jungkook , I typed it so quickly and didn't focus on the dictation and spelling in one of those "Heb"s and "gekocht". Now, I edited it. Thanks for reminding me.
    – Armin
    Sep 9, 2019 at 8:06

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