A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
After a painful battle with influenza, I emerged victorious from my bed for the first time in a week to vote yesterday. Whilst I get the impression that people have come to accept my complaining about being fatigued, or hugely behind on coursework, as part and parcel of what it’s like to converse with me, it’s my Dutch nationality that really surprises.
On the one hand, I recognise that I have a definite preference for speaking English. I’m very shy when it comes to opening up to people through Dutch. Whilst I feel perfectly comfortable using Dutch in everyday situations, such as thanking the bus driver or buying groceries, I get incredibly insecure about my Dutch in more intimate social settings.
In such situations, it sometimes feels like I am unable to express my truest self, as what I would say in English doesn’t always translate smoothly into Dutch. I then need to express myself differently to get the same point across, and this slight divergence in vocabulary choice or use of mannerisms doesn’t always come as naturally. I suppose this is where language and behaviour, extendable perhaps to cultural preferences, intersect. It requires practice and exposure, and in my case, also some courage, to translate intended meaning from one language to the next. All-in-all, I sometimes struggle with nuance, despite having been raised bilingually, and knowing the ins and outs of Dutch culture quite well.
On the other hand, being able to speak Dutch fluently and you know, being Dutch, I sometimes get frustrated when I do speak Dutch to people and they reply in English anyway. Although I recognise that people are trying to be accommodating, important to note here is that my accent isn’t necessarily odd or dare I say ‘foreign’. I think, it really comes down to slightly archaic word choices at times. Furthermore, having lived here for 6 years now, it still perplexes me that people address me in English purely based on looking at me. I think this partially comes down to dress sense and partially to body language. That said, until about a year ago, it only contributed to my aforementioned insecurity regarding Dutch, and up until today, I still can’t quite pinpoint why I’m not considered Dutch upon first glance. Having accepted that this is just a downside to being raised within a multicultural environment for myself, I can imagine that living in the Netherlands, and actually feeling fully at home here without speaking Dutch, can be quite difficult.
Having read a number of articles on The Leidener about why learning Dutch gives you an advantage (just to confirm, it absolutely does), I thought it would be much more exciting to teach you some Dutch vocabulary whilst simultaneously showing you around The Hague. You’ll find new vocabulary in the description under each picture used in this blog post. At the very end of this post, you’ll find a summary of the vocabulary as a word list, with the Dutch words first, followed by the English translation. Ultimately, I hope that by teaching some context-based vocabulary to you, that you too might overcome any insecurities you might be experiencing in regard to speaking the Dutch language or living in the Netherlands. Happy learning!
1. Ridder – Knight
2. Zaal – large room/ hall
3. Kerk – Church
4. Lucht – Sky
5. Paspoort – passport
6. Stem/ stemmen (v) – to vote **
7. Stem/ stemmen (n) – voice/ voices
8. Binnen – inside
9. hof – courtyard
10. Binnenhof – inner courtyard.
10. Ingang – entrance
11. In – in
12. Gang – hallway/ passage way
13. Raam – window
14. Lente – spring (season)
15. spring/ springen (v) – to jump: ik spring, jij springt etc. **
16. Paars – purple
17. Wit – white
18. Bloem – flower
19. crocus/ crocusen – crocus/ crocuses
20. Boom – tree
21. Fiets – bicycle
22. Man* – man
23. Pak/ pakken (v) – to grab **
24. Terras – Terrace
25. Lichtjes/ lampjes – lights*/ lamps* (examples showing string of lights).
* note: the pronunciation is different
** let me know in the comments if you want me to explain verb forms in Dutch in a future blog post.