Do you need a Dutch translation or a Dutch translation? Or the flamenco?
You may have asked yourself if there is a difference between translating into Dutch and translating into Dutch. In strictly technical and academic terms, Dutch refers to the dialect spoken in the Dutch region of the Netherlands. In this sense, if you translate manuals, your website or technical documentation with the aim of selling your products in the Netherlands, what you will need is a Dutch translation.
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Outside of academic consideration, the truth is that, in the common language, Holland and Dutch are synonymous with the Netherlands and Dutch. This is so much so that the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language has seen fit to include this meaning of Dutch. This means that when you request a translation and ask for it in Dutch or English, it will be understood in the same way. If you want to give an impression of knowledgeability and speak with the utmost propriety, speak Dutch to your translation provider.
However, as a matter of political correctness and rigour, it is more relevant to use the Dutch term in communications that may have a more formal or official character.
The fact that in the common language we use Dutch as a synonym for Dutch is due to historical reasons and a common linguistic resource that we call metonymy. A case of metonymy occurs when we allude to a part in order to refer to the whole. The fact that this part, the Dutch region, was chosen was because it was the most influential and richest region during much of Dutch history.
Flemish, like Dutch in its strictest sense, is the dialect of Dutch spoken in the historic region of Flanders. This region corresponds today mainly to Northern Belgium, extending to France and the Netherlands. Flemish is the best known dialect of Dutch because of the historical relevance of this region.
Like when we talked about German dialects on our blog "My company translates into German: What should I know," the dialects of Dutch are quite different from each other, but there is also a standardization of writing. The geopolitical fact that Flemish is the dialect of Dutch spoken in Belgium gives it a great deal of peculiarity. This means that there are uses of language that will be different from Dutch in the Netherlands. These differences may be relevant in the case of marketing and advertising materials or other types of creative texts where local cultural references are used. In the case of manuals or technical texts, they will also be appreciated but will have less impact.
To curl the curl more: Guess what the official name of the flamingo is in Belgium? It's called Dutch. This is an official recognition that Flemish is not a language per se, but one of the dialects of Dutch.
Interestingly, the etymology of "Dutch" in Spanish comes from the French. In other words, the Dutch word comes from the French "neerlandais", which in turn comes from the Germanic "Nederland": "Neder" which is low and "Land" which is land.
Conclusion: if you want to translate into Dutch, you want to translate into Dutch. So much riding, so much riding. If you want to be rigorous and politically correct, then: Dutch. If you want to tune up for your Dutch-speaking market in Belgium, then you'd better translate into the unofficially known "Flemish".
José Gambín holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.