December 1, 2013

Tropical parakeets thrive in cold Amsterdam, Brussels, London

Filed under: Nature by Branko Collin @ 1:40 pm


If you look at the places from where the rose-ringed parakeet originates, you’ll note that these are some of the hottest spots on the planet. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that large groups of these birds thrive in much colder climes.

Certainly the gardens behind my apartment aren’t part of the tropics, at least not last time I checked, which is when I took this photo.

Wikipedia claims the four largest cities in the country—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and especially The Hague—are home to about 10,000 of these parakeets. It is assumed the birds are the descendants of parakeets once kept as pets. The male bird sports a red ring around its neck, hence the name rose-ringed parakeet.

A statue of philosopher Baruch Spinoza unveiled in Amsterdam in 2008 contains images of roses, rose-ringed parakeets and sparrows, representing Spinoza himself, immigrants and native citizens.

Other cities north of the Mediterranean with large rose-ringed parakeet populations are Brussels and London.

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February 23, 2013

Dutch with an accent just as easy to understand

Filed under: Science by Branko Collin @ 3:13 pm

People who speak Dutch with a foreign accent are just as easy to understand as native speakers. Listeners may need a while to adapt to the accent, anywhere from a few sentences to a few minutes.

Yesterday Marijt Witteman received her PhD for researching how fast listeners adapt to foreign accents. One perhaps surprising finding was that native speakers who were used to the accent, for instance, Dutch people living near the German border listening to Dutch spoken by Germans, understood words pronounced by language learners just as fast as they understood words pronounced by native speakers.

Even listeners who were not regularly exposed to the foreign accent only needed a few minutes of ‘priming’ to get up to speed. Witteman used reaction time tests in which subjects first heard a word, then saw the word written out on a screen, after which the subjects had to state if a word existed or not. Previous experiments had shown that people respond faster if they hear the word before they see it on the screen. The response times for words pronounced with an accent were just as fast as for words pronounced without an accent.

Witteman’s results could be useful in designing language courses. Course materials could be less about perfecting pronunciation and more about understanding a language. My personal take-away lesson is that Hollanders can stop pretending they don’t understand what the rest of the Dutch are saying. The game is up!

(Photo by Leo Viƫtor, some rights reserved)

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May 18, 2011

A day without immigrants would look empty

Filed under: Film by Orangemaster @ 9:08 pm

It’s funny and sad to think that some people in the Netherlands honestly believe that their country would be better off without any immigrants. As an immigrant myself, I’d miss my Turkish market and more than half of all my friends and aquaintainces. Oh, and my Dutch co-blogger would have to write all by himself.

Three films can be seen here. They are in Dutch although the images say a lot on their own.

The film projects are from Worldconnectors, a network of committed Dutch people who want to contribute in a positive way to the debate about social and cultural diversity and migration.


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April 5, 2011

Girl turns 18 becomes an illegal immigrant and is shunned

Filed under: Film,General by Orangemaster @ 6:33 pm

Sofia came here when she was 2 from Colombia with her father, went to school, speaks fluent Dutch and and when she turned 18 she automatically became an illegal immigrant and cannot go to college, get state assistance or a job.

The current Dutch government wants to declare illegal immigrants criminals and make it a crime to help illegal immigrants as well. The film is in English and has some English subtitles.

“Here in the Netherlands, they don’t care if you’ve been here 20 years, 2 years, 1 year, 2 months, you’re still illegal.”

(Tip: Ferrie Differentieel, Facebook)

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