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?