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What Makes Dutch-English Translation Particularly Difficult?

There are a number of reasons why Dutch to English translation is considerably more difficult than other languages commonly translated into English. Some people even consider it easier to translate from the Romance languages (such as French, Spanish, Italian) into English- despite the fact that English and Dutch both share a common Germanic ancestry! Much of the intimidation factor surrounding Dutch translation is the fact that Dutch is still closely tied to German and retains a number Translate to English of its more confusing and difficult traits. While Dutch translation is not impossible, and may not be quite as difficult as some claim, there are a number of issues that you must always take into consideration.

To start with spoken Dutch utilizes a number of pronunciation twists that trip up a number of would be translators. These issues largely revolve around the fact that a number of Dutch words are spelled similarly to their English counterparts but are pronounced considerably different. There are also a number of words in Dutch that feature characters which aren’t found in English and most other European languages. In general the written form of a word doesn’t always correspond closely, or at all, to its pronunciation, which understandably can cause all sorts of issues with Dutch translation and interpreting.

The construction of words within Dutch doesn’t make things easier, as they inherited the Germanic tendency to continuously lengthen and increase the complexity of words when creating their nouns, instead of simply coming up with a new word altogether. This tendency results in many nouns which are exceptionally long and confusing, both in their pronunciation and especially in their spelling as many Dutch words tends to combine long vowel-less strings of consonants. To add further confusion to this mammoth words, it’s not uncommon for them to be shortened by native speakers beyond all recognition.

Another major problem surrounding Dutch translation is the fact that, though a relatively widespread language throughout the world, Dutch isn’t taught at nearly the same volume as other languages such as Spanish, English, French or Chinese. While Dutch is spoken throughout the world, the vast majority of them are located in close proximity to its home countries of the Netherlands and Belgium. So despite the fact that Dutch is an official language of the European Union, of South Africa, of a number of individual European countries, and of certain South American and Caribbean countries, the actual number of students learning Dutch every year is relatively small.

While Dutch translation is both far from impossible and measurably easier than other forms of translation, it still poses a number of problems and holds a (perhaps unearned) reputation for being dense and difficult. Unless you are up for a considerable challenge it’s much wiser to hire a professional for your Dutch translation needs than to attempt to navigate through the language on its own. Dutch is becoming considerably easier to understand and is adopting the simple structure and some of the vocabulary of English at the moment, but it will be a long time before the two languages are similar enough to make translation between them an easy matter.

Charlene Lacandazo is a marketing executive for Rosetta Translation, a leading full-service translation agency in London.

Rosetta Translation specialises in Dutch to English translation, as well as English to Dutch translation services.

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