I don't know Dutch, Flemish, or Afrikaans, but will sometimes, on coming across a writing sample of one of them, wish to know which it is. How do I distinguish them in their written forms?

2 Answers 2


Written texts in Flanders, such as newspaper articles, are so close to standard Dutch that you are unlikely to be able to distinguish them except by context.

Afrikaans is different and the more Dutch you learn the easier it is. An instant clue is the use of -y- (e.g. instead of -ij-). The use of 'n instead of een as the indefinite article and die instead of de as a definite article will also stand out, as does the very different spellings of pronouns. And then it goes on.

  • 1
    It depends: it usually takes me a paragraph or two to notice that a newspaper-like text is Flemish if I am not looking for it; but more informal texts usually scream "Flemish!" at me after the first sentence or two (I am a Dutchman). Choice of words is usually the most striking difference. However, sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish Flemish from Dutch as spoken in the very south of the Netherlands (esp. Limburg). // I was watching a subtitled film last weekend, and after a few minutes we wondered at the strange translations, until it occurred to us that the subtitles were Flemish.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 0:33
  • Common words that are typically Flemish are: bankcontact, zot, gij/ge, kot for "room", using U in informal contexts, and eh many more. Take this article: standaard.be/artikel/detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF20120330_251 What I immediately notice is weggewuifd, gelijkaardig, het goed stellen. You would never find those in a Dutch newspaper. The word procureur is used for a different function in Holland, so that is a clear hint as well.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 0:39

In the case of Afrikaans, the two most salient features would be the spelling (as has been pointed out by Henry) and Afrikaans' double negation, which is absent from both Dutch and Flemish.

If you see a text peppered with "die", "'n", "hierdie", "daardie/daai" (determiners) or "hy", "sy", "my", "julle", "hulle" (personal pronouns), "is" (copula: present tense), "was" (copula: past tense), you're probably looking at Afrikaans.

Negation can be spotted in the form of the words "nie", "niks" and "geen" closely followed by a second "nie".

For details, check out this Wikipedia entry.


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