Posts Tagged With: Dutch language

Making your own practice tests (Or: NT2 Staatsexamen)

Sort of a joke, but I complained to Marco that there were not enough spreekoefenen (speaking tests) for the NT2 programma II exam. There are a few on the website, and a few longer practice questions in the textbook De Finale, but not enough if you seriously want to study.

You can see an example of what I mean by looking at this image of an example question (medium length).

So what does he do? He makes his own pictures and tells me that I need to make a story out of it (where did you go, how did you get there and what did you do).

NT2 spreektoets plaatjes

Crazy! But awesome…

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Staatsexamen, programma II (Of: Mijn ervaring)

Please note this post will be in Dutch. For my English-only readers, it basically talks about my experience taking a Dutch language test issued by the government with four sections: writing, speaking, reading and listening. Successfully passing each section (either together or separately if a part needs to be re-taken) fulfills a requirement for Dutch residency that must be done within 3 years. I’m pretty sure I passed every section the first time around, but I won’t know for about 5 weeks.

Op woensdag en donderdag heb ik het Staatsexamen: Nederlands als Tweede Taal, programma II gedaan. Het doel van programma II is om te laten zien dat je op een hbo/universiteit niveau kunt werken of studeren. Programma II is B2 niveau (zie ook Gemeenschappelijk Europees referentiekader).

Ik heb het examen vooral voor het plezier gedaan maar het is ook goed voor mijn inburgering. Binnen drie jaar moet je een taalexamen doen. Het laagste examen is het inburgeringsexamen (A2). Dan heb je NT2 programma I (B1) en NT2 programma II (B2). Je moet één van de toetsen doen. Als ik voor NT2 geslaagd ben (alle vier delen), dan hoef ik geen toetsen meer te doen.

Ik heb mijn examen bij de Rijswijk examenlocatie gedaan (vlakbij Den Haag). Dus misschien is sommige dingen anders voor je.

Algemene informatie:

1. Ze leggen ALLES uit. Punt voor punt – ze geven je veel informatie over wat mag en wat mag niet, wat je bij het examen moet doen, hoe de computer werkt, enz. Je kunt ook het meeste van de informatie op vinden voordat je het examen doen.

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Halfway there (Or: Taking the Staatsexamen)

As some of my readers know, I am halfway through the Staatsexamen. I had two of the parts today (writing and speaking) and have the other two sections (reading and listening) tomorrow. The goal I am hoping for is to pass all four the first time around so I do not have to repeat any sections. We will see how that goes.

I will write up more of a report on how it went either Friday or this weekend, but for now I figured some of my family and friends would want to know how the first parts went: good, no trouble with writing. Speaking I had a little trouble but nothing too bad. I can’t say for sure that I passed – but I would be somewhat surprised if I didn’t. I mostly had trouble with the last two longer questions, where you are required to speak for up to two minutes each.

There was some oddness with both sections: wow, everyone is furiously typing – why do they need to write so much? and wow, everyone is still talking? Couldn’t they say what they wanted to say in one or two sentences? But I am comfortable with how much I wrote or said. ;p

More later in the week!

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Study, Study, Study (Or: Staatsexamen Programma II)

It’s about time for me to take the Staatsexamen (programma II) and I can’t lie and say I am not nervous. But eh, het komt goed (it’ll turn out alright). The central library for The Hague had three practice exams (2012, 2009, and 2003-04) which I have done fully. There are also two additional tests on the official website ( though I am pretty sure there’s a mistake with the 2002-03 test for the speaking part as the audio files and the test don’t seem to be from the same test.

At this point I am focusing more on speaking and writing as those tend to be the harder sections. Writing is mainly to improve; I don’t really have a fear of not passing that one unless something monumental happens. Speaking should be alright, but there’s always the chance of suddenly forgetting how to speak!

Poor Marco – I’ve been bugging him to help me with checking my speaking and writing, and taking criticism in those areas is not my strong suit. But it is not much longer now, and then I will be able to move on with other Dutch activities.

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Toetsverklaring (Or: End of the B2 Dutch course)

Yesterday our Dutch class was invited to our teacher’s house for a barbecue get-together. At the end of the night she passed out certificates for those who students had passed the course (to pass, you needed to get 3 out of the 4 sections at B2 level).

toetsverklaring NT2 B2 Mondriaan

I succeeded in getting everything at the B2 level (the last row in the chart). 

Op weg naar = on the way to. i.e., in between a level.

Along with the certificate the teacher also said a few words about each of us. How awesome! Of course when she talked about me she talked about how I said right away that I was a grammar nut. 🙂 She also bought each of us a book and this is the book I received:

Taal is zeg maar echt mijn ding

Taal is zeg maar echt mnijn ding = Language is really my thing. Appropriate, don’t you think? I haven’t had time to read it yet but I hope to soon.

And lastly… last night I signed up for the Staatsexamen programma II. Awesome! I will be taking it later this summer. After that the language courses stop for the most part (most people don’t go past this) though I do know of one place that has a C1 course if I really want to keep going – next year maybe.

I am sort of nervous about it but I know if I buckle down and study I should be fine. More excuse to visit the library and study [says the librarian]!

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B2 cursus examen voor Lezen/Schrijven (Or: Klaar!)

Okay, I am officially tired! And this wasn’t even the real exam, which will be sometime over the summer. Quick recap: tonight was the reading/writing tests for my B2 Dutch course at Mondriaan.

We took a vote and most wanted to start with reading first. I am not sure why – writing is more draining – though I did like someone’s comment that if we do reading first we might learn a few sentences to use in the writing portion after.

The reading portion was 60 minutes and 25 questions (compared to 100 minutes and ~40 questions for the acutal staatsexamen). I did fine here – I was mainly concentrating hard to see how close I could get to perfect. I think I got pretty close – though I probably missed one. I used all of the time, but that meant being able to go back and leisurely check all of my answers after I was done.

The writing portion was also 60 minutes and was 20 questions. It was a mix of sentences that you have to fill in, questions where you need to write 2-3 sentences, and short writing tasks (including 4-5 short letters). This was harder – I generally use all of the time for things like this, not leaving myself a lot of time to go back and double check that everything is perfect (de puntjes op de i zet – dotting the i’s, compared to the English expression “dot the i’s and cross the t’s”.

No real problems with this test either – but I did work hard as it provides good practice for the staatsxamen.

Two tests down, two to go.

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Learning Dutch for adults (Or: At the library)

When an adult learns a new language they are at a disadvantage compared to children. Kids tend to learn languages much faster the younger they are. In addition, when kids move to the Netherlands they will likely attend a Dutch speaking school, or at least a bilingual school. Children also have the advantage of making less mistakes later – I have heard that even the best learners of Dutch will still make mistakes with de/het (the) even after 30-40 years. Some things you truly need to learn from a young age.

That’s where libraries come in – they can help close the gap between how fast children and adults learn languages, though it is not perfect.

The first thing to tell you yourself is that it is okay to make use of the children’s section for the first year. For instance, the Centraal Bibliotheek (Central Library) in The Hague allows adults to browse children’s books – the only rule is that the study desks are for children and adults are asked to study somewhere else.

I will now explain the book classification system in use in the Netherlands, which can be found on the spine of a book. Look for stickers with these letters:

AP – books for toddlers. These include board books (made of material that is more durable for toddlers who like to chew on books), “soft” books that feel nice to the touch, picture books, and the very beginning books. It will also include the most basic dictionaries like “Mijn Eerste Van Dale” (My First Van Dale; Van Dale is a very popular dictionary.) Be careful though – some picture books will still have a lot of words on the page because it is intended that the parent reads to the child.

AK – books for preschoolers. These books are a bit harder. Again, it is assumed that parents will be helping so sometimes the language is still hard.

******* Learning to Read

E/M books (avi-niveau) – these are the books to help children learn to read. They are usually very thin and can generally be read alone. They have their own system, largely based around what group you are in. In America you are in “grades”, here you are in “groups” (see also this Wikipedia article). In general the system is either M (for ‘middle of the group’ ) or E (for ‘end of the group’) followed by the group number. Google “avi niveau boeken” for more information.

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Helemaal uitgelezen (Of: De Brief voor de Koning)

English follows after.

Op vrijdagavond heb ik het boek De Brief voor de Koning uitgelezen. Eerlijk gezegd moet ik ‘helemaal uitgelezen’ gebruiken omdat het een dikke pil voor mij was – ongeeveer 450 paginas! Ik heb andere Nederlandse boeken gelezen, maar niets met zoveel paginas. Ik heb het van de Centraal Bibliotheek geleend and daar was het geclassificeerd als een ‘B’ boek – dus een boek geschikt voor een kind tussen 9 en 12 jaar.

De Brief voor de Koning
De Brief voor de Koning is een heel beroemd boek geschreven door een Nederlandse schrijver, Tonke Dragt, in 1962. Tiuri, de hoofdpersoon, zal ridder worden. Hij moest alleen in de kapel overnachten, zonder niets te doen of zeggen en wakker te blijven. Maar ineens hoorde Tiuri een klop op de deur – iemand vroeg voor hulp. Zou hij de deur openen (een ridder moet mensen helpen, toch?) of zou hij niets doen (en de regels volgen om een ridder te worden)? Uiteindelijk ging hij naar de deur en daar begon zijn verhaal en avontuur – hij moest een brief aan een andere koning geven, een koning in een heel ver weg rijk. Maar de vijand was niet ver achter hem…
Ik weet niet meer hoe lang ik bezig was met het lezen van het boek – sinds september? oktober? Maar nu is het helemaal uitgelezen. Ik heb al het vervolg geleend – Geheimen van het Wilde Woud. Dit heeft misschien 465 paginas. Hmmm…

(Bedankt aan mijn SamenSpraak taalcoach – hij heeft me met het boek geholpen).

De Brief voor de Koning binnen

On Friday evening I finished reading De Brief voor de Koning (The Letter for the King, English wikipedia).  If I am honest I must say ‘finally finished’ because it was a very thick book – about 450 pages. I have read other Dutch books but nothing with so many pages. I borrowed it from the Centraal Bibliotheek (Central Library) and they classified it as a ‘B’ book – a book for 9-12 year olds.
De Brief voor de Koning is a very famous book written by a Dutch writer, Tonke Dragt, in 1962. Tiuri, the main character, is about to become a knight. He must only stay in the chapel overnight, without doing or saying anything, and stay awake. But suddenly he hears a knock on the door – someone asked for help. Should he open the door (a knight must help the people, right?) or should he do nothing (and follow the rules to become a knight?). In the end he went to the door. From there his story and adventure begins – he must deliver a letter to a King in a different kingdom. But enemies weren’t far behind…
I don’t know how long I was busy with reading this book – since September? October? But now I have read it cover to cover. I also borrowed the sequel – Geheimen van het Wilde Woud (Secrets from the Wild Forest). This one has about 465 pages. Hmmm.

Thanks to my SamenSpraak coach – he helped me with reading the book.

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Using ‘te’ in Dutch (Or: B2 Dutch course #30)

In today’s blog post we are going to learn about a small word called te in the present tense, sometimes part of a phrase  om … te. It usually gives the listener a bit more information about why you said something in your sentence – try making the first part a statement and then inserting a question word (why, what, when, etc)  in the middle of sentence and it will become a bit clearer that what follows after is more information and/or an answer.

It also sometimes be translated as “in order to” in English (old English had something similar which was dropped in modern English).

De kat ligt op de tafel om te slapen. The cat lies on the table to sleep.

De kat ligt op de tafel. Waarom? Om te slapen. The cat lies on the table. Why? To sleep.

De was hangt buiten om te drogen. The laundry hangs outside to dry.

De was hangt buiten. Waarom? Om te drogen. The laundry hangs outside. Why? To dry.

Note: Om and te are not always next to each other in the sentence. But the one rule you can follow is that om begins the phrase and te comes right before the last infinitive in the sentence (although we will not get into double infinitive construction here, which happens in the present perfect and past perfect).

Het is leuk om jou weer te zien. It is nice to see you again. (Literally: It is nice to you again see.)

There are a few lists of verbs which take te in the present tense. I will split them up into two groups because they have different rules in other tenses.

verb + te + infinitive (verb group 1)

1. staan to stand
2. zitten – to sit
3. liggen – to lie / lay
4. lopen – to walk – Ik loop de hele dag aan het examen te denken. I thought about the exam all day.
5. hangen – to hang
6. durven – to dare
7. hoeven – to need (usually used in negative sentences, i.e. Ik hoef geen jas. I don’t need a jacket.)

The astute student will realize that the first five in orange are part of a group in and of itself – these five verbs are frequently used to describe a more continuous action and the physical state of the subject while the action occurs.  Thus the example above about thinking about the exam all day – most people are still going about their normal business and walking around while doing so.

 verb + te + infinitive (verb group 2)

Again, these two groups are only split because the rule for other tenses, not covered here, are different. Thus it is better to learn them separately.

1. beginning – to begin Ik begin Nederlands te leren. I begin to learn Dutch.
2. beloven – to promise Ik beloof om eerder thuis te zijn. I promise to be home earlier. (see how ‘eerder thuis’ gets put in between om … te
3. besluiten – to decide
4. beweren – to claim
5. dreigen – to threaten
6. proberen – to try
7. hopen – to hope
8. weigeren – to refuse
9. vergeten – to forget

verbs that do not use te (in any tense)

There is also a special list of verbs that do not use te at all (at least within the same clause). These include some very common verbs.

The five auxiliary/helper verbs:  mogen, moeten, zullen, kunnen, willen

And other well known verbs: laten, gaan, komen, blijven, zien

Mag ik hier roken? May I smoke here?

Mijn buurman wil een nieuwe auto kopen. My neighbor wants to buy a new car.

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Rearranging sentences (Or: B2 Dutch course #29

Another Dutch lesson tonight. I believe that I posted about something similar last month, but it can’t hurt to have another example. Our teacher reviewed how to dissect a sentence again – and more specifically, figure out the various ways to move around the sentence parts to change where the emphasis lies. Take this sentence for example:

Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid gaat mijn oudste dochter komend weekend met de trein naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. With all likelihood my oldest daughter will take the train this weekend to (visit/see) her aunt and uncle in Limburg.

Now break up the sentence into parts that logically “go” together (and cannot be separated), or die zinsdelen die bij elkaar horen.

Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid || gaat || mijn oudste dochter || komend weekend || met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. 

Now label (as much as possible) what the various parts of the sentence are. gaat is the verb, mijn oudste dochter is the subject, komend weekend is an expression of time, met de trein is a manner of how to do something, naar haar oom en tante in Limburg and also naar alle waarschijnlijkheid are prepositional phrases which give extra information.

Now attempt to rewrite the sentence, with other elements besides “naar alle waarschijnlijkheid” beginning the sentence. (This will be possible with all of them except the last one, as beginning with Naar <plaats> is a bit clunky.)

The biggest rule to remember: the subject (mijn oudste dochter) can be in the first position, the second position (with a question) or the third position right after the verb in the second position (when another phrase starts the sentence, like above). In simple sentences the subject and verb are always next to each other.

1.  Mijn oudste dochter || gaat || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  || komend weekend || met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: who goes?)

2. Komend weekend || gaat || mijn oudste dochter  || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  ||  met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: when do you go?)

3. Met de trein || gaat || mijn oudste dochter || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  || komend weekend  || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: how do you go?) This is more clunky – for the simple fact that if someone asked you how went somewhere, you are much more likely to say simply “Met de trein.” and not state all of the information above; you’ve probably already told them everything.

Thus in total you have four decent ways to manipulate the sentence to change the emphasis.

I suggest trying this trick on a few sentences you pull out of the newspaper, especially if you are still learning about proper word order for Dutch sentences. 😉

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