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Kit Belgum, Chair 2505 University Avenue, Burdine Hall 336, Mailcode C3300, Austin TX 78712-1802 • 512-471-4123

Netherlandic Studies and Dutch

The Dutch-speaking Low Countries of the Netherlands and Belgium constitute a unique cultural community of over 20 million speakers in northwestern Europe. Dutch is spoken by people in Surinam and the Dutch Antilles as well and still serves as a significant second in Indonesia and in South Africa. (Afrikaans has grown out of seventeenth-century Dutch and is similar to modern Dutch).

The Low Countries were a world power and cultural leader in the 15th-17th centuries and have left a lasting cultural influence among others in the United States. Since then, the Netherlands has developed itself into a democratic society with a number of fascinating and unique social and cultural features. In particular its progressive policies towards gay marriage, soft drugs and euthanasia stand out, as does its social welfare system and its political system which is characterized by a sustained model of concession and conciliation, rather than confrontation and conflict.

The Dutch are important players in international business and politics. Brussels is the capital of the European Union, The Hague houses the International Court of Justice, and the Netherlands is the third biggest foreign investor in the U.S., with the world's 8th largest GDP. Well-known Dutch international corporations include Shell, Unilever, and Philips.

In the cultural realm, the Dutch are known for their art, both painting (Bosch, Rembrandt, Breughel, Van Eyck, Rubens, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Appel) and photography, architecture, industrial and graphic design, and fashion. Well known modern literary authors include Cees Nooteboom, Harry Mulisch, Marga Minco, Hella Haasse as well as world famous children's author Annie M.G. Schmidt. Important as well are classics by P.C. Hooft, Vondel en Multatuli. Belgian authors include Louis Paul Boon, Hugo Claus, Willem Elsschot, and Monika van Paemel.

In the areas of science and technology, the Dutch are known for their research in Agriculture, Aquatic Engineering, and City Planning. (Most recently, Dutch engineers were requested to help with planning the rebuilding and future protection of the city of New Orleans).

Who studies Dutch?

  • Those interested in the unique history and culture of the Netherlands and/or Belgium
  • Those interested in art history
  • Those interested in Germanic linguistics
  • Those interested in the history of the East Indies and of Indonesian legal studies (Dutch as a source language)
  • Those interested in international law and business
  • Those wanting to quickly learn a second language: as Dutch is closely related to German and English (it shares much common vocabulary, certain inflectional patterns, as well as certain features of word order), it is one of the easier foreign languages to learn for English speakers.
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