Monthly Archives: March 2014

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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Not too bad (Or: B2 Dutch course #17)

A few weeks ago we had a minor test over chapters 1 and 2 in the textbook. Nothing too bad – you had to complete a few sentences, or put the right word in the sentence, or give the right synonym for a word… We got the test back today. Of course the teacher did some scare tactics and said almost everyone needs to work harder and that you should really have at least 70% right. Of course I didn’t study as hard as I usually do. (There was only 25 points and it was only 2 pages, so not that long.)

And then I got the test back and saw that I got a 90%, or 22 1/2 points out of 25 right. Considering I really didn’t study, I’ll take it of course!

Here are a few things I missed:

De brief waar we op hadden gewacht kwam veel te laat. (I had ‘die’, but forgot the rule where ‘die’ changes into ‘waar’ when there’s also a preposition involved. i.e. ‘op’).

Nadat we het ongeluk hadden gehad, hebben we een auto gekocht. (I left out ‘gehad’ completely, thinking I could mix the past tense of ‘hadden’ with the perfect tense of ‘hebben gekocht’. Sometimes you can, I found out. But not always…)

And here are some rules for het that we learned, although we might have already had it previously.

1. All diminutives are het words. (het hondje, het meisje – the dog, the girl)

2. All words that are exactly two syllables and start with one of these prefixes:

be – het begin, het bedrag (the beginning, the amount [i.e. the amount to pay])

ge – het geheim, het gezin (the secret, the family)

ver – het vervoer, het verkeer (the transportation, the traffic)

ont – het ontbijt, het ontslag (the breakfast, the termination [i.e. firing someone])

3. All words that end up -isme. het communisme, het kapitalisme (communism, capitalism)

4. All words that end up -ment. het argument, het monument, het parliment…. no translations needed, right?

5. All words that end up -tuig. het vliegtuig, het voertuig. (the airplane, the vehicle [i.e. anything with wheels])

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Who are you referring to? (Or: B2 Dutch course #16)

There wasn’t much in my notes from Thursday’s class – we did a lot of practice exercises it seemed. One thing I did write down was this exchange:

Pretend someone calls you and asks Is Mary daar? Is Mary there?

How do you refer to ‘Mary’ when you answer? Nee, …. is niet hier. No, … is not here.

In English it would generally be ‘she’ or ‘he’ (ze/zij or hij). It’s possible in Dutch as well. But in Dutch you can also say: Nee, die is niet hier. die refers back to the question, rather than the person itself. (This is much like my last post about Er, where I said er could refer to an entire idea/phrase/statement.)

And since this wasn’t the most comprehensive post, here’s a picture of dessert!

ice cream dessert by Spize in The Hague

cinnamon ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream

It’s from Spize, a Thai restaurant in The Hague. We went there back in January. Yum!

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Tijd om te stemmen (Or: Who shall you choose?)

Today was local elections in the Netherlands.

local election material for The Hague

yellow paper in the background – list of candidates from each party. On left – newspaper listing election choices. On right – ‘stempas’ or voting card.

Of course I can’t vote yet. For the national elections you need to be a Dutch citizen. For the local elections expats can vote if they are from an EU member country, or non-EU members can vote if they have lived in the Netherlands for 5 uninterrupted years. Read more (English).

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‘Er’ is a tiny word (Or: B2 Dutch course #15)

The last few classes we have talked about Er. It’s an adverb. In Dutch it has five different functions. It’s also a very, very annoying subject for buitenlanders to understand (myself included).

Function 1:

1. Er + telwoord (numeral, etc). Things to know with this form include:

a) it usually answers a question (if it is not you might be better off with function three)

b) some examples of telwoorden are: normal numbers (een, twee), but also words that describe an amount like weinig (not much), veel (a lot), geen (none), een paar (a few), een aantaal (a number).

c) er comes directly after the verb.

Heb je nog sigaretten? Do you still have cigarettes?

Ja, ik heb er nog twee. Yes, I have two.

Nee, ik heb er geen. No, I don’t have any.

Function 2:

Referring to a place. Er is the unstressed form of daar. Either might be used. Again, er/daar comes after the verb.

Ben je ooit naar Duitsland geweest? Have you ever been to Germany?

Ja, ik ben daar een paar keer geweest. Yes, I have been there a few times.

Function 3:

Er with an indefinite subject (There is a pen on the table, versus THE pen). Some things to know:

a) Er begins the sentence in a main clause. The indefinite subject comes after the verb.

b) You either use een (English = a) or nothing at all before the indefinite subject. Er loopt een man op straat. Er lopen mensen op straat. (A man walks in the street, people walk in the street – it is not always a clean translation)

Er staat een rode auto voor de deur. There is (literally: stands) a red car before the door.

Function 4 (B1-B2 level):

Here you have Er or the stressed form daar with a preposition. Sub function: Er pointing to a relative clause (i.e. a part of a sentence which cannot stand on its own like a main clause can).

a) For the first form, er usually combines with the preposition in some way. Usually as one word.

b) For the sub function, it’s harder to predict where er will be in this function. I think it is again right after the verb but I am not 100% sure.

Denk je aan de vakantie? (aandenken, to think of)

Ja, ik denk eraan(Yes, I think about it.)

Function 2 – sentence without Er first: Ik ben trots op mijn kinderen. (I am proud of my kids, trots op zijn). Sentence with Er: Ik ben er trots op dat mijn kinderen op school goede resultaten halen. Er refers to ‘that my kids get good grades at school’, a relative clause. It is not easy to master this function!

Function 5 (B1-B2 level):

The last use of Er is in a passive sentence. Usually (if not always), Er begins the sentence and is followed by a conjugated version of worden or zijn.

Normal, active sentence: Ze praten in Nederlands veel over het weer. They talk in Dutch a lot about the weather. Passive version: Er wordt in Nederlands veel gepraat over het weer. There is a lot of talk in Dutch about the weather.

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Celebrations (Or: St. Patricks Day in The Hague 2014)

a day early, but…

Of course when the previous place you lived was Pearl River, NY with the second largest parade in the state (at 100,000 spectators)… anything else will look really, really small in comparison.

The celebration in The Hague was basically one plaza. But, people seemed happy to inebriate themselves:

St Patricks Day The Hague 2014

There was also a live band:

St Patricks Day band The Hague 2014

And festive head gear on sale:

St Patricks Day items The Hague 2014

And a jolly demonstration of head gear:

St Patricks Day crowd The Hague 2014

So yes, it isn’t quite the same as a crush of 100,000 people, but it will do.

Categories: Holidays | Tags: | 4 Comments

A new teacher (Or: B2 Dutch course #14)

Happy Friday!

We found out earlier this week that we would have a new teacher every Thursday. In the beginning he was a bit nervous but he definitely got into the groove of teaching in the second half of the class.

One thing he did have was sentences where we had to fill in the missing conjunction. For example,

Er stond een lange file, vandaar dat ik te laat op mijn werk was. There was a lot of traffic, (and) from that I was late to work. Vandaar is  a bit bit interesting because it must always be proceeded by ‘dat’ or ‘that’.

Hij heeft erg weinig tijd. Dus gaat hij dit jaar niet met vakantie. He has too little time. Thus he is not going on vacation this year.

He also corrected our pronunciation a lot (probably a good thing!) and seemed quick to point out the differences between spoken Dutch and written Dutch. Things like mits (only if) and tenzij (but not if) being mostly written Dutch; normally you would say als (if) if you were speaking. Also daar (because) is written Dutch but omdat (because) is much more widely used especially when speaking.

He also talked a bit about the structure of a sentence, breaking it into its respective parts.

Jan en Joke || gaan || komende zondag || met hun kinderen || bij Tante Toos || logeren.

Jan and Joke are going to stay over at Aunt Toos with their kids this Sunday.

In Dutch you can start the sentence with pretty much element except logeren because it is the infinitive and is not a conjugated verb. You only need to remember one rule: the conjugated verb either comes first (if it is a question) with the subject right after, or the conjugated verb  goes into the second place, with the subject either right before it or right after it. The subject in this case is always Jan and Joke.

Here are some examples:

Gaan || Jan en Joke || komende zondag || met hun kinderen || bij Tante Toos || logeren?

Jan en Joke || gaan || komende zondag || met hun kinderen || bij Tante Toos || logeren.

Komende zondag || gaan || Jan en Joke || met hun kinderen || bij Tante Toos || logeren. (When you want to emphasis it is this Sunday.)

Met hun kinderen || gaan || Jan en Joke || komende zondag || bij Tante Toos || logeren. (When you want to emphasis that it is with their kids.)

Bij Tante Toos || gaan || Jan en Joke || komende zondag || met hun kinderen || logeren. (When you want to emphasis it is with Aunt Toos / where it is.)

Pretty cool, huh?

(Just say yes.)

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Bagels & Beans (Or: More cheesecake and coffee)

A few weekends ago we took a trip to Bagels & Beans, primarily known for their coffee and bagels (as if you couldn’t guess from the name!) They do have really nice bagels – examples include plain, cinnamon raisin, and everything. If you want cream cheese, you’ll get a generous portion as well. Always way more than I need, though I don’t like as much as most people do.

But we were there long enough that we decided to order round two… this time I went for an iced coffee and we shared a cheesecake.

cheesecake at Bagels & Beans

It wasn’t as good as the Cheesecake Company, but cheesecake isn’t Bagels & Beans speciality, either. Don’t get me wrong – it was perfectly decent cheesecake. 🙂 The iced coffee was pretty nice though. It’s funny, I never really drank coffee when I lived in America (until the last year I was there), but now I am quite used to the nightly ritual of coffee after dinner, or coffee after I get back from my Dutch lesson at 10PM. It doesn’t really ever keep me awake, so I don’t have to worry about that!

Categories: Food | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Sunshine (Or: Wandering through The Hague)

This past weekend the weather was quite beautiful in The Hague – 15/16C or around 60F. Yesterday Marco and I went for a short walk in the city, past the restaurants which seem to have exploded overnight in terms of outdoor seating, the Grote Kerk (below) and around the Buitenhof before heading back to the Grote Markt street to finish up our grocery shopping at Albert Heijn and charge my OV-chip card – something I do weekly thanks to needing the tram to get to work.

Here is one of the photos I took:

Grote Kerk in Den Haag

Grote Ker, Den Haag

Beautiful blue skies. Good times! And how nice for it to actually happen over the weekend for a change.

Categories: The Hague | Tags: | 2 Comments

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