Just listen to the sounds of Dutch - don't worry about a thing -
much will be explained in the course of the lessons.
Tegenwind in Nederland
Als je in Nederland fietst dan heb je òf wind mee, òf
je hebt wind tegen. Meestal heb je natuurlijk
tegenwind, en als je 's morgens met tegenwind naar je werk of naar
school fietst, dan draait de wind vaak, en dan heb je aan het eind van
de dag niet de wind mee maar weer tegenwind. Als je 's morgens wind mee
hebt dan draait de wind nooit. Theoretisch zou je zeggen dat het ook wel
eens windstil zou moeten zijn, maar dat gebeurt bijna nooit.
The Wind Against in Holland
Riding a bicycle in Holland you'll either have the wind in your back,
or you'll have the wind against. Of course, most of the time you'll
have the wind against you, and in case you have the wind against when
riding your bike to work or to school in the morning, you'll often find
the wind has shifted at the end of the day. If you have the wind at
your back in the morning it never changes direction. In theory, you'd
expect an occasional day of no wind, but that's rare, very rare.
M'n vrouw zegt dat het alleen windstil is als je wil vliegeren.
't Is alleen windstil als je wilt vliegeren.
('je wilt' 2is correct, 'je wil' is not correct)
My wife says the only time there's no wind is when you'd like to fly a kite.
The only time that there's no wind is when you want to fly a kite.
[It is of course only when the wind speed exceeds the biker's speed that
wind in the back is perceived as such.]
The Long and Short of Dutch Vowels
Dutch spelling is fairly phonetic.
In general, there is just one way of writing each sound,
and each letter and
letter combination is usually pronounced in the same way.
Once you know the pronunciation of the letters,
you can almost always easily see from written Dutch how to say it,
and on hearing Dutch you will know how it's written.
There are (of course!) exceptions, but not that many, and most are
not very important.
Speaking Dutch following only the general rules -
pronoucing every letter in the standard way -
would not be really bad Dutch.
The only things that early on needs explanation is the 'voiceless
E' (in the next lesson) and the spelling of long vowels.
Double vowels are always long, but single
vowels can be either long or short.
(heg = hedge; deeg = dough;
degen = a kind of sword;
motor = engine)
There is a rule, and it is really logical and not that difficult. It may take a moment to
this will be a somewhat long lesson, take your time - but
once you've mastered the spelling of long and short vowels
Dutch will look much clearer, much less confusing, and
you will be able to confidently pronounce written Dutch.
Let me stress again that the 'long vowels' and 'short vowels' are just
traditional names; the difference between them is actually more of tone. A
'short' vowel can be stretched, and the word will still be correctly
Linguists call the long vowel 'free' and the short vowel 'covered.'
The Dutch spelling rule is that a single vowel at the end of a word
(ma) or at the end of a syllable (ma-nen) is long -
except E at the end of a word. A single vowel followed by one
or more consonants in a syllable or word is always short (man,
man-nen.) If there is one consonant between vowels, that consonant
almost always goes to the second syllable; two or more consonants are
usually divided between syllables.
A single vowel at the end of a word or syllable is always long ('free.')
- [de] - die - juli - zo - nu EXCEPTION: Single 'e' at the end of a word is always
me ze je te
So long E at the end of a word has to be written as double E:
thee mee ree
(Single I at the end of a word is rare,
only found in words of foreign origin.)
If there's a single consonant between vowels, that consonant usually
goes to the second syllable, leaving the first syllable ending in a
vowel, which makes it an 'open' syllable with a long ('free') vowel.
If there are two or more consonants between vowels, they are usually
divided between the syllables. Thus, a consonant will 'close' the first
syllable, 'covering' the vowel, making a single vowel short.
Double consonants only indicate that a preceding single vowel is
pronounced short, the consonants are not pronounced double or
long. heten heetten laden laadden Heten ('to be called, named') sounds exactly the same as
heetten ('were called') and
laden ('to load') sounds exactly the same as
laadden ('were loading.')
A double consonant is pronounced the same as a single consonant,
not longer or as two with a pause in between; the consonant is doubled only to
indicate that a preceding single vowel is short. (In English,
'silent E' has a kind-of reverse function: man/mane - hug/huge.)
A long vowel before a double consonant needs to be written as a double vowel.
grote grootte hete heette late haatte
So grote ('big, large, tall, great')
sounds exactly the same as grootte ('size, dimension') and
hete ('warm, hot')
sounds exactly the same as heette
zak2('bag; pocket') /
zaak('case; business') /
('cases;' 'business') den('fir tree') /
dennen2('fir trees') /
Deen('Dane, a person from Denmark') /
Denen2('Danes') wet('law') /
weten('to know') -
redden2('to save' (from danger)) /
reden2('reason, cause') /
bot('bone; dull (knife); rude') /
('big, large, tall, great') /
grootte('size, dimension') /
As I said above, a double vowel is always long, even in a
syllable that ends in a consonant (a 'closed syllable'):
Or, to look at it in a different way, if the vowel in a syllable
is long and followed by one or more consonants, then it has to be
written as a double vowel.
Only at the end of a word is single 'e' always voiceless;
as the last letter of a syllable that's not the last of a word,
single 'e' will be either voiceless or long. (see next lesson)
The constituting parts of compound words keep their original form.
Until commercial radio and TV came to Holland in the 1990s,
most of the broadcasting was provided by
'broadcasting organisations,' omroepverenigingen.
Members would pay a yearly fee of a
few dollars, and
the number of members determined the amount of broadcast time given
to each organisation: like an election. I think it's unique in the
world, and a very fair system. Next to the omroepverenigingen
an independent organisation provided news and sports coverage. The
broadcasting facilities were run by the government.
The broadcasting organisations represented the different segments of
the Dutch population: Labor, Conservative, Roman Catholic, and several
Protestant groups. The various groups in the Dutch population of the
fifties and sixties lived somewhat separately, with their own
schools, sports clubs and students' societies, and also their own
political parties. Some people would only listen to
the broadcasts of their own group.
of Dutch society is called verzuiling
- Dutch zuil
is 'pillar' like in a Greek temple. I've seen it translated as
'pillarization,' but that doesn't seem right to me. It looks too much
like another word. Wouldn't
'compartmentalization' be a better translation?
I think Dutch society changed much with the shake-up of the late
sixties and the diminishing role of religion, not many people going to
church anymore. The old boundaries have faded.
Dutch national radio and television started without commercials, but
to pay for the broadcasting, each household had to buy a listening and viewing
- about $75 a year in the 1980s. As David
Lodge has rightly noted in 'Changing Places,' without commercials
disc jockeys need to do much more talking, and it isn't always
In the late sixties blocks of ads
around the news programs on radio and TV were introduced.
A very nice feature of Dutch broadcasting and politics is that there
are no political commercials on radio or TV, and also not in the
newspapers, so politicians don't need the big money for that. It
keeps politics a little cleaner.
For a long time the 'pirate station' Radio Veronica
was broadcasting pop radio with commercials from a ship just outside the
territorial waters. It filled a great need because there was very
little pop and rock on national radio, until a third national radio channel
was started in the late 60s. In the mid-sixties, some businessmen
tried to start a commercial TV station on an old oil rig in the
North Sea, but that was stopped by the authorities after a few
months. Marines boarded the rig and seized the transmitting equipment.
Eventually, both 'Radio Veronica' and some of the people behind the
commercial TV station 'came on land' and 'joined the system' to become popular
- essays -