Quick Tip – Dutch Immigrants may not have Understood Each Other

Dutch immigrants sometimes settled in places where Dutch people from other parts of the Netherlands came too. This doesn’t mean they could understand each other. Before the age of radio and television, there was no common Dutch language that everybody understood. Different regions had different dialects, different languages even.

Frisian and Low Saxon are completely different from Flemish, to name three examples. To this day, people speaking in their local language or dialect won’t be understood by people from other parts of the Netherlands. But everybody understands standard Dutch now.

If people from these different parts of the Netherlands settled in the same areas in the 1800s, they would have had trouble understanding each other. In many of these immigrant settlements, English became the common language.

Man with hand behind his ear

NATO secretary-general Luns, 1979. Credits: Collection Nationaal Archief (CC-0)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Do you know something about this man : Aaron Nathan Cohen January 4 , 1777 London -Aug. 10, 1862 (85) aged in Columbia Richland SC USA married Zippora & Rachel he is my Jewish relative.

    Yours sincerely. Mr. Magnus Johansen – Gedaliah Ben Yohanan , the FAROE ISLANDS.

  2. Ed Van Schaick says


    Your article “Dutch Immigrants may not have Understood Each Other” was something that I did not know. Moreover, it would be very helpful, if your readers knew the native languages that were in use in the various geographic areas of the Netherlands, Understanding this may help in understanding the peoples who formed the Netherlands,

    Thanks, for all you do in educating your readers.

    Best Wishes and Warm Regards,


  3. Virgil Hoftiezer says

    Your article regarding the dialects of the Netherlands confirmed a question I had regarding my Dutch ancestors in Wisconsin. Have been told that men walked from Alto to Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, to ‘court’ their wives. Either the families knew each other from the Netherlands or ??, but how can I determine if Hoftiezer from Aalten or Dinxperlo understood Walhuizen from Voorst? or even someone from Dinxperlo understood someone from Aalten? The families left the Netherlands around 1847 to 1850. The Dutch my grandparents spoke probably could not be understood by current day Dutch speakers because it was the 1847 language. I know the written Dutch from 1847 was very difficult for a modern Dutch translator I hired here in the USA.

  4. Steve Frank says


    Thank you for all you do to educate and serve people! I read your newsletter every week.

    In regard to your article on the Netherlands, I would be interested in learning more about the specific dialects of the Gelderland Province. As you may recall, my great great grandfather came from Ratum. I am thinking they would have spoken some form of a Low Saxon dialect.

    Best Wishes,


  5. I speak Afrikaans.. Which means I have a difficult time understanding (it takes a good while) certain Standard Dutch syllables and sentence structure. Some regional dutch accents and streekstaal – well no problem at all. I especially like the sound of Srinan/Caribbean/Indonesian Dutch.
    Dutch speakers say I use archaic / regional words and expressions.

    • I did some research in South-African records two years ago and was able to read Afrikaans quite easily. It has retained some Dutch words that I recognize from older documents, but that have disappeared in Dutch. You can clearly see the common roots for the languages.

  6. Wilhelmous Beekman from Netherlands was a GGGGGrandfather. Were Beekmans more German than Dutch? Sharon Beekman Hendren

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