Assocation of language lovers Onze Taal (‘our language’) has published the results of an informal poll that suggests that 95% of all Dutch pet owners talk to their pets.
The type of pet and whether or not the animal is deaf doesn’t seem to matter. People address their pets in their local dialect.
Popular ‘conversations’ are: admonishments, compliments (“Who is the cutest kitten in the world? You are!”), sharing what the owner is going to do (“Mummy is going to the pet store”) and, apparently, deliberation (“Is it OK if I move your bowl over here?”).
People don’t just talk to pets, but also inanimate objects. Furniture gets apologised to when bumped into, and encouragements are uttered towards blocked robotic vacuum cleaners and bent trees.
According to someone who works for Bright.nl, yesterday all of a sudden their Google Home Minis, a type of wireless speaker and voice command device with an integrated AI-based virtual assistant started to understand his commands in Dutch. Before then, his entire family had to ask for everything in their best American English.
After choosing Dutch as a default language, all devices stopped working except the Hue lamps, a line of colour changing LED lamps with wireless control, and the Honeywell thermostat. Sending images from the front door to the television with the Dutch command ‘Hey Google, show me the front door on TV40’ produced a YouTube video about front doors on the telly.
A day later, Hue dropped out, with an error that the lighting was no longer available. Bright hopes that Dutch language support will be working properly on 24 October when Google Home speakers will officially be available in Dutch shops. I’d hate to be working in a shop that is going to get a wave of complaints with no fix in site or be told to use it in English or German. And I wonder if it will understand those of us who speak Dutch with accents.
Marc van Oostendorp, a well-known Dutch linguist, decided to ask foreign students recently what they thought was the ugliest Dutch word.
In the video below (in Dutch), a Polish student said ‘geheugen’ (memory) because it does sounds like a Dutch cat trying to cough up a hairball. A Hungarian student, who sounds more Belgian than Dutch, said ‘überhaupt’ (‘as a whole’) because it’s straight up German, much to the amusement of everyone in the video. Another student from the United States, came up with ‘vruchtbaarheid’ (‘fertility’), but didn’t offer up an explanation as to why. A Spanish student came up with ‘ziekenhuis’ (‘hospital’) “because nobody likes to be lying in the hospital”, which means the meaning was more interesting to her than the sound of the word. An Argentinean student who learnt Dutch in Belgium chose ‘tureluurs’ (‘loopy’), a word that is probably used in written form more often than common speech.
Funny enough, all the students interviewed were women: what’s up with that?
Feel free to tell us if you can and want to: what Dutch word is the ugliest for you? I think mine would have to be any word that starts with ‘sj’ like ‘sjalot’. It sounds like your teeth are in the way of pronouncing ‘shalot’ properly, but to each their own.
Second-year psychology students at the Radboud Universiteit in Nijmegen have started a petition to be given courses in Dutch as promised when they registered for university.
The university decided to merge English and Dutch courses together and without any proper warning, students showed up to classes that were given in English ‘Dunglish’, aka in Dutch ‘steenkolenengels’.
Not only were the students promised Dutch classes, but their exams will be in Dutch, so having classes in poor English is making life worse for them and their Dutch-speaking teachers who, according to many, are not good enough to teach in English.
Although discussions are ongoing, the university has decided to blame the students for their lack of English. The university admitted to “not communicating properly beforehand about the language switch”, which is Dutch for ‘sorry not sorry’ and then proceeded to say that students use textbooks in English, so they shouldn’t really be complaining.
Well, they’re complaining because they feel they’ve been lied to and although everyone understands you want to cater to the British and others paying money to study for cheap in the Netherlands, you’re screwing your own people who also pay good money to study. Somehow, it makes sense for Dutch teachers to teach mainly Dutch students in Dutch in their own country!
Dutch psychologists will probably have Dutch clients, and Dutch students should have a say in their own education. There’s no way the university can guarantee a decent level of English in this case, bringing the entire quality of education down and cowardly resorting to blaming students in order to push their Dunglish agenda through purely to make more money off the non-Dutch students, or so it seems.
Why are there so few Dutch people working for Disneyland Paris? Besides French people, there are lots of Spanish and Italians, but very few Dutch speakers. Nicole Korssen from Eindhoven who works at Disneyland Paris explains that even though tons of Dutch people go to Disneyland on vacation, her employer’s recruitment days just can’t seem to close the deal. Disneyland Paris needs to have Dutch-speaking personnel seeing as they get about one million tourists from the Netherlands every year.
The first reason is that the Dutch don’t speak French well enough, something I’m thinking the Spanish and Italian actually can do. We can blame the Dutch educational system for not teaching French to children anymore, and that’s on the Netherlands. However, the lower salaries offered in certain positions, as compared to what the Dutch can make here doesn’t help, so that one’s on Disneyland.
And then there’s the fact that the Dutch are generally too tall to be ‘cast’ as characters. Too tall to be cast as Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse at 1.50 metres or even a princess at 1.65 metres. A quick search tells me the average height of a Dutch man is about 1.80 metres, the tallest on the planet, while the average Dutch woman is 1.70 metres.
Why don’t the Dutch get assistance in English when there’s a problem? According to Korssen, the Dutch choose to wait longer to be helped in Dutch. Why don’t they hire Flemish people who generally do speak some French and get paid less than the Dutch anyway? I don’t know, but I’m going to assume Disney would rather have actual Dutch people.
Dutch spelling is often a headache for many people from foreigners to children because it officially changes a lot. A series aimed at children called ‘Snap je?’ (‘Get it?’) deals with the dreaded conjugation of verbs where after the root of the verb there’s a ‘d’ or ‘t’ added to it, something that is tough to get right.
Dutch verbs with a stem ending in ‘d’ add a ‘t’ for the second and third person singular, but it does not change the pronunciation because ‘d’ at the end of a word is pronounced like a ‘t’, while ‘dt’ is pronounced as ‘t’, according to a quick explanation from Hear Dutch Here. In other words we often can’t hear the difference between the ‘d’ and ‘t’ at the end of any word because ‘d’ is voiced and ‘t’ is voiceless and it gets worse when you have ‘dt’ together. Getting any of this wrong is commonly referred to as a ‘d-t mistake’ in Dutch. It also makes a difference in tense in some words, so it is a big deal to get it right.
For anyone who knows French, when we get stuck with how to write the ending of a verb in the right tense we use the verb ‘vendre’ (‘to sell’) as a default and then conjugate our chosen verb accordingly. The Dutch in this video suggest the exact same with the verb ‘lopen’ (‘to walk’). And then there’s the fact that the band from Nijmegen De Staat wrote the music behind these fun grammar lessons, so give it a whirl.
On 2 December the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) together with science-oriented Dutch public-service broadcaster NTR will be launching the ‘Sprekend Nederland’ app that analyses groups of speakers and what they think of each other. Are some variants taking over or in fact disappearing? A lot of data has to be collected to be able to draw conclusions and Dutch speakers can contribute, including ‘ethnic varieties’ because even ethnic groups speak different types of Dutch depending on where they live.
The app needs to be installed on a smartphone so you can record a few sentences and contribute. Researchers point out that it would be nice if the kids made sure their grandparents joined in as well, a group that’s a bit less tech-savvy than most. And what about getting Dutch-speaking foreigners like myself? I wonder if I can join or if it’s for card-carrying Dutch people only. I’ve asked.
UPDATE: Anybody who speaks Dutch can contribute, ‘even with a different background’.
‘Patat’ or ‘friet’? They both mean ‘fries’, but people use one or the other depending on where they live. The research here is not about dialects, but about ‘regionally different versions of Dutch’. The scientists and app builders from Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen had never sought to analyse the diversity of Dutch on such a large scale before. They wanted to build an app that was scientific, but also appealed to the mainstream. The boffins also want to create a Flemish version, but that’s not in the cards yet.
Let me see if I get this straight. On Tuesday, 28 October a Czech sailor fell off a German boat into a canal in the province of Limburg, which borders Germany and French-speaking Belgium. A French sailor saw this and ran to warn the Dutch sluice guard in French. The sluice guard could not understand French at all and the fire brigade came 30 minutes later when the man had already drowned.
“Despite the large number of international boats on the canal, sluice guards are not required to speak several languages.” However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Water Management said that “attention is paid to French and German” and that the “French sailor could have just dialled ‘112’ (the Dutch emergency number)”.
“Attention paid to French and German” means absolutely nothing and was said rather sheepishly in the video (link below). The French sailor not speaking any English is odd too, as I assume the sluice guard spoke some English, as most Dutch do, and that would have sped things up. Working on the border of two other countries and not understanding any French is weird, even though it is not required, but that’s just me. As well, most Dutch who live on the border with Germany do understand some German, but asking the French to speak German or Dutch for that matter is a stretch.
Just like in aviation, everyone could try and learn some English to avoid this kind of deadly mix up. And expecting sailors to know all the different emergency numbers throughout Europe is unrealistic.
Why doesn’t the EU have just one emergency number? Too much to hope for maybe.
This design for a tape dispenser by Derk Reilink (fourth year student Industrial Product Design at the Saxion Hogeschool in Enschede) won second place in this year’s HEMA Design Competition. First place was won by Annet Hennink, who came up with a disposable cake stand. I also like the pan lid with holes, making it easier to drain water after you’ve boiled your veggies.
HEMA, a large department chain store in the Netherlands and Belgium, organises a design competition each year. It then picks winning designs and puts these into production. The most famous of these was the winner of the first ever competition, the Lapin (French for rabbit), a tea kettle that looks just like a bunny rabbit.
Most of the products sold at HEMA are from the house brand. The chain seems to pride itself in its “staples”: in its advertising campaigns, it prominently advertises its underwear, clothes pegs, bicycle lights, pans and so on. Hence the theme of this year’s competition: the new HEMA staple.