Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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The literary primitiveness of English and sophistication of Dutch and German

English is not inferior, only simpler, terribly limited in ways more-Germanic languages are not

Disclaimer: I will discuss here some major deficiencies of English but I’m not claiming that all of English is more handicapped than all other speech traditions. Each language can say things that cannot be expressed in any other language. So, the more languages (and dialects) we learn, the richer will be our worldview and awareness. That could be the main lesson here.

I write this in English. So, the first thing to say is: I’m not saying that English-speakers are more primitive. Only their tool that we call language is much more basic. And that came in very handy when the colonial power that England became started to ‘educate’ others in this strange tongue. This is also proper to mention as English-speaker tend to be snobs if not outright nationalistic while the Dutch are not and Germans not anymore!

I will not say too much about French because I have little information about how that relates to the issues at hand here. Just see this clip.

For all clarity, I’m not referring to advanced English-speakers sometimes considering their tongue to have the richest vocabulary in the world. Granted, it has been as successful in expropriating foreign words as extracting natural resources from overseas. But, the largest dictionary of a Western language is Dutch. And, think of the size of Chinese that has a different pictogram for each word, that can be pronounced in four different ways to mean every time something totally different.

Simpler Won the Day

There has been an interesting suggestion for why the world’s top language now is English and not Dutch. Compared to the British, the Netherlands didn’t lack colonies. But they did have a different flavor of racism and supremacy. The English held: Let’s teach these natives some English to give them some decent, real culture. The Dutch said: Our language is so elevated—these primitive will never be able to grasp it. Ironically, you could spot a Dutch-speaker from the Dutch Indies in that their command of Dutch was excellent beyond that of those born in the Low Counties.

The English language is not the only one so simplified. Modern Hebrew had to become the linguistic vehicle of a new state and immigrants. It did away with most of the stunning sophistication of biblical Hebrew. This pertained to both grammar and pronunciation. Moses could never understand a word of what we are telling each other in the Jewish state.

Let’s discuss seven major ways how English falls short of German or Dutch. The list is ordered from almost silly to most important. The first differences are more well-known; the latter ones far less so, if at all.

  1. The English Illness

English loves to break up words. No one sees a bus stop as a combination of a bus and a stop. But English does this. Surely, for beginners, it reads easier than compounded words. But its dictionaries don’t fall for this fake argument. In them, you find bus stop cataloged as if one word. English disease (the Dutch term for rickets) breaks your bones and sentences. A Dutch text has ‘English disease’ when it has too many broken-up words.

The Dutch and the Germans love to combine words, especially nouns. The former, in a typical case of self-mockery, have a, for them, famous game of making an endless word: hottentottententententoonstellingsterrein, in the short version, as we can extend it without limit.

Often, the Dutch can shorten it when similar words succeed each other. They can say: bus- en tramhalte. English doesn’t have the dash so you might miss them when you agree to meet near the bus or tram stop.

  1. Variation

The English mind gets easily bored. There is little discipline or patience, it seems, to have to hear or read the same word over and over again. If in any way possible, synonyms must be used.

You may object that Martin Luther King Jr.’s I have a dream speech says eight times in a row the now-iconic words, I have a dream. And the New Testament’s Sermon on the Mount opens with nine blessings in a row. And Martin Niemöller’s famous credo starting “First they came for the socialists” repeats four times “they came for …, and … not speak out …” That is true, but in various ways, none of these speakers were WASPs.

  1. Redundant

English-speakers don’t want you to use two words if you could say the same thing in one. You don’t give back, you return.

The Dutch has the opposite. It has a countless number of small words to scatter around that give personableness, friendliness, homeliness, and nuance to what’s being said. Het zou best well eens kunnen gaan sneeuwen. It seems to me reasonable to expect it possible to begin snowing. And not: Het zou kunnen gaan sneeuwen. It could start to snow.

  1. Yesterday, You Couldn’t

A short glance at English dictionaries and their Dutch counterparts shows that the formers are descriptive while the latter are prescriptive.

English is very tolerant. When enough people say something, it becomes proper English. For some time, such usage might paint you as working class, foreign, counter-culture, or informal, but eventually, you’ll be fine.

Yet, Dutch dictates that a mistake is a mistake, no matter how often repeated. This makes teachers Dutch keep their jobs that are never done.

  1. The Ordered Sentence

A regular English sentence starts with a place or time, followed by a comma. During the war, In winter, – etc. Then follow the subject and the verb. He laughed. She started running. Then you close off the clause with something small, if you must. A great deal. Surprisingly so. This seems a bit dry, but this standardized format does make reading easy.

Unfortunately, it seems that the typical native English-speaker seems incapable or deeply unwilling to be flexible in this. “He asked, at midday, where in the world this was going,” is all but unreadable to most.

The Dutch are completely flexible in where different sections go in a sentence. This then stands for loads of different nuances. He easily said no. No, he easily said. Easily, he said no. He said easily no. He said no, easily.

  1. The Short Sentence

Even worse is that in English, you must not start a compounded sentence with words like: Although, Even if, Granting, While, Even though, etc. You have to say: “The war made him stronger. Yet, he did get lonelier.” The problem with that is that the first of these two sentences is only partly true. An overstatement or exaggeration that you only discover when you get to the “Yet.” In Dutch, you speak the full truth in this long sentence. And Dutch emphasizes the second part showing it to be more important. Although the war made him stronger, he did get lonelier. English is easier to read, but again, not as sophisticated as what Dutch has to offer.

  1. Give Away the Bottom Line on Top

This is the most important point. The Dutch like to build their case. From the start, they may state their subject. But then, they will begin at the fundamentals to end up with bold claims they just substantiated.

English has no time or patience for this. Tell us your conclusions and then explain them. Don’t give me a scientific or logical line to follow. Snap judgments, maybe followed by some commentary, is all we want.

This jives nicely with a vain culture that values bogus smiles or stiff upper lips, false (US Hollywood, UK Royal family) phantasies, phony narratives, fake news, and Capitalism with rash ideas because time is money. Unfit for the more real than real, standing in mud, defending their dykes, Dutch.

I did find that their working-class and unschooled are closer to the Dutch.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1500 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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