Monthly Archives: October 2013

Vandaag, nu, hier (Or: Dutch class 16 by ROC Mondriaan)

Last night was the 16th class by ROC Mondriaan. We did something that we have done almost every Wednesday (as we have different teachers on Monday and Wednesday). It is an exercise called Vandaag – nu – hier or Today – now – here. I think it’s an exercise the teacher himself made.  It covers about 20 very simple sentences like:

Het lokaal is… The classroom is… [#106]

Het seizoen is… The season is… [herfst/fall]

De lesdagen zijn… The class days are… [maandag & woensdag/Monday and Wednesday].

Usually he goes through the exercise once and then tries to put a spin on it. This time when he asked the temperature questions he began a discussion about freezing, melting, ice, hail, and similar things.

Then we moved on to the book. We started chapter 5, Leren en Werken or Learning and Working. Instead of starting with the introduction page on the right side, he first asked us to look at the photo on the left side. It showed a woman helping a male teenager using the computer – presumably she was his mother or teacher. He asked us to describe the photo and then he asked us to guess her age. He then launched into a discussion about guessing and uncertainty:

een raden = iets dat je niet weet maar je zegt het toch. Something you don’t know [for sure] but you say it anyway. ‘a guess’

Ik raad dat zijn leeftijd 15 is. I guess that his age is 15.

Ik geloof dat… I believe that…

We then talked about the education system in the Netherlands which you can read about on Wikipedia. First you have onderwijs (education) and then you have opleiding (university or job training). The interesting thing about Dutch education is that around age 12 you take the Cito test which helps your teacher and parents determine what track you should be on in high school.  It is of course possible to step sideways to another track (higher or lower), although if you going to a higher track you might need to start at a slightly lower year than you otherwise would have if you had stayed in your own track.

The highest track (gymnasium – nothing to do with physical education!) also teaches ancient Latin and Greek. That sounds pretty cool if you ask me…

And here I was just happy that I was able to pick from German, French and Spanish in high school. (I ended up with 4 years Spanish and 2 years French although only 2 years in one language are required.)

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Up and down progress (Or: Dutch class 15 by ROC Mondriaan)

Back to hitting the books!

Last night our Dutch teacher had a pretty good explanation for what happens when you learn Dutch – or any other language for that matter. The progress isn’t always as fast as it was in the beginning…

The Progress of Learning Dutch

The above photo is quite true. Sometimes at work I have “bad days” (nothing that comes out of my mouth seems to make sense to the library customer!) and then there are “good days” (when I am actually able to articulate myself “on the fly” as it were – or quickly and effortlessly). Work is the hardest place to speak Dutch, because I never know what the other person is going to want or ask. In other situations with family and friends it is much more relaxed.

We also learned a few new vocabulary words (in a section about parents buying mobile phones for their children):

gloednieuw – pas gekocht, helemaal nieuw. Something you just bought, completely new.

peperduurvroeger kwam peper van Azië en het was heel duur. In the past pepper came from Asia at a terribly expensive price. Now something can be not just duur (expensive) but can also be peperduur.

We also looked at writing a formal letter, something I learned in my last class at Volksuniversiteit, though practice never hurt anyone. One thing I did learn though is this phrase:

Bij voorbaat dank voor uw … Thanks in advance for your…

antwoord / reactie / medewerking … answer, reaction, consideration/participation

Or a few other ways to say you’re waiting for their reply:

Ik hoor het graag van u. I hear it gladly from you.

Kunt u mij snel een reactie sturen? Can you send a reaction quickly?

Ik wacht op uw antwoord/reactie. I wait for your answer/reaction.




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Odd Sculpture (Or: A different library)

A few days ago I took a walk to a different library in The Hague — Transvaalkwartier library in Hobbemaplein. I needed to check out a audio book (luisterboek) that was not available in the Central Library. It was recommended to me by a friend. Of course, I downloaded the tracks onto my computer but still need to put them into iTunes and transfer them to my iPhone. I always need to take that extra step due to not having a CD drive in my netbook. So I can’t tell you how interesting the story is quite yet.

But on the way there I did come across an odd looking sculpture. I am not quite sure what the meaning is behind it but it was colorful enough.

sculpture in The Hague

Things have been going well since my last blog post. It’s only a few more weeks until Marco and I’s honeymoon (yay) and it is almost time to start planning holiday events and dinners. And of course we have to figure out when we are going to watch the new Thor movie coming out (cool), although I am definitely more excited for the next Hobbit movie in December.

I enjoyed my week off school (due to herfstvakantie/fall vacation) but tomorrow it is back to a normal week. The best part about not having classes was not having to quickly make dinner and then rush off.  But now it’s back to the grind, it seems! Just kidding.

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Graffiti (Or: Futurama in The Hague)

Futurama is an American animated TV show which also appears on Comedy Central in the Netherlands (and Pirate Bay, but I digress…). Someone in The Hague is apparently a big fan of Bender, a robot character on the show.

Futurama grafitti in The Hague

That’s Bender on the right, holding a TV remote saying his trademark phrase: “Kiss my shiny metal …”, with the … included. I’m not sure who the other characters are, but they are not from the same TV show.

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Laziness (Or: Pigeons who refuse to move)

A few days ago I had to make a trip to Albert Heijn to get some groceries. On the way there I saw a flock of pigeons just lounging around listlessly. One of them was even lying down, not caring at all that people were walking only a few feet away from it.

lazy pigeons in The Hague

The birds have a pretty good life in this city. Plenty of food and not many predators. We also have a lot of seagulls that hang around in The Hague. At first I thought they come over from the nearby beach in Scheveningen but they seem to hang around in The Hague year-round. I once saw 20-30 seagulls screeching loudly at some point across the street and dive bombing the area, only to realize after a few seconds that some woman had dumped a lot of old stale bread over the railing down to the street below. That bread was completely gone, with the exception of crumbs, in less than 30 seconds.

Of course, on the way back, the same pigeon pictured above was there, still not moving…

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A sudden switch (Or: New Albert Heijn bonus cards)

Today I unexpectedly had to give up my now old Albert Heijn bonus card (bonuskaart). They have been announcing for a month or so that new bonus cards were coming, though at the top of my Albert Heijn app it said ‘fill in your new bonus card number before January 6’ so I thought I had a bit more time. Perhaps it was a language barrier issue – I said yes to a packet with the new card in it (so I could look it over) and then all the sudden the cashier was taking the bonus card off my key chain and throwing it out. Opps. Maybe if I had said no, I would have been able to keep my old one for a bit longer.

The biggest controversy with these cards is that they also offer personal deals beyond what is offered to everyone else. Nice, huh? Well, of course to get those deals you have to activate your card and give up more personal information about yourself. (For the record this does not bug me THAT much, except for giving out my phone number.)

new Albert Heijn bonus card packet

At first I was concerned because I didn’t want to activate my new card right away – I thought I had more time. But after getting home and reading through the instructions, it does say that the card can be used right away. It says: Deze nieuwe kaart vervangt uw oude Bonuskaart. Uiteraard kunt u met uw nieuwe Bonuskaart gebruik blijven maken van al onze Bonusaabiedingen. Daarvoor heeft u niets te doen. U kunt deze nieuwe Bonuskaart meteen gebruiken aan de kassa. 

Exception: if you want to see previous purchases you need to make an online account and register your card. I can no longer see previous purchases on the Albert Heijn app (newest version, iOS7). As soon as you update the app you are required to do this, whether or not you have an old or new card. It ‘forgets’ your old card.

nieuwe bonuskaart bij Albert Heijn

the card itself (with option to cut off the blue part and use it on your key chain/”sleutelhanger”), as mentioned at the bottom in Dutch)

I’m not quite sure how it works in this country – previously I was using a copy of Marco’s card – but perhaps it is not as common to require personal information for grocery cards as it is in America. Perhaps the old cards had no personal information on them at all and only collected anonymous data about shopping patterns. Whereas in America you usually have to give your address, phone number, and email. Whether or not they were actually valid was up to you…

Of course, like anything new, there are issues to address: there is no pin-code or password needed to see prior purchases online, and almost all of the bonus card number is displayed on the receipt (only a few standard numbers are missing). Though that article is from September so perhaps it has been fixed already.

new Albert Heijn bonus card info

what you get if you activate. 1: exclusive deals. 2. faster air miles (note these is not the same as airport air miles!) 3. gifts.

new Albert Heijn bonus card offer

various coupons you can receive if you activate before the 27th of December. ‘Welkomstdeals’ -> Welcome deals

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Advertisements and drawings (Or: McDonald’s and Starbucks)

Yesterday Marco and I took a bus from Central Station in The Hague to Wassenaar, a nearby suburb of The Hague, for the birthday party of a friend’s kid. While we were waiting at the bus platform I decided to take a picture of a McDonald’s advertisement that seems to have sprung up everywhere in the last few days. (In actuality, most advertising spaces seem to go to the same advertisement, and the advertisements change every week. So you are usually bombarded by the same advertisement over and over.)

McDonalds advertisement in The Netherlands

It’s a picture of a sundae (available in chocolate or caramel) with the tagline “ook lekker op Mondae”. Also tasty on Monday. While most of the tagline is in Dutch, they did not change the name of the day from the English Monday to the Dutch maandag for the joke, as that would kill the joke a bit.

Starbucks drawing in The Hague Centraal Station
Of course we did not stop at McDonald’s before going to Wassenaar, but we did stop at Starbucks in Central Station and split a vanilla latte. Yum. I can still vividly remember how excited Marco was when the first Starbucks arrived in Schiphol airport. Of course that worked well for him because he was constantly visiting America for the yearly Wrestlemania trip or the other 3-4 trips to see me.

It wasn’t much longer after that (a year or so) before the Starbucks opened in The Hague in the Central Station. But then it wasn’t as special, because you could just walk there to get a good coffee. You no longer needed to hop on a plane. ;p

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English pronunciation (Or: Dutch class 14 by ROC Mondriaan)

NOTE: Next week is herfstvakantie (fall vacation), so there will be no class related blog posts.

Like all languages, Dutch steals from other languages. Sometimes they prefer to use English words in place of Dutch words, especially with newer technology (internet, websites, and etc). They tend to pronounce these words with an English pronunciation. I should be happy right? English is my native language – sounds easy for me!

Except that it’s not that easy. I find it quite difficult to switch pronunciations mid-sentence. Things like journalist do not take the usual Dutch pronunciation for the (making it sound more like yer-na-list) but rather keep the English j. We had the word journalist as one of our vocabulary words in Wednesday’s class. Case in point: today is Friday so when I went to the Albert Heijn I told the cashier Fijne weekend! (happy weekend) however I said weekend with a Dutch accent and then corrected myself. We had a good laugh.

In Dutch the work week is spelled the same but pronunciation is closer to the English word ‘wake’, just with a bit more English ‘v’ than ‘w’. (Plural: weken, pronounced like vay-ken). But for some bizarre reason the Dutch like to pronounce weekend as … the English word ‘weekend’. Hmm.

Other things we discussed in class: ooit / nooit. Ever / never. The two usual uses:

Ik wil nooit een konijn hebben. (I never want to have a rabbit.)
Heb je ooit chinees gegeten? (Have you ever eaten Chinese?)

Not too unexpected there. In this case ooit translates to ‘ever’. But it can also translate to ‘once’ (although you can generally use other Dutch words like vroeger.)

Deze deur was ooit blauw. (This door was once blue.)
Deze deur was vroeger blauw. (This door was earlier blue.)

Finally, you can also use ooit a third way, which I learned in class. The Dutch also use ooit to point to the future – though the point is not known.

Ooit zal ik naar Duitsland gaan. (‘Sometime in the future’ I will go to Germany.)

Or the slightly more depressing Ooit zal ik je weer zien, which is apparently a Dutch song. Sometime I will see you again.

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Voorzetsels, my nemesis (Or: Dutch class 13 by ROC Mondriaan)

You might be able to guess what voorzetsels are if I use the other common Dutch word for them: preposities. 

That’s right. It’s time to talk about the evil prepositions that lurk within any language. Obviously they are not that evil in English, because it’s my moedertaal (literally: mother language). But in Dutch… oh no. Run!

It’s also made more fun by the fact that you have vaste or fixed prepositions. That means that some verbs/expressions always take the same preposition. My first memorable experience with prepositions after moving here was which one to use after wachten, or ‘to wait’. In English the expression is ‘to wait for’. So naturally one would assume you can say Ik wacht voor de bus.

But that means that you will see this coming at you:

front of bus

That’s right… it means you’re waiting (literally) before the bus, in the street. Hmph. Whereas English has two words – ‘before’ and ‘for’ – there is only voor in Dutch.

(While I was looking for a good image, I can across this article about a woman who missed a bus and decided to catch up with it at the next red traffic light. She lay down in front of it until the driver let her on…)

If you want a rather exhaustive list of fixed prepositions, you can look at Dutch Grammar (it also includes English translations).

Some important ones include:

kijken naar (to look at)
luister naar (to listen to)
bang zijn voor (to be afraid of – zijn is ‘to be’)
denken aan (to think about)
houden van (to love – ik hou van jou – I love you!)
praten over (to talk about)
praten tegen (to talk to [someone])
praten met (to talk with [someone])
wachten op (to wait for *wink*)

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Apps (Or: Get it spelled NL)

This weekend a family member introduced me to another Dutch app. It is a spelling app which for the moment seems to only be available for iOS6+ (iPhone, iPad, and iTouch). it is called Get it Spelled NL.

So far I have only played with the free version, which lets you oefenen (practice) without any timer. You can also play online against random other players. That is most definitely not my thing! Not even with an English app. If you upgrade to the Pro version it looks like you can also play with a timer at easy, medium or hard levels. I’m perfectly happy with the practice level, of course. It takes long enough as is…

Get it Spelled NL app screen

For those of you who already live in the Netherlands it is pretty similar to a basic version of Lingo. You need to guess what the 6 letter word is, and are always given the first letter (annoyingly, you always need to start your guesses with that letter). Green means that you have found the correct letter for that space. Red means that you have found a correct letter but it should go somewhere else. (Be warned – if you have two identical red letters, it sometimes means the letter appears in one other space in the word and sometimes it means the letter appears in two other spaces.)

All in all it seems like a pretty decent game. It is harder than it looks, especially for buitenlanders (non Dutchies), but without a timer it allows you to play at a more leisurely pace and thus look up any answers that you didn’t know existed before!

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