Author Archives: Niki

About Niki

I run the blog http://www.lifeinthehague.com

Missing punctuation (Or: B2 Dutch course #23)

We had an interesting assignment today. It definitely makes you think a bit – and doubly so about how language works in general and how your brain perceives things. We received a text about the Nuclear Summit which occurred in The Hague last month, except that all of the punctuation and capital letters had been stripped away. It as our job to find them all.

It doesn’t sound that hard if it’s your native language, but you would encounter some difficulty when it is not. Especially with knowing where one sentence ends and the next one begins.

Dutch homework find missing punctuation

One thing to keep in mind: adding commas to signal when ‘extra’ information was given, i.e. information which is not strictly required. In English these are called non-restrictive clauses. (On the other side of the coin you have restrictive clauses, which signal important information and thus do not get commas).

Sindsdien geldt de top, die reeds twee keer is gehouden, als een van de meest prestigieuze topconferenties ter wereld.

Since then the top, which has already been held twice, has obtained the distinction of one of the most prestigious conferences of the world.

Note: instead of using commas to signify extra information you can also use two dashes.

 

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Videochats (Or: Electronic birthday cake)

Yesterday I had a videochat with my parents to celebrate my birthday. Imagine my surprise when the videochat connected and I saw this cake:

German chocolate birthday cake

German chocolate birthday cake!

That’s right. They bought a cake for me, even though I was in a different country! I then got treated to “Happy Birthday” from my parents, all the way across the ocean. :)

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Awwww (Or: birthdays and romance)

From Marco. :)

20140413-093615.jpg

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Snippets or phrases (Or: B2 Dutch course #22)

During this class we mostly did exercises out of the textbook (listening, speaing, and some writing). But there were a few things that stood out in my notes, namely random little phrases or expressions you can say in Dutch.

1. wat mij betreft: personally, for me, as far as I’m concerned. Wat mij betreft, kun jij een iPad kopen. As far as I’m concerned you can buy an iPad. Thanks for the example sentence, Marco!

2. Nee heb je, ja kun je krijgen: Literally – you have no, but you can get yes. Actually: if you don’t do anything (or do the work) you have nothing. If you do something, you might be successful.

3. Het zal mij benieuwen . . . I wonder if . . . Het zal mij benieuwen of hij komt. I wonder if he will come.

4. met je neus op de feiten gedrukt = to get someone’s attention so he can no longer ignore the situation (literally: with your nose pressed up against the facts … !)

I will also give a recommendation for this app if your Dutch is pretty good. I tried to download it last year but my Dutch wasn’t that great then, so I got bored quickly and deleted it. It’s an app that lets you guess what the meaning of various expressions (uitdrukkingen) are. It’s called Spreekwoorden and available for the iPhone/iPad/iTouch. Read more | Download/iTunes link.

It’s not the best app in the world but it’s free. The main “issue” with the app is that you are given an expression and have four choices to choose from. But each of the four choices is a legitimate answer for a saying, even if it is not the right choice for this saying. I assume the other three wrong answers are pulled randomly from the database. Thus sometimes you can easily tell which one is the right answer because the other three don’t make sense. (Of course, you can also be fooled!) And I will admit I found level 1 too easy so I went to level 2 and got a lot of wrong answers. Opps!

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The little things (Or: B2 Dutch course #21)

Last week Monday we had a short test (one page, front and back) covering chapter 3, or landscape. Sometimes it’s the little things that help – even if you feel like a nerd for studying.

Dutch test perfect grade

And what can I say – I accidentally managed to frame the image pretty well, with the book above and the pencil to the left.

The main thing that we learned last night was the the various functions of zullen (to “will”) and zouden (the past tense of the same verb). Zullen is a auxiliary/helper verb used for the future tense. However, it is not as simple as translating it as “going to”, because the Dutch tend to either use gaan (to go) or the simple present tense when talking about the future. Ik ga morgen naar het strand. I go to the beach tomorrow. Morgen kom ik thuis. Tomorrow I come home.

Four functions of zullen: 

1. to make a proposal. Zullen we naar het strand gaan? Should we go to the beach?

2. to promise to do something (sometimes with the word wel). Ik zal morgen koken. I will cook tomorrow.

3. Conveying a strong expectation, though it is not 100% certain. Jullie zullen wel goed Nederlands leren. You (all) shall learn Dutch well.

4. a very strong resolution to do something, with accent on zal and zullen. Ik zál volgend jaar mijn diploma halen. 

Five functions of zou/zouden (past tense of zullen):

1. A polite question or request. Form:

zou(den) + kunnen/willen/mogen + infinitive

Zou je dit werk willen afmaken? Do you want to finish/complete this work?  Zou ik misschien morgen jouw auto kunnen lenen? Can I maybe borrow your car tomorrow (implied ‘please’)?

2. Uncertainty. Form:

zou(den) + infinitive

Zou hij ziek zijn? Could he be sick?

3A. Something unrealistic. Form:

Zou(den) + infinitive, often combined with als and the verb in the past tense.

Als iedereen aardig zou zijn, zou de wereld beter zijn. If everyone would be nice, the world would be better.

3B. A wish. Forms 1 and 2:

zou(den) + graag (+ willen) + infinitive

zou(den) + wel + willen + infinitive

Ik zou wel eens miljoen euro willen winnen. I would like to win a million euros.

Ik zou graag miljoen euro winnen. I would like to win a million euros.

4. Giving adviceForm generally starts with Als.

Als ik jou was, zou ik een Ferrari kopen. If I were you, I would buy a Ferrari.

5. A reminder of an appointment or promise. Form:

zou(den) + toch + infinitive

Jij zou toch met de fiets naar school komen? You are definitely coming to school with the bike?

 * * * * * * 

If you are interested you can take a test about zullen / zouden at this link.

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Getting there (Or: Construction in The Hague centrum)

The construction smack in the middle of The Hague’s centrum area is progressing nicely – except that it’s annoying as heck when you have to get from point A to point B. But its perhaps a bit better now.

Den Haag centrum construction

Marks & Spencer is the white building in the background, for random reference.

They have finished one half of the road (Bijenkorf,  Albert Heijn and Hema are on the left). As you can see the right side of the road is now blocked off.

Progress is not without causalities, of course. They are almost ready to start work on the next part of this street, Grote Markt, so the flower kiosk had to be permanently removed. As the story goes, it doesn’t fit with the “image” that the city wants to give after the construction is done. If you read Dutch you can check out this article (though there’s a few images to give you the general idea even if you do not speak Dutch). Bijenkorf is in the back of the first linked picture, to give you an idea of where the construction is heading.

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Hun vs hen (Or: B2 Dutch course #20)

When I worked at my last position someone always remarked about the state of the Dutch language and how it is slowly degrading. Some people I talk with remark about the misuse of hun (their, them – when it’s a indirect object) vs. hen (them – when it’s an direct object).

And what are direct and indirect objects again?

Ik gaf het aan haar. I gave it to her.

het = direct object

haar = indirect object

Thus you can see a sentence like this:

Ik heb _____ gezien. (you are filling in the direct object)

hen = correct (for persons only)

hun = not correct, but often heard

ze = used for persons OR things

So what do we use hun for again? Possession of items.

Ik heb hun fiets gezien. I have seen their bike.

And what about prepositions? Because we all know those are just made to complicate things…

When preceded by a preposition, use hen (door hen, aan hen, voor hen).

And how did I get to the B2 level without realizing this?

As mentioned above, the unmarked/unstressed form for direct objects is ze. Thus: Ik heb ze gezien. is acceptable provided you are not emphasizing ‘them’.

If you can read Dutch, this is a very fun article to read. Kofschip op de klippen. It’s about a Dutch family which moved to the US, with the mother realizing that the children’s Dutch was being taken over by English phrases. Opening example: Ik heb de team gemaakt. (English – I made the team). Better Dutch: Ik wordt gekozen voor het team. I have been chosen for the team.

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Actively passive (Or: B2 Dutch course #19)

Last night’s grammatical topic was the passive form of sentences. These are sentences where the thing or person doing the action is not stated or is stated indirectly by using a preposition (by, through) so that the subject’s responsibility for the action is minimized. Here are some examples in Dutch. The tenses are present, simple past, present perfect and past perfect, in that order.

Active, het/een (or the/a) does not matter as much.

Hij bouwt het huis. He builds the house.
Hij bouwde het huis. He built the house.
Hij heeft het huis gebouwd. He has built the house.
Hij had het huis gebouwd. He had built the house.

Passive, where the object is known – i.e. het/the instead of een/a.

Het huis wordt gebouwd. The house is built.
Het huis werd gebouwd. The house was built.
Het huis is gebouwd. The house has been built.
Het huis was gebouwd. The house had been built.

(Anything else noticing the ‘fun’ problem where English using is/was for present and simple past, but Dutch uses that convention for present and past perfect? Yeah, it’s fun. Try not to think about it and you’ll actually have less issues!)

Passive, where the object is not known – i.e. een/a.

Things change a bit when you have an object which is not known, like “a house” versus “the house”. In that case it is much more common to use Er when using the passive form. 

Er wordt een huis gebouwd. There is a house built. (English=clunky)
Er werd een huis gebouwd. There was a house built.
Er is een huis gebouwd. There has been a house built.
Er was een huis gebouwd. There had been a house built.

You can hint at who did the action as well. In Dutch this is usually done by the preposition door. It is still passive because the emphasis on who or what did the action is downplayed (great for politicians!).

Het huis was gebouwd door Habitat for Humanity. The house had been built by Habitat for Humanity.

Er wordt een huis gebouwd door Habitat for Humanity. A house had been built by Habitat for Humanity.

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Old commercials (Or: “I feel like posting tonight”)

Back when I was a kid we had commercials for a product called “Chicken Tonight”. Small world I suppose – it was originally sold in America under the Ragu brand, but Ragu is owned by Unilever, a Dutch company. According to Wikipedia (same article in Dutch) it is no longer sold in America, but it is still sold in the Netherlands.

jar of Chicken Tonight

Of course the flavors are quite different in this country – while in America you had flavors such as Honey Mustard and Country French, here you have flavors like kerrie met ananas (curry with pineapple) under the Knorr brand. So we made that tonight, just to have a blast with the past type feeling.

Best part, of course, was the ridiculous commercials from the ’90s where people would say “I feel like chicken tonight, like chicken tonight” while flapping their arms like chickens.

Youtube commercial

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Compounding matters (Or: B2 Dutch course #18)

One of the things that was mentioned in last night’s class was the subject of compound nouns. Dutch, like German, has some pretty long words because it is in the habit of sticking words together more often than not.

The subject came about because of a dictee that we were asked to write (dictees are when a teacher recites a sentence and you have to write it a they say it out loud). Here was our dictee:

Er wordt vermoedt dat het taal- en rekenniveau in het basisonderwijs de internationale concurrentiepositie van een land bepaalt. It is suspected that the language and math level in elementary education determines the international competitiveness of a country. What a mouthful.

(If you’re keeping track at home, I misspelled vermoedt as vermoet because I had never heard of the verb before. I should have realized worden + verb would require the use of the present perfect after. I also misspelled rekenniveau as rekenenniveau – that was just a mistake of not listening carefully and thinking there was an extra syllable. I didn’t realize concurrentiepositie was a compound noun, and thus one word, though I correctly knew basisonderwijs was. I also originally wrote bepaalt as bepaald, getting the tense wrong until I realized it was simply present tense. I figured that one out though myself.)

But I digress… basisonderwijs is elementary education, but it’s actually made up of two words smushed together. basis onderwijs. The Dutch like to do that a lot, though you’ll usually see an s in between. When I go home from work I frequently see a sign “waarschuwingslichten buiten gebruik”, or warning lights are out of order. waarschuwing (warning) lichten (lights) with an s in between to help the pronunciation transition between words.

The main rule about compound words is that the last word determines the gender of the entire word. 

de taalhet niveauhet taalniveau

You can create compound nouns in Dutch using four methods:

1) two nouns: het theekopje (de thee + het kopje = cup of tea)

2) adjective + noun: de groothandel (groot + de handel = wholesale)

3) preposition + noun: de tegenspeller (tegen + de speller = opponent)

4) stem form of verb + noun: de eetkamer (eet [stem form of eten] + de kamer = dining room)

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Expatriating Julia

Engels expat, spreekt een beetje Nederlands and loving most of the Dutch way of life!

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stumblings and mumblings of a university student.

A Flamingo in Utrecht

My new life in the Netherlands

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your life... your way

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musings on life on the edge (of archaeology)

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An Egyptian In Holland

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