Last night was my 6th Dutch lesson at the Volksuniversiteit in The Hague. The main topic for this lesson was learning the simple past. The title of this blog post reflects that, as Er was eens… is the beginning of a faerie tale, much like “Once upon a time” starts English faerie tales… [“was” is used for the past tense in both English and Dutch.]
I definitely felt a bit out of my element here even though I had done the homework in advance. There are rules for when you can use the perfect (I have called) and the imperfect (I called), otherwise known in English as the present perfect and the simple past.
The imperfect/simple past is used with description and a description of habits that occur over a period of time. I don’t quite grasp it yet, but you use the perfect/present perfect when you are describing a single moment in time, or a single action. Thus when you ask about someone’s vacation, the answer usually starts off in the perfect before moving to the imperfect/simple past for the description of events. One example:
– Hoe lang ben je op vakantie geweest?
Ik ben twee weken op vakantie geweest. In de eerste week ging ik naar Turkije. De eten smaakte lekker. In de tweede week ging ik naar Rome. Ik vond de stad mooi.
– How long have you been on vacation?
I have been on vacation for two weeks. In the first week I went to Turkey. The food tasted nice. In the second week I went to Rome. I found the city beautiful.
Now, I can already tell you my explanation has holes in it, so don’t think about it too much. Just do!
Some other things: there is no class next week due to the Easter holiday – pasvakantie. (Easter = Pasen). This is cool because it means I can hang out with Roger, as he usually visits on Tuesday nights. ;p
Another thing we did was mention what we heard in the news (to practice our Dutch speaking skills). One tidbit – the Netherlands is now ranked 3rd in the world for its proficiency of English as a second language. This led to the professor telling us a joke about mixing English and Dutch together in unpredictable ways, though it’s unconfirmed. Here it is, taken from Wikipedia:
One of the best quoted examples of Dunglish was said to have taken place between the Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns (a man whose main foreign language was French, the language of diplomacy prior to World War II) and John F. Kennedy. At one point Kennedy inquired if Luns had any hobbies, to which he replied “I fok horses” (the Dutch verb fokken meaning to breed). Likely taken aback by this strangely obscene reply, Kennedy asked “Pardon?”, which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for “horses” (“paarden”) and enthusiastically responded “Yes, paarden!”
With that craziness – until next time!