A year ago, I went to Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. Since I'm interested in languages, I did some research, so I could understand the differences between Dutch from The Netherlands and Flemish. I noticed that adults to use French words or words influenced by French.

For example:
ENGLISH: A bicycle
FRENCH: Un vélo
DUTCH: Een fiets
FLEMISH: Ne vélo

Also, there is the word 'why'. In French, you say 'pourquoi'. If you literally translate that, it means 'for what'. Well, in Dutch the word is 'waarom', but in Flemish they use 'voorwat', which is literally 'pourquoi' translated.

This is remarkable, a Germanic language influenced by a Romance language.

Now, my question is: Is Flemish mutual inteligibile for speakers in The Netherlands since it's influenced by French? And are many dialect words recognizable in French?

  • 2
    It is not at all remarkable, but very common, that languages influence each other, even more so in bordering areas or in areas, where more than one language is commonly used. Even in German, French loan words are commonly used in the areas close to France, for example in most areas of Switzerland, where they use words like Trottoir, Billet and Glace instead of Bürgersteig, Fahrkarte or Eiscreme.
    – jarnbjo
    Feb 12, 2017 at 13:57
  • A Germanic language being influenced by a Romance language is not at all remarkable. They have been spoken next-door to each other for over a thousand years. English (also Germanic) has arguably been influenced even more by French than Flemish has. It would be more remarkable to find a Germanic language that has not been influenced in any way by a Romance language. Even Icelandic has Romance-derived calques. Feb 16, 2017 at 16:50
  • Voorwat has cognates in High German (für was) and Yiddish (farvos). If there is a mutual influence, I'd think that French pourquoi is a calque of the Germanic term, replacing Latin cur. Nov 29, 2018 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


You are surely right to say that Flemish is more strongly influenced by French than is the language of the Netherlands. This is the result of the situation until the 1960s, when Belgium was basically a bilingual country. This came to an end when the benighted citizens of Belgium decided to split their country in half, each half refusing to utter one word in the language of the other. Ironically, the number of French speakers in the Netherlands is probably now considerably higher than in the Flemish-speaking regions of Belgium.


This is remarkable, a Germanic language influenced by a Romance language.

English is a well-known example of such a language, so I don't understand the surprise.

Now, my question is: Is Flemish mutual inteligibile for speakers in The Netherlands since it's influenced by French?

Dutch and Flemish are officially the same language. The dialectal speech is mutually intelligible, but not always perfectly so.

  • 1
    Many years ago, when checking into a campsite in Luxembourg, I was surprised to be greeted in Dutch [which I speak only a little], and to hear the staff and visitors conversing in Dutch. I think I was expecting French, and concluded that the owners were Dutch or Flemish. Only recently, a retired EU [multi-lingual] translator told me that as far as he was concerned, they do speak Dutch, but that they insist that they speak a separate language, Luxembourgeois. Feb 13, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    @DavidGarner The language of Luxembourg is based on High German (specially Moselfränkisch dialect), not on Dutch, but the "moin" greeting is indeed used both in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. More here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourgish Nov 29, 2018 at 12:43
  • @jknappen that’s interesting. If both me (amateur) and my multi-lingual friend view it as Dutch, presumably it’s based on High German as it was before it went through the consonant changes that distinguish it from Low? Nov 30, 2018 at 14:07
  • 1
    @DavidGarner In fact, Luxembourgish has undergone some of the High German soundshifts and hasn't undergone some. It has undergone the canonical sound shift k -> ch (maken -> machen "to make", ik -> ich "I") that defines the boundary between Low German/Dutch dialects and HIgh German dialects. For more details see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinischer_F%C3%A4cher Nov 30, 2018 at 14:53
  • @jknappen, evidently more complicated that I thought! I'll pass that on to my linguist colleague, with thanks. Nov 30, 2018 at 17:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.