The secret brother of English language

The secret brother of English language

Today’s guest blog comes to us from The Hague-based, Amarens. She is an avid blogger, a travel enthusiast and a true language expert!

Original version published on 


Maybe it's better that you sit down for this. You are about to find out one of those language facts that is always interesting -and quite surprising- to know: your Germanic mother gave birth to another language. It's true. In the north of the Netherlands there is a province called Friesland, and the language they speak bears an uncanny resemblance to English. Looks like Europe is even more multilingual than we knew it was!

Map of UK + Ireland, the Netherlands and Friesland

I bet you're not the only one who is confused right now. Not many people outside the Netherlands know about this language. Indeed, even within the Netherlands people often think Frisian is merely a dialect. For those who think that, it's good to take a look to this Germanic language family tree:


Germanic languages family tree

As the tree shows us, both English and Frisian are actually part of the Anglo-Frisian branch, while Dutch stems from Old Low Franconian. Although people consider Swedish, Danish, German and Dutch to be somewhat similar to English, 'genetically´ Frisian is the closest language to English. The influence of French on English and Dutch on Frisian might make these similarities harder to see, but we all know you can't forget your roots.
When we compare certain words and word categories in English, Frisian, Dutch and German we can see how close the two languages really are, especially when we take a look at the pronunciation.

For example the word "cheese". In Dutch it translates to "kaas" and in German to "Kãse", which is all similar enough. The Frisian version, however, is "tsiis', which on paper just looks like something typed by your cat when he walks across your keyboard, but when you consider the pronunciation of the double I is almost identical to the English double E, whereas both Dutch and German chosen a completely different vowel for this word.
Not only that, but in many other words where English has the "Ch" pronunciation, the Frisians have kept very similar phonetics (only they attach different letters to them).


Pronuntiation similarities between in English and Frisian

Another set of examples of words where the Frisians have stuck to the English phonetics is in words like "sleep"  or "sheep". The Frisian "IE" is identical to the "II" sound, which as mentioned before is like the English "EE",  while for some reason both Dutch and German have both gone with an "A" sound in these words.

Pronuntiation similarities between in English and Frisian 

But the similarities don't stop there. When you look at the English words like "Way" and "Day", where the "Y" has been switched for a "G" in Dutch and German, in Frisian they have kept the "I" sound, and though it is written with an "e", the "EI" sound in Frisian is comparable to the "YE" or "IE" in "dye" or "die".


Pronuntiation similarities between in English and Frisian

And last but not least, an "N" before a 'voiceless fricative' (meaning an "S", "F' or "TH") can be found in Dutch and German, but is largely lost in English and Frisian.

Pronuntiation similarities between in English and Frisian  


Interestingly, though Frisian is still widely spoken in Frisian households the education is generally in Dutch. This means that when people in Friesland learn English it will most likely be taught in English, which means many Frisians don't make the connections between English and their native language (and I say this from experience).
So now you know that Friesland is not only the province with the coolest flag with its famous pompeblêdden (not hearts), but also that one province that speaks a language that is ridiculously close to English.

Bonus, the Frisian word for "this" is "dizze", only proving my original hypothesis that Frisians are the real OG's

Aug 15, 2017 by Saul

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I am an excellent English - French bi-linguist with over 5 years of professional experience in Customer service, IT support,Retail and Operations

It is similar to English based on the phonetics. All the Germanic languages bear certain similarity in words, pronunciation and phonetics, but the grammar is pretty much different and can be an obstacle in learning.

Very informative post.

Wat in goed stik oer myn memmetaal!
Love to read this information. I do agree with Karin though, the pronunciation of Frisian as a whole sounds perhaps closer to Danish or Swedish.
Still, making people more aware of the roots of languages is a wonderful thing to do, so thank you for sharing!

Very interesting and very good information.

I am pretty familiar with English, Dutch (in several local dialects as well as standardized), and I live close to Friesland. I have heard it said many times that Frisian and English are related. Well ... perhaps. But it is of no help in understanding it. Frisian is a completely different language and is nothing like other languages / dialects in the Netherlands, in fact, I think Frisian I probably older than standard Dutch. Though Nedersaksisch or Drents in written form looks a lot like a piece of Frankish writing I saw in a book once.

As a Frisian it is very interesting to read. Although my experience is different. Yes, these mentioned words are similar to English.
Though my (humble) opinion is that the Frisian language has more in common with for example the Danish & Swedish language. Due to the way of the Frisian language is pronounced.
Like the difference in pronunciation between Spanish and Italian.

This is very Good information to know.

Very Good information to know for bilingual experts and professionals.


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