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!

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Dutch on Duolingo (Or: Now available on iOS/Android!)

I was pleased to receive an update from Duolingo – this update now includes the ability to learn Dutch. I have written about Duolingo before, but I personally think the experience is vastly improved by being on a mobile device. Duolingo is more on the minimalist side – there isn’t a lot to stare at on each screen. The iPhone version simply reduces the white space, without losing any of the look and feel of the PC version. And in this case, using your finger is much faster than using the mouse.

Duolingo for iOS

Duolingo for Android

Duolingo for the iPhone

Note that if your Dutch is already at a higher level you do have an option to test out of the various levels. Duolingo is great for reading, writing and listening, but the Dutch version does not have speaking exercises available yet (perhaps because this language course is still in beta).

Duolingo uses the concept of gamification – using gaming concepts (achievements, earning experience points, etc) in learning settings to make users keep wanting to come back for more.


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Onze Taal (Or: App for the advanced Dutch crowd)

A few weeks ago I re-downloaded an app that I had previously downloaded last year sometime. Originally when I downloaded it I was pretty lost – because it is all in Dutch and actually designed for a native Dutch speaker. The app is Onze Taal (Apple | Android), which translates into ‘Our Language’. It makes a lot more sense now, for the record.

The app is actually an extension of a website that appears frequently in Google results when searching for a Dutch grammar question. The site answers a lot of questions, popular or obscure, like How do I properly conjugate the English verb ‘to email’/say ‘I have emailed you’? Ik heb jou ge-e-maild. Yes, two hyphens. No – seriously. Originally it was geë-maild, because:

1. ge = a prefix that goes in front of a lot of verbs when conjugated in the perfectum (present perfect)

2. ë = two dots over a vowel signify that it is the beginning of a new syllable

3. – = a hyphen because in English you can also write it as e-mail

3. maild = this is actually a typical Dutch conjugation. The verb is e-mailen, so -en is removed and -d added.

But in 2005 the rule changed; letters that stood apart (like the ‘e’ in e-mail) should instead be preceded by a hyphen. Thus: ge-e-maild.

Better to use the verb sturen, or to send…

The website gets the rules from the “Green Book”, which is a publication through the Dutch Language Union.


Oneze Taal app screenshot


Oneze Taal app screenshot 2


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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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Muiswerk (Or: A Dutch dictionary app)

Muiswerk is a Dutch dictionary app (Apple | Android). I remember downloading this in the beginning of the year but not finding much use for it. The reason – I wasn’t ready yet. This app is completely in Dutch with no English to be found. In the beginning I found that pretty discouraging, but now it is exactly what I need.

The app contains about 40,000 common Dutch words. Each word has a definition and at least one example sentence. Afterwards, some words include uitdrukkings, or phrases, which are used within the Dutch language. For example, you can see below “geen slapende honden wakkermaken” — don’t wake a sleeping dog — with the definition [geen aandacht vestigen op wat beter geheim kan blijven]. This saying is similar to the English saying ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.

Muiswerk Dutch dictionary app

In addition, verbs include the conjugations (ik schrijf, hij schrijft) and each page includes links to words used on that page (meer informatie bij…). For example, if you did not know what aandacht was you could click the link and be taken to the aandancht page.

Muiswerk Dutch dictionary app 2

If you are somewhat comfortable with reading Dutch you should definitely give this app a try!


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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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Dutch apps (Or: Guess Words)

This game has been added to the Dutch Apps page.

Guess Words is a Hangman type app made for Dutch, English, French and German. English is the default language but you can switch to Dutch in the settings.

Guess Words Dutch hangman app

This app does not get the best reviews, but if you are looking to learn random vocabulary, it should be useful. When you first start to learn Dutch, this app might be more frustrating than helpful because you do not have a large vocabulary to work with. Instead, you will just find yourself picking random letters (usually vowels or R, S, T!) in the hopes that something will pop up.

The free version is limited to five letter words, although the paid version allows for three to seven letter words. This app also gives you the option of entering a word yourself (up to 12 letters) and then having your partner guess it.

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Dutch apps (Or: Word Tap, a word finding game)

This app has been added to the Dutch Apps page.

Word Tap is a word finding game available in multiple languages, including Dutch, English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese. The default is English so you will have to switch the language in the settings if desired.

Word Tap Multilingual Edition app

The game has a two minute timer in classic mode. Level mode has you progress through 10 levels. Your goal is to find as many words as possible before the time runs out. Longer words with rarely used letters give you a higher score. Words can be formed in pretty much any direction – left to right, right to left, up to down, down to up, and diagonally. (So you can click a letter, click the letter to the right of it, and then go diagonal for the next letter).

In addition, you can hold a letter and drag to move it in a new direction. You can also shake the iPhone to give yourself new letters.

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Apps (Or: Dutch Words – Nederlandse Woorden)

This app has been added to the Dutch Apps page.

Dutch Words – Nederlandse Woorden (by Tung Vu) (Apple)

This is a pretty interesting game which requires you to move around letters to find and make a Dutch word. It’s a newer app (Nov. 2012) and is consequently still a bit rough around the edges as it crashes occasionally. It is highly recommended that you read the instructions on the official Apple app website, because they are not repeated in the game itself.

Dutch Words Nederlandse Woorden app

You start with a mostly empty board, with six letters in random places.

Step 1: Tap a letter to select it (image 2).

Step 2: Tap a square to indicate where you want it to move to (image 2). Note: You can only move a letter to that square if there is a clear path for it to get there.

Step 3: Swipe a word to get it to disappear and gain points (image 1). The words can be left to right, right to left, up to down, or down to up.

Note also the magnifying glass – that is a Dutch-English dictionary that shows you the definition for the last legal Dutch word you played.

Also note the three letters at the top left (ATT, AXT). These are the three letters that will appear at the next turn in a random place. You can also press the reset button to reset the board.

As mentioned above, the game crashes occasionally, but not too often. You can leave the game and return to it by pressing the home button with no consequences (for example if you wanted to open a dictionary program which might give you some ideas of what words to look for).

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65 pages (Or: Example of “makkelijk lezen”)

Today I went back to the Hague public library and decided to sit down and read one of the makkelijk lezen (easier reading) books. The series I picked up is called “Fast Lane” and the particular book I had was In Het Donker – In the Darkness. As you can see below, the format of the lines is definitely different than a regular book, with short lines that can’t even really be called paragraphs:

example of easier to read Dutch book

The book was about 65 pages long, but as you can see there wasn’t much text per page. Some of the pages were grouped with half a picture, and some of the pages were entirely a picture with no text. I managed to finish the entire book in about an hour and a half or so.

This particular book was rather formulaic in its vampire theme, but nonetheless I enjoyed reading it. I used the Google Translate app and the Dict Box app which has multiple dictionaries for NL-EN and EN-NL. You can also customize which dictionaries show up (I quickly removed the image dictionary as it was only for English words).

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