Learning Dutch

Random reads (Or: An exercise in Dutch)

Last month I posted my reading list for th first half of 2016. So far, July is going even better! I have read about 560 pages (around 18 a day, but I have a hard time sitting down and reading on a daily basis so it is much more varied than that).

Here is a look at some of the books I’ve read in Dutch (or am reading) this month:

1) Never let me go (Laat me nooit alleen) by Kazuo Ishiguro (English | Dutch), a dystopian science fiction novel which follows the lives of three students at a boarding school. But these students (and their classmates) are in fact clones, raised for the sole purpose of providing organs to others once they graduate.

2) The guest cat (De kat) by Takashi Hiraide (English | Dutch), a short book (~160 pages) about a cat who visits a young, work-at-home couple on a daily basis. Free to come and go as he pleases, the cat quickly becomes the centerpiece of their lives, even though he is only a guest.

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3) Player One (Speler een) by Douglas Coupland (English | Dutch). I just started this one. It follows four people at airport bar over 5 hours as a worldwide disaster begins outside — Karen, who waits on a perspective internet date; Rick, a bartender who no longer drinks; Luke, a pastor who fled with his church’s savings; Rachel, who has trouble connecting with others; and a mysterious voice known only as “Player One”.

4) The Dog Stars (De Hondsster) by Peter Heller (English | Dutch). I haven’t started this one yet. “Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.” Hmmm….

And on to August!

Categories: Reading, The Hague | Tags: | 2 Comments

13 1/2 pages (Or: Reading habits the first half of the year)

Earlier in the year I upgraded my library card to the ‘Sterpas’ (Star pass) and decided to start reading more Dutch fiction. The upgrade wasn’t required but I do like keeping a book for four weeks instead of three. I am pleased to say I have read 2,468 pages since the beginning of the year, at a rate of around 13 and a half pages per day. I tend to prefer psychological novels (at least in Dutch). For this type the emphasis is on inner thought and reflection rather than on outward dialogue (Wikipedia: Dutch | English).

Here are the books I read in the first six months of the year, in order:

Vonne van der Meer, De avondboot – 302 pages. It’s actually book two of the Eilandgasten trilogy.

Vonne van der Meer, Laatste seizoen – 192 pages. This is book three of the Eilandgasten trilogy (I’ve linked to the entire work above). I don’t believe it’s been translated into English — only into German, unfortunately.

Eilandgasten trilogie book cover

Robbert Welagen – Het verdwijnen van Robbert, 160 pages. A pretty intriguing read – a man decides one day to get up and leave his old life, without warning. The title translates to “The disappearance of Robbert”.

Continue reading

Categories: Reading | Tags: | 2 Comments

Zij, hen and hun (Or: Check this one out)

I just heard about a fun website that talks about the differences between zij, hen and hun. Well, fun if you like Dutch grammar…

Hoe zat het ook alweer met zij, hen en hun?

I have tried to explain the difference before, back when I was actively in Dutch classes in what feels like a long time ago. But I must admit this website does the trick a lot better!

 

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Comic above is from Fokke & Sukke. The grammar doesn’t translate well into English, unfortunately. But the student is asking the teacher if instead of “Atilla the Hun” it is “Atilla the zij”, which makes sense if you consider the website above is trying to teach the difference between zij, hen and hun.

Categories: Learning Dutch | Tags: | Leave a comment

A world of books (Or: A new library card)

It is time to renew my library card. Over here in the Netherlands, library card fees are not part your property taxes so you have to pay for one separately. On the plus side, it is pretty inexpensive to get a library card – children’s passes are free, with additional discounts based on age (it’s cheaper if you are 18 to 25 or over 65, for instance).

I’ve always been in love with libraries. I can still remember as a kid checking out 15-20 Hardy Boys mystery books at a time (I never got into the Nancy Drew mystery books, unfortunately). And amazingly, not having that many late books. After that I moved on to the Science fiction / fantasy books section for adults, so my time in the children’s department was over.

Here in the Netherlands I’ve had a basic pass for the last three years – I remember feeling antsy waiting for enough identification proof to come in to be able to get one (like in the US, you need to prove you live where you say you live, so I needed to wait for something to be mailed to me with my name and address on it).

This year, I decided to go with one of the options above the basic one. I went with a Sterpas (Star pass):

Sterpas library card (The Hague)

The main difference is how many books you can check out at a time (12 books versus 18) and how long you can have them (3 weeks versus 4, with two renewals regardless of your card type). To be honest, it’s not like I ever expect to need more than 12 books at a time – I’m not a kid anymore – but the four weeks lending period is nice. There’s a few other benefits, like maximum 18 free reservations (yes, it’s not free in this country like it might be in parts of the US) and free movies/games/etc, rather than paying a euro and a half per piece.

Sterpas library card (The Hague) and website

Library card with the library website behind it

If you’re living in the Netherlands and looking to learn Dutch, keep in mind the Central Library of The Hague has a pretty big collection to help you out. It’s now on the 2nd floor, by the escalators. I’ve previously written about the “Leer Nederlands” collection.

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Today’s theme is: Stories (Or: Dutch podcasts)

I’ve added a few more podcasts to the Dutch podcasts page. They are:

Achter het verhaal (“Behind the story”) – This podcast interviews journalists to get the ‘story behind the story’ for an article published in the print or online newspaper. It’s from ‘Dagblad van het Noorden’, or ‘Daily paper from the north’ as a rough translation. When in doubt, pick the newspaper stories that interest you the most to listen to.

1 minuut / Plots – 1 minuut is a podcast with stories that last about 1 minute each. A great way to learn the language. My only criticism is that you need to have a podcast player that can automatically play the next episode, but that is nothing against the podcast itself. On the other side you have ‘Plots’, true stories told over about 45 minutes. Both are by VPRO, as is Toendra above.

VPRO also has podcasts ‘1 minuutjes jeugd’ and ‘1 minuutjes kleuters’, both of which are more appropriate for children to listen to.

Of course I also have my favorite podcasts in English. I’d prefer to listen to similarly quality Dutch podcasts to kill two birds with one stone (enjoy myself and hear more Dutch) but you cannot have it all. Some of the English language podcasts I listen to could be best categorized as docudrama’s or serialized fiction – stories broken up and told week by week or month by month.

The Black Tapes podcast – inspired by Serial (a non-fiction podcast following the case of someone imprisoned for his girlfriend’s murder), The Black Tapes is described as “a serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her enigmatic subject’s mysterious past and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both”. Season one just finished.

Limetown – “Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappear from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more “What happened to the people of Limetown?” (But be warned – there’s only a few episodes ready and there seems to be a small delay publishing more.)

What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Categories: Learning Dutch | Tags: | 2 Comments

Podcasts (Or: Passing time at work)

I’ve added a new page to the blog – podcasts. The blog already had an apps page for Dutch apps (games or informational) so I thought it might be interesting to add a page for my other interest, podcasts. I actually started listening to podcasts late last year, around the time of the Serial craze. Serial wasn’t the one that hooked me to listening to podcasts, though. I’d probably say Strangers or 99% invisible was.

What is a podcast?
An audio file which can be downloaded off the internet, generally in installments (weekly, monthly, randomly). The topics can be anything – Strangers was just… stories/memories, heartfelt, sometimes sad. 99% invisible is a podcast about design. Little facts about things you never thought about. For example, one of the more recent episodes was about the bathysphere, a crude device from the 1920s for descending deep into the ocean depths.

What do you need to listen to it?
I listen on my phone. If you have an iPhone, it comes pre-installed with the Podcasts app. I have recently switched to Overcast, which has a very handy feature of skipping backwards or forwards by 30 seconds – useful if you listen to podcasts at work like I do and get distracted. It’s free, but I am liking it enough that I might actually donate the suggested 5 euros to unlock all features someday soon. Apple TV also has the Podcasts app. But most of the podcasts also have a website, so it is possible to listen from your computer as well.

What are some of my favorite Dutch podcasts?
Unfortunately, I don’t have many. There obviously isn’t as much choice as what you would get in English. If you listen to any others please comment!

Continue reading

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Boekrecensie (Or: Eilandgasten bij Vonne van der Meer)

This blog post will be written in Dutch. It is a book review for a fiction book I recently finished. Unfortunately the book is not translated into English but you can read a review in English if you’re interested (or let Google translate take a stab at this blog post).

* * * * * * *

De laatste drie weken heb ik een boek uitgelezen, een boek met de titel “Eilandgasten” bij Vonne van der Meer. Het gaat over verschillende mensen die een vakantiehuis in Vlieland huren tijdens een zomervakantie. In totale zijn er zes korte verhalen. Eigenlijk wilde ik dit bibliotheekboek snel lezen en in een leentermijn terugbrengen. Het was net niet gelukt. Ik heb het op vrijdagavond uitgelezen maar ik moest het op vrijdag ook terugbrengen (dus ik heb de leentermijn verlengd).

Het boek begint met een introductie over het vakantiehuis (met de naam “Duinroos”). In deze introductie is het perspectief van een schoonmaakster, een vrouw die Duinroos (en andere vakantiehuisjes) schoon maakt. Daar hoeft geen dialoog bij; zij is alleen als zij het huisje voorbereidt voor de eerste gasten. Dit geeft de introductie een rustig begin, wat bij een eilandvakantie hoort. Hoewel de schoonmaakster het probeert kan zij niet zien wat er gebeurt. “Soms zou ik willen dat ik dit huis niet alleen schoonhield, maar dat mijn armen de muren waren, mijn ogen de ramen. Dat ik kon zien en horen wat Duinroos meemaakt.” Als zij tussen gasten Duinroos schoonmaakt, vindt ze wat macaroni op de trappen. Ze vindt het vervelend – wie denkt dat de keuken boven ligt? – maar ze was niet erbij om het antwoord te weten. Maar de lezer wel.

Wat ik bijzonder aan het boek vindt is de connectie tussen de huurders hoewel ze nooit op de zelfde tijd het huis gehuurd hebben. De connectie is gemaakt tussen kleine, alledaagse objecten net als een gastenboek, een veertje, en een tak. Of een gast die een halflege fles met augurken in de koelkast laat liggen. “Het gaf hem een prettig gevoel de onbekende die na hem kwamen een plezier te doen.” En dat komt wel terug, maar niet naar zijn wens. Het allerbelangrijkste object is het gastenboek. Heb je ooit door een gastenboek gekeken om te zien welke personen ook hier waren? Een beetje nieuwsgierigheid naar het verleden?

Dit boek was een rustig, kort boek (het was maar 205 pagina’s) dat wel echt spannend was. Het was geweldig om te raden hoe het gastenboek een rol bij dit verhaal speelt, of hoe het veertje terug komt, enzovoort. Hoewel mensen met problemen naar het eiland komen, is Duinroos een plek om hun probleem uit te werken. Zoals Sanne in het gastenboek schrijft: “All shall be well.”

C vdMEER (omnibus) DL rug42.8mm v06.indd

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Random Dutch phrases (Or: B2-C1 course #6-#7)

Okay, so I missed the post for last week’s course! In actuality, it was just more fun to blog about Sinterklaas.

A few highlights from last week include the word hekkensluiter which literally means “gate closer” but translates more as the person who comes last (or brings up the rear, or lags behind). If you think about a group of people crossing through a gate, it is always the last person’s responsibility to close the gate behind them.

Another piece of grammar we learned last week was how adjectives which follow behind iets or niets (something or nothing) have an -s added to the word. But it has to come directly after iets or niets.

Er is niets leuks op televisie. There is nothing good on tv.
Ik wil iets bijzonders doen. I want to do something special.
Wil je iets lekkers bij de koffie? Misschien speculaastaart? Do you want something tasty with the coffee? Maybe speculaastaart?

Some fun phrases we learned in yesterday’s class include:

wachten tot Sint Juttemis = waiting forever. Another way to say waiting forever is wachten tot je een ons weegt, or waiting until you weigh an ounce. Impossible to do and still be alive.

Als je ergens mee zit = amusingly, Google translate says this is “if you sit on something”, but admittedly, it is not something to be translated literally. It means “if you have problems”. Type that phrase into Google and you will get a lot of self-help websites about depression and similar.

And here’s a random picture of Scheveningen to close off the blog post. Not the best quality in the world, but it will do.

Scheveningen November 2014

Notice the tree off to the left completely covered in white lights. On the right side you have the movie theatre, Pathé, with the yellow logo on the top of the building. The north sea is behind the tall buildings in the center.

And hey, I’ve now visited Scheveningen enough (and needed to look up tram schedules) that I can spell the city name without having to look it up… cool!

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Ignoring illegality – gedogen (Or: B2-C1 course #5)

This week, one thing that we covered in my Dutch class was the concept of ignoring what is officially illegal. The term for this (a verb) is gedogen. The Dutch do this with soft drug use (cannabis) – allowing “coffee shops” to exist. The rules call for no advertising to take place, no hard drug sales on the premises, no sales to those under the age of 18, no quanities greater than 5 grams, and no public disturbances. Ironically the coffee shop is allowed to buy and sell cannabis within the rules above, but the supplies of the cannabis are not allowed to grow, import, or sell it to a coffee shop. Thus the expression “the front door is open, but the backdoor is illegal”.

During the class we also discussed the various forms of certain words. For example, nu (now) is both an adverb and a conjunction.

Ik ga nu naar de bibliotheek. I am now going to the library.
Nu het te laat is, komt hij. Now that it is too late, he comes.

In the second example, nu translates to “now that”; you wouldn’t say nu dat het te laat is, but you still invert the order of the sentence as if you had done so. I’ll be honest – I had no idea about this one and could only stare at the teacher blankly as she asked if we had heard of this piece of grammar.

Something similar can be done with toen (then), which I knew. It is also a adverb and a conjunction, depending on the sentence.

Kids or new speakers to the language 😉 tend to say En toen… en toen… en toen… as they tell a story. “And then I did this. And then we went there. And then we ate this.” In that sense it is an adverb. But toen is also a conjunction – Toen ik naar huis ging, heb ik de hond gevonden. “When I went home, I found the dog.”

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Word webs (Or: B2-C1 course #4)

This past week was the 4th of 10 lessons for the Dutch B2-C1 course at Volksuniversiteit in The Hague. One thing that stood out to me was the assigned homework. We had to construct a word web to show how you can go from one word to either synonyms or antonyms.

Like this (taken from the text book):

Dutch word web

The original discussion came from discussing the qualities that the Dutch are known for, and being tolerant is one of them (opinions can differ, of course). Hence the Nederlands on the right (for Dutch). On the top you have three verbs which are similar to the noun, including to accept, to understand (though probably begrijp is better) and to allow. After that you have antonyms: intolerance and discrimination. On the left, underneath, you have expressions or feelings which are created when talking about tolerance (in this case: freedom, living together, and culture), and further two more adjectives: understanding and respecting.

Not the perfect representation but you get the idea! It was definitely an interesting assignment.

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