Putting the “Kcchhaa” in GAmsterdam, Spring 2013
The language sounds harsh. Angry, even, although two friends laughing over a drink quickly dispels the idea of a brawl breaking out. While related to English (each sharing Germanic roots) and often having cognates, it’s sounds are what makes it difficult.
Think of gurgling some mouth wash in the morning, and you’ve got the Dutch letter “G”. And that letter is everywhere. I can’t imagine being Dutch with strep throat; I am fairly certain it would render me mute.
While harsh, gutteral sounds like that exist, there is also a rhythmic quality to the way the Dutch speak. At times, if you’re daydreaming on the tram or in a cafe, bits and pieces will sound like the familiar English (but upon closer inspection it is not quite understandable to a beginner). Perhaps the most difficult part is reading.
Do you like the letter ‘J’ and all the “juh” or “dgeh” sounds it makes? Forget it! Perhaps the easiest way to explain the ‘J’ is through a word that sounds identical to English, but it’s spelling trips up newcomers to Dutch. As many know, the Netherlands wouldn’t exist without dikes. Much of the land is reclaimed from the sea, and a good portion of the country lives below sea level. The word dike is common here, as without dikes and dams and canals, many places would still be sea beds. In Dutch, the word is “dijk” — but pronounced the same as English. It isn’t “didgka” as it appears. Re-learning an alphabet is always fun.
But Dutch is the language here, and I plan to learn it. Many are fluent in English, as well as two or three or four other languages (making me seriously wonder what the U.S. is doing with its language education). I always feel, however, that when one is in another land, another culture, that the language should at least be attempted. How one speaks and verbally connects with the world is just as important as the society one grows up in.
((Psst…did you click the first sentence? It’s a link! Of awesome!))
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