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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

9 Reasons I love Dutch

When I came here, I didn’t really like how Dutch sounded. However, my German in-laws and other German people told me that it sounded cute but I never understood what they found cute about Dutch. To my ears, it sounded hard and rude. However, once I started learning it, I begun to take pleasure in learning this language, and found many things I actually got to love about it. Here are these things:

1)      It’s similar to German

For a fluent German speaker like me learning Dutch isn’t really hard. In fact, German and Dutch have the same roots, and are closer together than German and English. Also, it was a great feeling to be able to talk so quickly after starting to learn Dutch, and a further motivation to deepen my knowledge of this language. What also helped was the fact that I could already read Dutch before I started learning it because of my German.

2)      It isn’t German

I said that Dutch and German are similar, but they’re not the same language. In Dutch, many words are more similar to English than they are to German. Some Dutch words are of French origin. The word order in a sentence is slightly different from German. I sometimes found myself coming from my Dutch class and speaking German with the Dutch word order (“ Ich habe das lassen machen”, instead of “ich habe das machen lassen”). I found the pronunciation difficult- take for example the “ui” (a British woman once explained that pronouncing this “ui”- sound in words like “huis”, “uit” is like speaking very posh English), “g” (pronounced like a very throaty “ch”) and remembering that “u” is like the German “ü”, and “oe” is actually: “oo”. But these differences posed enough of a challenge to make learning the language fun and engaging.

3)      Because of the word “lekker”.

The word “lekker” is, in my opinion, the coolest of all Dutch words. It definitely beats “gezellig”. It actually means “delicious” but is used in the meaning of: “things you like with your body”. And when you think of things you like with your body, it makes total sense that sleeping, being warm, or playing can be “lekker” as well. In Polish, you can also “sleep deliciously”, just like in Dutch. A friend of mine has started a campaign to include it in the English language. So if you see a child sleeping soundly in her stroller, say “she seems really lekker warm in there”. If you like your food, say it’s “lekker”. Please spread the word and receive my lekkerest thanks.

4)      Because of the diminutives

When I started learning English, one of the things I missed were the diminutives. You know, ways to make a word sound cuter and smaller. Polish has many of these, sometimes even changing the meaning of that word. For example, “maszyna” means “machine”, but for a coffee machine we’d say “maszynka do kawy”- a little coffee machine (and it’s not because the coffee machine is a little one, but because a machine that makes coffee is smaller than other types of machines). In Polish, there are many ways to make diminutives, in Dutch there is one way: by adding “-tje” to the end of the word. The Dutch, just like the Polish add diminutives to everything (one funny thing about Polish is that it’s possible to diminutives to adjectives: “what a little-tje cat-tje). While the Dutch don’t extend diminutives to adjectives, they still speak of “dagje uit”- a little day trip, “kopje” (a cup of coffee), and so on. So if you’re missing a little suffix to add to a word to make it cuter, you can use “tje!”.

5)      Because it makes a distinction between “familie” and “gezin”.

Some of you, especially when you have been brought up in a family full of aunts, uncles and grandparents, you may see the whole family as a unity where everyone has a place and everybody helps each other out, like the proverbial village. My family, however, consisted of my parents, my brother and myself, so I see family as  mostly parents and children, with the rest playing an important but more detached role.  So imagine my shock when I met my husband whose family isn’t really so big but it’s bigger than mine with all the aunts and uncles and this or that relative, all wanting to play a part in my life- especially since I had children. I sometimes find them too noisy and miss the privacy that comes with having a small family. This is why I love the distinction between “gezin” and “ familie” so much. The difference is “gezin” is mostly mom, dad and children. This is what I am used to and this is what I can understand. “Familie” is the whole family, including extended family. It means extended family is still family but there is more distance.

6)      It’s concise and to-the-point

I already wrote a blog post about how liberating it is to a shy person not to care about whether or not you will offend the other person. If a language doesn’t have a high threshold to start speaking, you will also find it more satisfying because you’ll start speaking it faster. In Dutch, you can say: “Pass me the bread”, and not be considered rude if your tone of voice is pleasant enough. The Dutch will accept “Ja, hoor” for an answer to a question. Fine with me- and I am still considered very kind and polite because oI say "thank you" and “please”, a lot even if I don’t overdo it anymore like I did in the past.

7)      You can turn practically anything into a verb

Dutch shares this characteristic with English. You can verb anything (see what I did here?). In Dutch you can say: “tennissen”- to play tennis, “internetten”- to use the Internet. You can turn practically anything into a verb. And I love it. Life is so much easier when you can just verb things. 

8)      My mother spoke it

My mother lived in the Netherlands as a child and she can understand a lot of Dutch, and still speaks it a little. Later, her Dutch got replaced by German, but I suppose if she would live here, she would re-learn it. But I realized that for me, Dutch is also an important language because of this- it is one of our family languages.

9)      My children speak it

This is actually the ultimate reason why I love Dutch. I feel extremely proud when I hear my children speaking or singing in this language. It sounds so cute, said in their little voices. What is more, children can be a powerful motivator to learn a language. One of my reasons for learning Dutch was the fact that I knew that my children will speak it. I am also learning Dutch songs and pomes from my children. K is now 4 years old and she corrects me or my husband when we make a mistake. I don’t have any problems with this. I know that when it comes to Dutch, she is the expert and can teach me a lot.

What about you? What are the things you like about the language you’re learning?

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  1. I love the world lekker in Dutch too. Mooi is another word anything can be mooi!

    I have always found Spanish to be a very excitable language

    1. Hi Rosalind, thanks for your comment. "Lekker" is such a cool word! And you are right, "mooi" is also nice. Spanish is beautiful (and to me, so is Italian). There is something beautiful in every language, let's just find it! Which will probably end in a post explaining why I love German (or English)

  2. For me learning Dutch is a difficult process.Even if I know English, I am Romanian and is harder.Is easier for me to learn French, Italian or Spanish than Dutch.Also...I found it harder to learn Dutch from Romanian books beside learning Dutch from an English site.
    My favourite word in Dutch is "muis" even though I hate rats and mice.The most difficult words are the ones with letter "g" inside...
    I am on the level of understanding more Dutch beside actually speaking it.And also people like to switch to English when they hear the accent in my voice...:/

    1. Hi Elena, I totally understand what you mean: after all, if I didn't speak German, Dutch would be far more difficult to learn! I also don't like the "g", especially because my name also has a "G" in it- and they pronunce it "Olcha", which I don't really like. The accent thing is very common, people want to communicate with you and think they're doing you a favour by switching to English...in my case they say: "But I can speak German" and swtich to that language! Of course, it is sometimes helpful to communicate in English, but we want to learn the language, too!

  3. Not trying to 'swear in the church' here, but what I like most about The Netherlands (my home land, by the way) is that English is one of its four official languages. ;) However, the literature here is better in Dutch than in English!

    1. You do have a point, Alex- and thanks for visiting and commenting. While I do my best to speak Dutch whenever I go, the fact that everybody speaks Enlgish is extremely helpful and I feel very secure knowing that I can always say something in English when my Dutch is not enough.

  4. Great article! I too like the words mooi, lekker and gezellig.

    I was a bit confused on your comparison of the German layout as both examples are the same.

    I am trying to learn Dutch too so your reccomendations are great!

    1. Hello, thank you for your comment. And thanks for noticing the mistake, I fixed that! Glad to hear my tips were helpful, and good luck in learning Dutch!

  5. Dankjewel voor dit leuke (helaas niet lekkere) artikel, het geeft mij een nieuwe kijk op mijn moeder taal (die ik een beetje aan het vergeten ben omdat ik in de USA woon)

    1. Hoi Monique, danjewel voor jouw verhaal. Wat leuke blogs jej heeft! Sorry, ik kan Nederlands beter praten als schrijven. Groetjes uit mooi Nederlands!

  6. Of German I like the fact that is a culture language.
    Speaking of diminutives, the Swiss dialects add -li to make diminutives.
    So you can have, for example, "rüebli" = kleine Rübe, that is... carrot! :)

    1. Hello :) Yes, German is the language of science, isn't it? Yes, you are right about Swiss- the Germans use "-chen" or "- lein", depending on dialect. Ruebli-love!

  7. Okay technicaly there is not a diminutive in English but there is something we use a lot...IE or Y...cutie, sweetie, honey, doggie, no they are not all real words but we make it diminituive

    1. You are right, there is a way, but it sounds somewhat childish (of course, diminitives sound childish in every language, but sometimes they're used for very adult things (like the coffee machine I mentioned in Polish). So it's less about ways to make diminutives and more about using them in a normal conversation. I actually like the -ie (I like the word: "thingy", for example.

    2. I have a love/hate relationship with the diminutive in English and Dutch. In English, it just sounds like "baby talk" to me and I can't take the speaker too seriously ( though "thingy" doesn't seem to bother me). In Dutch, it just confuses me, mostly because the tone of the word changes and I can't understand the speaker.

      I agree with your thoughts on "lekker" - I love it's versatility, and the fact that I even hear it used sarcastically.

    3. I understand where you come from. I felt the same way until I realized how much we use diminutives in Polish. However, I know that if you use diminutives in Engish, it IS considered baby talk- but Dutch adults use them a lot, too- it's similar to when you don't hear them use "please" or "thank you" too muh you could consider them rude...It is interesting: when Dutch use diminutves with childrne, they're actually talking like adults. As for lekker, I also heard it used in sentences like: "Lekker belangrijk"- not important, and "lekker druk"- "deliciously busy (which is totally understandable to all moms!)


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