My posts often have a Dutch word (maybe two) related the topic of the blog entry. However, I thought I would share some of my favorite Dutch words and expressions.
Knuffel – This word means hug. I love the way this word sounds as well as the meaning. (Yes, you pronounce the k too.) Who doesn’t love hugs or knuffels?
Knoflook – Knoflook is one of the first Dutch words I learned. If you know Mike and me well it should not surprise you that this word means garlic. Knoflook isn’t just lekker or tasty, it is also fun to say.
Vogel or Vogeltje – Vogel is a bird and vogeltje is a baby bird. I love the way the Dutch pronounce v’s – part f part v. Follow the Dutch v with the Dutch g (which is very visceral since it sounds like you are getting ready to spit) and you have a word that is fascinating to hear.
Gefeliciteerd met je/uw verjaardag – If we translate this loosely you are wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” but the literal translation is “congratulations on your birthday.” You say this to the birthday person and say “gefeliciteerd” or “congratulations” to their friends and family. Why congratulations? I am not sure but it does feel good to be congratulated every so often. So why not your birthday?
Het was gezellig – This phrase, and gezellig in particular, doesn’t have a precise translation into English. It is used to describe spending time in great company and/or doing something enjoyable. Google translates gezellig as cozy. Bab.la Woordenboek translates it as cozy, close, intimate, homy, and sociable. Wikipedia says it is cosy or quaint. All of these definitions talk around the meaning but never hit it straight on. The best way to describe it is this: Imagine you just had an amazing experience that you are describing to a friend. You can’t quite express all the positive feelings you have about the experience so you finish your story with a lame “well you just had to be there.” You-just-had-to-be-there is “het was gezellig.”
So this week I have been babysitting* an awesome little girl (she is about a year old) while her mother learns Dutch. This week has been so much fun! At the beginning of the week, I found I was speaking to the girl in half-Dutch half-English. Now I talk to her almost completely in Dutch; sometimes she responds ja or nee. Like me, she enjoys books so I have read to her in Dutch. I have even tried to sing to her in Dutch, although I forgot half the words to the song- oops. (I did remember a carol in German – that is close to Dutch, right? – so I sang that too.)
Several days this week we have gone out to the heath. The girl really enjoys looking at trees and flowers while she is in her stroller. For those of you unfamiliar with Dutch strollers, the stroller wheels are pretty thick and well-treaded so they go fairly easily over sand, grass, rocks etc. The Dutch enjoy being out in nature so they make sure they can bring their kids with them.
In one area of the heath, there is a kinderboerderij (similar to the stadsboerderij). Sadly, she wasn’t very happy to see the animals.
I am sad that tomorrow is my last day watching her.
*Actually co-babysitting with another woman. Having another person is helpful.
For those of you keeping track it has been about 8 weeks since I took my Dutch immersion course with Sylvia. I have been making the effort to speak Dutch everyday or at least read and listen to Dutch. Often my interactions are with shopkeepers or waiters so my conversations don’t usually last very long. Although last week I did have a nice long conversation with a shopkeeper. We discussed a wide range of topics from artwork (the shop sells art and curios from around the world) to living in the Netherlands. I got to use some vocabulary that I don’t often get to use so it was very exciting.
In addition to my regular errands, I have gone to a few events to meet people and practice my Dutch. Normally, I am not very social but learning a language forces me to be social. You may remember that I recently learned to paint in Dutch. I also checked out a couple language cafes in Amsterdam where I met other Dutch speakers including my friend, Joanna. She and I have begun meeting a couple times a week to work on our Dutch. It is great to have someone to have a language partner who is learning with you and cheering you on. To anyone else learning another language, I highly recommend learning with a friend or two.
This week I took a 3 day intensive Dutch language course, Learn Dutch Fast. It was amazing, a little intimidating, fun, and very helpful. During my 3 months in the Netherlands, I picked up a few words and phrases but not enough to create a dialogue with anyone. I knew I wanted to learn Dutch and after my first three months here, I realized how much easier my life would be.
Happily, a good friend also wanted to learn Dutch. So we decided to take a private immersion class together. This was my first time ever learning by immersion so I was a bit nervous but also very excited. We made amazing progress during the class and understood more than I had expected. I am now sold on immersion learning.
We learned while cooking, walking in the woods, shopping, and playing with the instructor’s dog. It was fun but challenging.
I have not reached native speaker level but I am able to ask questions, understand shopkeepers, and waiters (for the most part). I am looking forward to using my new Dutch and building my vocabulary.