Dutch Vs Flemish
Thread poster: FrancescoP

FrancescoP  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:45
English to Italian
+ ...
Aug 9, 2005

Dear collegues,

I would love to understand if a translator native of the Flanders can claim to be an English into Flemish translator, under a professional point of view.

As far as I know a language called Flemish does not exist, since it is a group of dialects that are spoken in the Flanders (Belgium).

Again, I wonder how is it possible to translate into Flemish.

Please, in your replies take into account that I'm talking about written language and not spoken language.

Also, do please take into account that I'm not a Dutch/Flemish linguist or expert (this is why I am asking this question to professional Dutch Translators in this Forum).

I thank you in advance for helping me to understand this matter.


[Edited at 2005-08-09 22:31]


Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:45
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Not this old chestnut again Aug 9, 2005

It must be the silly season if we are back to this topic. You will find many other discussions on proz.com.
I'm sure you mean well but, as a Flemish speaker and writer, I am reliably informed that Flemish is more real than Father Christmas. The Institute of Linguists in London also does not recognise Flemish as one of the languages they issue accreditation for, but their commercial department, Language Services, was only last week paid a lot of money to translate the same English document into Dutch and then again into Flemish because it was an important marketing text.
Would anyone argue that American English is just a group of dialects spoken in the USA and that it can therefore not differ from UK English in writing?

[Edited at 2005-08-09 21:29]


Bart B. Van Bockstaele  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:45
+ ...
The short answer? No. Yes. Aug 9, 2005

The problem in this question is the word professional, and your view of its meaning.

If by professional you mean someone who obeyes the rules required to successfully obtain a linguistics degree at an accredited institution in Belgium, the answer can only be no.

If, on the other hand, you see a professional as someone who has the necessary skills to be a top notch translator, the answer can only be yes.

The underlying problem in this eternal discussion is government, politics, propaganda and bureaucrats, not language or linguistics.

Is it possible to write in Flemish? You better believe it. Read any newspaper from Belgium.

You should also know that the definition of Flemish as a group of dialects spoken in Flanders is highly political and very unscientific. Modern linguists do not use this type of language anymore, not even in Belgium. I do not recall for example, ever having heard English being defined as a group of dialects spoken in the countries/regions that were part of the British Empire.

The name Flemish does not necessarily cover one single language, neither do the names Dutch, English, Latin, Japanese, Sanskrit, ...

From that standpoint, I would wonder how one can write in English?

[Edited at 2005-08-09 21:58]


Johan Jongman  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
Political or not... Aug 9, 2005

... the "official" opinion (i.e. the one supported by both the Dutch and Flemish governments through the bilateral language institute [the Taalunie]) is that "Flemish" as a language does not exist. The language north and south of the border is the same, except for some minor differences in idiom, vocabulary and pronounciation. The fact that many translation agencies (and Proz) keep referring to Flemish as a seperate language doesn't help in explaining the situation to clients etc. The differences are probably smaller than those between US vs UK English or "mainstream" German vs Swiss or Austrian German.

[Edited at 2005-08-09 22:21]


Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:45
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Flemish isn't a language Aug 9, 2005

Flemish isn't a language but it's an important selector for language providers. The Dutch generally can't deliver texts that read well for the Flemish. The Flemish can produce translations that read well for the Dutch, though. The finesse is that you have to speak "Flemish" to know what to alter. The Dutch normally don't know what they should change to make a text palatable for an audience south of Breda.

If you search the Proz directory, you won't find many professional freelance translators from the Netherlands who put forward to master "Flemish" too. They shouldn't if they haven't lived in Flanders for years. Belgian translators will state they can translate in both "Flemish" and "Dutch", and they can, most of the times.

ProZ should make a distinction between Dutch and Flemish. Not for philological reasons, just to help clients to find the best translator for the job they have.



Tim van den Oudenhoven
Local time: 01:45
Member (2006)
English to Dutch
+ ...
the boundaries of "language" Aug 10, 2005

The Dutch-Flemish issue brings one back to the question of what defines a language and what are its boundaries?
The governments of Holland and Flanders have always asserted that the language we speak is Dutch and that Flemish does not exist as a language of its own. The support of a standard Dutch variety in the 1980s (ABN, later AN) came from both sides but in the 1990s, linguists began to recognise another variety of Dutch, namely the Flemish VRT-Dutch (compare BBC-English).

In a linguistic course I took last year on translation procedures, the professor asserted that the Flemish and Dutch varieties are growing further and further apart. A simple exemplification he found in the dubbing of Disney-films. In the 1980s and before, the Flemish market was used to the Holland-Dutch variety, but from the 1990s onwards (I think Chicken Run), two versions were created for every film produced, a Flemish and a Dutch one.
Apart from a differentiating vocabulary, there also appear grammatical differences between the two variants (e.g. I refer here to a Master's thesis which searched for different use of end-placing of participles in Flemish- and Holland-Dutch)

Certain linguists have made the comparison with Norwegian and Swedish when it comes to outlining the boundaries of language. They are mutually comprehensible and they only differ about 20-25%. Flemish and Holland-Dutch differ about 10-15% and this percentage is getting higher. Will we define it as another language when we reach 20%? Possibly not, the answer is politics anyway...


Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:45
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Interesting findings Aug 10, 2005

Apart from a differentiating vocabulary, there also appear grammatical differences between the two variants (e.g. I refer here to a Master's thesis which searched for different use of end-placing of participles in Flemish- and Holland-Dutch)

Even among Dutch Netherlands speakers there is no fixed rule for placing participles.

We can construct phrases like:

Dat had ik graag geweten willen hebben.
Dat had ik graag willen hebben geweten.

These variants are equally acceptable in the north. That's why they're called the green and the red variant.

Maybe Flemish Netherlands speakers prefer:
Dat had ik graag hebben willen geweten.

Why not call it the bleu variant? And let's go on sharing one dictionary. Our language will only be richer.

As for translating texts, the difference that's being made on Proz. is maybe awkward. But the difference should be made. I have no problem with Flemish as a selector for translators from Flanders, but I'm from Amsterdam.



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Dutch Vs Flemish

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