Learn Dutch, You Must.

I started picking up Dutch since early last year while I was still in Singapore. Although I can hardly speak a good long sentence even after attending lessons for 6 long months, I can vividly remember the rules. I remembered I always had to remind myself; speaking dutch is like speaking Yoda’s English in Star Wars.

If you want to literally translate any Dutch sentence to English, you might end up speaking like Yoda. Or well, it just wouldn’t sound correct to a Native Dutch speaker.

Example 1:

In English, we say: Do you have a bag with you now?

In Dutch, we say: Heeft u nu een tas bij je? (word for word translation back to English, it is: have u now a bag with you?)

Example 2:

In English, we say: we will go to the beach this sunday.

In Dutch, we say: gaan we naar het strand deze zondag. (word for word translation back to English, it is: Go we to the beach this sunday)

Tonight, I started my first dutch lesson with Da Vinci Colledge in the Netherlands. One week before the actual lesson starts, I receive in my mailbox a letter from them like this one:

Read This, You Must.

So I’m suppose to know how to read this letter and be in school on time on the 27th August. For a minute, I thought, if I know how to read and understand this letter, I probably wouldn’t need any lesson do I?

Anyway, I have Jos to translate the letter for me. So I do know what is going on now. I just have to make sure I’m there for lesson on the 27th Aug @ 7pm and I guess everything else will flow nicely.

Also for the first time I’m gonna ride on the bike to school. I cannot believe I’m becoming so Dutch. I’m quite good with the bike now, sometimes, I ride like the Dutch, one example is riding straight on even when the light is red. I’ve asked Jos before, when can I do that and I was told it is done base on guard feel. That in my opinion is “niet goed!”

While I wait to get change and go for my lesson on the bike, here are some of Yoda’s for your viewing pleasure. You will agree indeed it’s weird kind of speaking. Enjoy my friend, you must. 🙂

DELETE IT YOU MUST.

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The Specific Dutch Language

So, yes I’ve been attending Dutch Language Course for about 5 months now. On second thoughts, its amazing how time flies ! Its has already been 5 months but I can only form or say really short and simple sentences. That’s really a shame, I’d said to any Dutchie about my progress. The kind response would always be, “Nederlands is een moeilijke taal” which means “Dutch is a difficult language”. And yes, I have to agree two hands up… Dutch Language is indeed one of the most difficult language in the whole wide world. I cannot truly understand how and why the sentences are made up, if you translate them word for word to English, it won’t make any sense at all. Also, I cannot fully understand why in most cases, we need to be so specific in Dutch. Whatever I cannot understand doesn’t matter, the truth is I wanna master the Dutch Language! Period!

Every Monday (Maandag) evening (avond), I would drive to town for my weekly dosage of Dutch. And so, I did last night. Matt (de docent) was sharing with us about how the Dutch describe the quantity of food. The Dutch word taught was : een plakje, een schijfje, een klontje, een beetje and een sneetje. All five descriptions, if you realise, are spell very differently but the truth is there are 3 of them that actually has the same meaning in English. But the Dutch choose to be specific when come to describing what they really mean. Een beetje means a little, een klontje means a cube but here, een plakje, een schijfje and een sneetje has the same meaning, it means a slice.

Let me now describe when to use which “A Slice”

Een plakje which means a slice, is only used when you want to describe something wet. For example, A slice of Cheese or A slice of Sausage. So in other words, in English, we have to said a wet slice of cheese or a wet slice of sausage. Be specific people!

Een Plakje Kaas!
Een plakje Worst!
Next, when we want to describe something that’s been sliced up, for example, lemon or orange. So to say een schijfje citroen it also simply means a slice of lemon in English. And no, we cannot use een plakje for fruit. I reckon, een schijfje are mostly only used on fruits, more examples are apple or banana.
So… dit is een schijfje citroen.
Last but not least, the next similar “a slice”  in dutch is een sneetje. Een sneetje are used for dried food stuff, for example, bread. I “googled” translate on a slice of biscuit and it says, een plakje biscuit! Not that we say a slice of biscuit at all, but I was just using that as a wild example. So, it doesn’t necessary means we use een sneetje for all dried food stuff. Its simply use for bread mostly.
Een sneetje brood.
The dutch can easily and simply describe any food along the way. But being an English speaking person, I find it a little (een beetje) too specific to use different description to just say a slice of anything. As a matter of fact, in Singapore, we hardly even use the word “a slice”, we would just say bread or cheese for that instance. For example, will you please pass me the bread? We hardly say, will you please pass me a slice of bread? Singaporean are hectic people, no time to waste, we go straight to the point. The point is, we want that bread… period.
To finish up with the other two description to the quantity of food, een beetje just means a little. For this, dutch uses een beetje also for stuff that are not food related. For example : Ik spreek een beetje nederlands which means I speak a little dutch. For food, its use onsalt etc.
The last one I was taught, “een klontje” which means a cube, commonly use for sugar in cube form or butter.

een klontje suiker

een klontje boter
This is only an example of how specific and detail oriented the Dutch language is. There are also other words they use to describe something that really mean one thing in English. Having said that, I respect and admire the dutch for being so specific, so discipline and pay attention to the smallest details. Imagine if every language is such, how many words will be make up ? How many misunderstanding can easily be avoid?