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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dutchiness part 1: Nederlandse taal (Dutch language)


I wish to start a series called the Dutchiness to explain the Dutch as I see and experience, their culture, food, people, places and various other oddities that come to my mind. A series somehow I thought would give me more motivation to post frequently. The first topic was easy to chose, the Dutch language of course. Dutch is the native language of more than 22 million people and is spoken widely in the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname. Being one of the Western Germanic languages like English and German, Dutch strangely has similarities to Afrikaans, a language spoken widely in South Africa and Namibia. Dutch is definitely not the most difficult language to learn (think Chinese and Sanskrit) but then it is not so easy as well.

As an expat in the Netherlands, so is it absolutely essential to learn the language? Well, it depends on several things - how long you plan to stay here, which profession you are in and mostly if you have the interest to learn the language. Fortunately enough most Dutch can speak English. In work places I find it almost non essential (Engineering field). But it is at the coffee corners and lunches when you miss out the joke that you feel the prick to learn the language. Also, all the official letters, announcements in trains and buses, signs are in Dutch. So I have been at it for the past 10 months. I passed the beginner's course and am at the intermediate level. While my reading, listening and writing have improved quite a bit, speaking is still a problem.

In the initial days though (actually even now), my biggest help tool has been Google Translate. This God sent tool has eased several frustrating 'Dutch decoding' moments for me. In my opinion, if you are planning to stay in the Netherlands for more than 6 months, then go for atleast a basic course. It does please people to see that you are atleast trying. Did it help me at all at any point? I think it did. Recently at an interview for a project, the boss of the company was genuinely surprised when I answered some of his questions in Dutch. They offered me the post a couple of days back. If I decide to take it up, I will be their first non Dutch employee... :D

Some useful Dutch language websites:

www.taalklas.nl (highly recommended by my Dutch teachers)

Nothing replaces taking actual lessons though. Some Dutch language courses in Eindhoven:

11 comments:

vinaya said...

first arranged marriage process-a analyse panniyachu.. aduthadhu dutch-a?? hmmm... nadakatum nadakatum.. :-)

thamarai said...

hmmm..topic is Nederlandse taal? any comments on that? :p

Prasad said...

quite informative. I am also planning to join dutch class in feb. :-). Hey btw the first link www.taalklas.nl didn't work.

thamarai said...

hey thanks Prasad! Mistake duly noted and corrected! :)

EFRUTIK said...

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I think it's a novel idea :) I didn't read the entire post yet, since I am going to a memorial BUT I will get back to read it when I get a chance.

Good luck :)))

Archana said...

Ooh the life of an expat. :) I remember living in Indonesia and picking up the language, luckily Indonesian is a very simple language to learn. It definitely brings a smile to their faces when we try, because it shows that we're not only living in their country to make a living($), but also to genuinely integrate and acclimatize into their society. :)

The easiest tip to learning a language is to immerse yourself around individuals that all speak that language. That way you can pick up conversational Dutch easier. :) I'm sure if you work at that firm, your spoken Dutch will improve ten fold! That's how I picked up Spanish, partially via classes, but the greater majority around my friends.

I think I'm going to enjoy this series of posts! <3

Anonymous said...

The similarity between Dutch and Afrikaans is not surprising as South Afrika was also colonized by the Dutch. You can see the language as 17th century Dutch at a very basic level, further degenerated throughout time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrikaans

thamarai said...

Efrutik, thanks! :) Will look forward to further comments!

Archana, hey so how many languages do you know? English, Tamil, Hindi, Indonesian, Spanish.....? Cool girl! I agree, if I take up that project my Dutch would certainly improve. It is so important to blend into a new society. And language is definitely the most important way to go.

Anonymous, hey thanks for the information. I did suspect it, but did not look into it further. Certainly makes more sense now.

Anonymous said...

Hi
Thankx for your all kind information. Quite useful no doubt.
Also regarding afrikaans is derived from dutch as Efrtik mentioned not the other way :)
Always biggest challenge is speaking no matter how good u know 'dutch'.
By the way is your project needs dutch language or the company environtment recommends?

thamarai said...

hey Anonymous, thanks again for your comments. Language was not a pre requisite for the job, it was just a plus point.

Anonymous said...

One is not the other.
Anyway, interesting blog! keep op writing!

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