My first Language Quest learning Dutch is over. Sigh. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop right there and finish learning Dutch forever. Come on, you know me better than that! What is does mean is that I’ll be focusing more on French (and Portuguese until the end of July!) before tackling another language or delving deeper into Dutch.
It’s been a fun journey and as always, I’ve learn some really surprising things along the way. This is my favourite thing about language learning – the interesting, curious, unique things about a language; the things that make you go, “Ahh!” – and so this blog post was born! Here’s my 8 interesting things about Dutch.
Dutch has a surprisingly large number of French words, and not just words for gourmet cuisine as you would think but seemingly random stuff like trottoir, horloge and etage. Of course, this is the Belgian influence and it’s not as if the countries are a million miles away but I wasn’t quite expecting French to have such a selection of words that had made it into Dutch.
Some words have no relation whatsoever to languages you’d think. For example, bioscoop. Bioscoop means cinema. Whereas all the countries around the Netherlands have various but similar words for cinema such as kino, ciné etc, Dutch is like, “Hell no, guys! We’re going to go for a Greek hybrid of a word…oh and guess what? Then we’re going to take it to Bahasa Indonesian!”. Amazing.
Having a bit of Deutsch behind me, I thought that Dutch wouldn’t be too difficult in comparison to something like Japanese or Arabic for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn early on that it’s actually a lot easier than German! There’s no cases, no neuter gender, basically, none of the stuff that makes you squirm just a little bit when you’re speaking German! Hooray!
Ok, misleading title because slag doesn’t mean what might think. It equates to the French ‘coup’ or the English ‘hit’, ‘stroke’, ‘battle’ and quite a few others. Darn you with all your multiple words for one in another language, English! Also, if we’re going down this path, the word kont may not be what you think either. In fact, it means bottom! Best to not mix that one up.
Ketel is an old Dutch word for a big cast iron thing that would boil water on a stove. So when electric kettles (as we call them) came along, what better way to celebrate than with a newer and perhaps more logical word, waterkoker.
Quick, Slow, Quick, Quick, Slow.
Dutch has two words for fast: snel and vlug. Look a little like snail and slug, right? My thoughts exactly. But, hang on, snails and slugs aren’t fast! Online Etymology Dictionary tells me that ‘snail’ comes all the way from a Proto Indo European root “sneg” meaning “to crawl or creep”. Slug has similar origins. So what is slug and snail in Dutch, a language so close to English? Slak and haas. I suppose that makes sense.
He gets the beard in his throat.
Dutch has some cracking idioms. Someone’s voice breaking is no exception. Hij krijgt de baard in zijn keel – he gets the beard in his throat. Nice.
There’s a huge selection of Dutch words that you can add emphasis to by adding another (sometimes) similar word in front, creating a new word. For example, lijk = corpse and bleek = pale. So, naturally, lijkbleek = as white as a sheet! Mors + dood = morsdood. This is my favourite because it literally means “dead dead”. The English equivalent would probably be “as dead as a doornail”. I think I might try and start a new English trend by saying “doornaildead”. Catchy, no?
Have you got anything that tickles you about Dutch? Let me know in the comments!