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
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.
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.
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’.
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.
If you are somewhat comfortable with reading Dutch you should definitely give this app a try!
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Two new apps have been added to the Dutch page. I have my iPhone registered to the Dutch store, and my iTouch is still registered to American store, so hopefully this way I can find more Dutch games. (It’s not as easy as I had hoped!)
Words Maker Pro (Apple)
This app is available in English, Dutch, German, French, and Spanish. You can either play against the computer in varying difficulty levels or you can play a multiplayer game if you and your friend have a game center account.
Initially you are given 25 letters, and from those letters you must make a word that is between 3 and 7 letters long. You drag each letter down from the playing board to the “rack” to make a word. On each round, you have two squares which are double letter and one square which is triple letter, for a higher score. The game ends when all 100 letters are used or when both players ‘pass’ on their turn.
This is a fun game to play if you are learning Dutch, as it really tests you to find words to play. The trick is to play it while also using a Dutch-English dictionary, so that you learn new vocabulary when the computer plays a word you do not know.
9292 (Apple | Android)
This public transportation app is all but essential if you don’t have a car in the Netherlands. It shows routes and times for the tram, train, bus, subway and ferry from point A to B. You can also create an account and save locations to your device so you don’t have to enter them each time.
Today I added a new page for the blog: Dutch apps. It has always been my goal to create different pages across the top of the screen (look in the upper right near ‘About’) that talk about different Dutch things – language, moving, daily living, etc.
These are the apps that I use on my iTouch, mainly to help me learn the Dutch language. Here’s a sample:
DutchWord (Apple) –
This app gives you 1 new word per day. They give you that word in an example sentence (English and Dutch).
They also have a game where you are asked how to spell a word (random words it seems). For example, you might see on your screen:
And you have four letters beneath. i, e, a, o. You have to fill in the blanks from left to right. Once you start getting used to Dutch spelling rules, you will start to see patterns. For example, the end of the word is probably -lijk, so you don’t want to click on the i just yet.
With some trial and error you click the a (clicking the wrong letter just says ‘Opps’). So now you have fats–nl-jk with i, e, o left. ‘oe’ is more likely to be a letter combination in Dutch than ‘eo’, so try the o next then the e. Finally put in the i – fatsoenlijk. Sometimes the game is hard (you have to fill in all of the letters) and sometimes it is easy (you only have to fill in two letters, and both happen to be o!) but at least you see the word again.
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Feel free to post your favorite Dutch apps in the comment area! Anything related to the Netherlands – it does not have to be about learning the language only.