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Dutch Accent for The Stage - A Few Pointers

I'm Dutch click to hear 2 - I'm a Dutchman click to hear

Formal Analysis of the Dutch Accent by Kathy Maes, voice coach of the Denver Center Theatre Company
Kathy's Words List
Lines from Dutch Characters in English Plays

There are of course all kinds of Dutch characters in plays: from educated Dutchmen and -women who have lived abroad for many years and who can be expected to speak with just a mild accent, to comedy or boorish characters with a limited knowledge of English and speaking with a strong accent. In between is a large group who know English fairly well, but mostly from reading or watching movies and television: they have a large English vocabulary and know about English grammar, but may still have a strong accent.
A character could also vary his accent within the role, during the play, to show emotion, confusion, or losing or gaining self-confidence.

In America and England, foreign names are usually pronounced in the English way, but in Holland we try to say foreign names, especially from familiar languages like German (and Yiddish), French and Italian, and also English according to the original languages, and that's a habit hard to break.
Saying names this way may add to your character's authenticity. I have to make a very conscious effort to say names in the English way, and often I say them 'automatically' in the original way. There's a grocery store here called Piazza, which I say as pee-ah-tzah, and the first time I heard a neighbor about it (I think he said something like pie-adze-uh) I wondered what he was talking about.
I would recommend to avoid names for Dutch characters with sounds that are difficult for actors, like Dutch EI/IJ and SCH, EU and 'long U.' When an actor playing a Dutchman cannot say his own name correctly credibility is lost.


In English, vowels are represented by other characters than in most other languages; especially in names, Dutchmen may pronounce vowels in the Dutch way. Some vowels sound about the same, but a few are not found in English. It might help your character to study the Dutch vowel sounds, I do recommend a listen to the many examples on my regular Dutch pronunciation pages: Pronunciation Reference Page - Vowels Compared - Exercise - 2

D and T, B and P

In Dutch, a D at the end of a word is pronounced as T. After 10 years in the US, my son pointed out to me that 'card' and 'cart' are pronounced differently, I guess most Dutchmen have a problem with it.
The play 'Knickerbocker Holiday' mistakenly turns it around and suggests to pronounce Dutch T's as D's: "Vy nod? Der vas plendy yesterday!" Wrong!
On the other hand, in my ears some T's in the middle of English words as spoken by Californians are more like D's than in Dutch.
Like D and T, in Dutch a B at the end of a word is pronounced as P.

Ed click to hear
Bob said send her a card click to hear
Bob said send her a card click to hear 2 (at my 'mild' best)
Watch your head! click to hear
'Weed' is Dutchified to (het) wiet click to hear - also note also that the EE-sound (ie) is shorter than in English

V and Z at the end of words - In Dutch, there are no V or Z sounds at the end of a word. Dutchmen will avoid those sounds at the end of English words too, and say F or S instead.
Have you heard? click to hear
News click to hear

TH - There is no sound like English TH in Dutch, it will mostly be said as D, sometimes as S.
I think, therefore I am click to hear 2
Dat is de question click to hear 2

A and O

English O is sometimes more like a Dutch A, and vice versa. I remember getting confused about it when ordering hot water for tea, sometime in my first weeks in the US. I probably said something like: click to hear 2 - but I guess I still don't say it exactly right: click to hear 2
body - money - honey click to hear 2

De Rolling Stones click to hear


English road
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Thank you
Dutch Accent
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Dutch rood
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meaning of
Dutch word
red fame a brake rat (I) save price fries (girls'
fern animal,

A Formal Analysis of English with a Dutch Accent

Kathy Maes of the Denver Center Theatre Company wrote an analysis of English with a Dutch accent, based on my older recordings, lists of words she gave me to record, and some other material: Standard Dutch Accent
- lines in English by Dutch Characters

Writing for Dutch Characters

I would avoid names with Dutch sounds that are difficult to pronounce for your actors. Your characters don't look credible if they can't say their own name in the Dutch way.

Dutch word order is not always the same as in English, and prepositions that look the same in English and Dutch may be used in different places, and verbs and expressions often have different propositions.
The English expression 'Married with n children' is funny to Dutch ears.
He is married with the daughter of the queen click to hear

Dutch grammar is different from English grammar, there is for instance no possessive in Dutch in phrases like "A friend of my father's" or "A book of his."
He is a friend of me click to hear
He was a friend of me click to hear
I read a book of him click to hear
The friends of my father click to hear
Dutch has one word 'als' ->> for both the conditional 'if' and 'when,' so it's quite common for Dutchmen to mix up those words.

Writers creating Dutch characters speaking broken English would do well to consult this page: Dutch and English Word Order

You could use literal, word-for-word translations of the many example sentences on my 'Conversation Templates' and you could also give funny translations of Dutch Sayings

I really like Gene Wolfe's 'Solar Cycle,' I've read all the books twice, but as a Dutchman I was a bit disappointed by the nonsense word order of the Dutch characters (and by their weird and/or wrong names.) Vadsig click to hear ('bloated, obese') is an impossible name for a girl

It's not very likely that simple Dutch characters know words like 'impetuous' or 'acquaintance.' Ideally, words like that should be replaced with words that look and sound similar in Dutch and English, but that a native speaker of English might not use in that sense, because it does not mean exactly the same:
impetuous girl -> impulsive girl click to hear
business acquaintance -> business relation
He was a business relation of me click to hear

Dutch doesn't use 'of' in 'units' and Dutch rarely uses 'for' in duration statements. You could have a Dutch character with limited command of English say things like "a bottle wine" or "I was a week in London" "I lay (stayed) a week in bed"
The words in Dutch for units may also not be literal translations of the words in English - for instance, Dutch usually says tientallen jaren click to hear ('decades') and NOT 'dozens' of years

My Conversation Templates have many Dutch lines for use in everyday talk. For Dutch characters you could translate those lines word-for-word.

Dutch Exclamations, Interjections

ja click to hear 5 yes
nee click to hear no
misschien click to hear maybe
toe nou! click to hear come on!
schiet op! click to hear hurry up!
Mijn God! click to hear Oh my God!
Lieve God! click to hear 2 Dear God!
God O God! click to hear 2 God, oh God!
Wat in Godsnaam? click to hear 2 3 What in God's name?
jakkes! click to hear yuck!
jasses! click to hear 2 3 yuck!
Mijn hemel! click to hear Heavens!
In hemelsnaam click to hear in heaven's name!
Goddank click to hear 2 3 God be thanked
Godzijdank click to hear 2 3 God be thanked
Wat jammer nou click to hear 2 What a pity!
Ei! * click to hear (expression of surprise) - more about this unusual sound

Vloeken click to hear 2 ('curses, swear words' /and/ 'cursing, swearing.')
Very mild curses are:
Deksels! click to hear 'lids of pots & pans.'
Drommels! click to hear - I guess it has to do with donder click to hear ('thunder.')
Bliksems click to hear 2 3 ('bolts of lightning.')
Verrek! click to hear 2 3 (from verrekken click to hear 2 3 'to overstretch' - thank you Maria Anzaldua for reminding me)
Jeetje! click to hear 2 Jeez! (a bit childish.)
See also: Fun Things to say
One of the most serious bad words in Dutch is 'godverdomme' click to hear 2 3 4 5 ('goddamn') - in acronym: gvd click to hear 2 - a milder form is verdomme click to hear 2 3 ('damn')
Gatverdamme! click to hear 2 3 a mild curse, said when coming across something disgustingly dirty or extremely bad-tasting another curse: click to hear (2 3)
- see also: Fun Things to Say
and Describing People

See also Everyday Phrases, Emergency Phrases, Lines, Sayings and Fun Things to Say in Dutch

On my 'cognates' page you can hear me say about a hundred English words (with Dutch and German counterparts.)

In the movie 'Miracle on 34th Street' a little Dutch girl is brought to Santa Claus; he is told she doesn't speak English. Not a problem for polyglot Santa - but then the Dutch in the audience will notice the little girl's thick American accent: it's not credible that she shouldn't speak English. For the Dutch any illusion of reality is shattered. No, Virginia
Kris Kringle, on the other hand, could speak Dutch in any accent (Arctic?) The Dutch lines

I've been asked for Dutch accent tips by actors playing Anne Frank's horrible ordeal, but I've told them it would be wrong and detract from the play if the actors would try to speak English with Dutch accents. We've all seen war movies with German soldiers speaking English with a German accent to each other - when you think of it that doesn't seem right.
In plays or movies, I think Dutchmen (or any non-native speakers of English) should only speak English with a Dutch (or their own country's) accent when in the reality that is depicted they would speak English, like when talking to Americans or English people or others who don't speak Dutch. I think it would be best for actors to speak a class- and region-neutral 'newscaster' English when playing foreigners speaking their own language - but, thinking it over, when they speak to English-speakers they should adopt an accent? Doesn't seem right either.

Chorus for an Unwritten Song click to hear

Theatre Menu - Examples from Plays

email - Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2010. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Don't be a dief (thief) - dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2