Use These Dutch Phrases Every Day and Blow Your Friends Away!
Does the following sound familiar? You diligently follow a Dutch course – for example, at the Language Institute TaalTaal in Scheveningen – learning all sorts of words by heart. Getting acquainted with Dutch is going well and you know the difference between ‘tot ziens!’ and ‘doei doei!’ when walking out of an important job interview. Now what? The plot thickens because it’s time to put what you have learned into practice. Oh yes, it’s a jungle out there, but don’t worry, with these Dutch phrases you now have your ammunition!
Learn Fixed Sentences and Phrases
When you’re filling your backpack to invade this beastly jungle, make sure you only pack the essentials. Because let’s be honest, how often do you talk to a bicycle repairman about broken luggage carriers in Dutch? No, let’s be smart here and travel light. You will see you can use the same standard sentences, phrases, and expressions on a daily basis, especially in predictable situations. Consider any attempt you make to speak a little Dutch as a personal victory and don’t take alarm in the unpredictable reactions of the Dutch. Don’t forget: during Dutch lessons, the language is tailored to your level. In daily life, people usually use their normal style and speed of speaking. And, you know what, if you’re lost, you can always press the emergency button with the phrases: “Sorry, mijn Nederlands is nog niet zo goed” (“Sorry, my Dutch is not very good”), “Sorry, ik begrijp het niet” (“Sorry, I don’t understand”) or “Kun je dat herhalen?” (“Can you repeat that?”).
Spaghetti Is Great Fun!
Imagine this: you’re going out for dinner with your Dutch friend. At the restaurant, you order spaghetti carbonara, because your Dutch textbook seemed to have a real fetish with this dish and somehow you got ‘influenced’. Your friend looks curiously at your plate and asks how it is: “Hoe is jouw spaghetti?”. You proudly shout: “De spaghetti is heel leuk!” Your friend almost chokes and starts laughing. Yes, the Dutch word ‘leuk’ literally means ‘nice’, but it cannot be used in all situations like in English. Describing food as ‘leuk’ implies that you think the food is funny or charming and, perhaps, you would like to take this delicious dish out on a date. Well, to make a long story short: sorry guys, food has no sense of humor. Food is not fun, food has – tragically- no personality. Hopefully we’re not offending any chefs by making this harsh statement. Only people, objects, experiences and situations can be ‘leuk’. When you’re describing food, it usually has to do with the actual taste. Food (‘eten’) can be ‘lekker’ (tasty), ‘prima’ or ‘uitstekend’ (excellent). You can also say “Het smaakt goed!” if it tastes good. If you’ve got a love thing going on and you would like to marry the food, you can say: “Het is heerlijk!” or “Het is zalig!” (“It’s delicious!”). And what if your meal tastes like crap on toast? You can be a civil human being and say: “Ik vind het niet zo lekker” (“I don’t think it’s tasty”) or be straight forward: “Ik vind het vies!” (“I think it’s gross!”).
Een Bakkie Doen
A good opportunity to practice Dutch is when drinking coffee with someone. Some people call that: ‘een bakkie doen’. But how do you invite someone in Dutch? For a proposal, we tend to use the verb ‘zullen’ (shall): “Zullen we samen koffie drinken?” means: “Shall we have coffee together?”. A positive response can be: “Ja, gezellig!” or “Ja, dat lijkt me leuk!” (“Yes, that sounds like fun!’).
Next on the list: time to make an ‘afspraak’ (appointment) because that’s how they roll in The Netherlands. You can ask: “Wanneer heb je tijd?” (“When do you have time?”). Don’t be shocked if it takes a few weeks, months, years, or centuries. Many Dutch lives are still dominated by agendas and being ‘druk, druk, druk’. This repetitiveness is necessary to emphasize ‘druk’ (busy) as a socially acceptable response to the question “Hoe gaat het?” (“How are you?”). Apparently the Dutch have a need to show others that they don’t sit on their butts all day long and they’re doing well keeping themselves busy enough to live a good life. Do you feel too much pressure with this ‘druk’ thing? Just say: “Het gaat goed!” (“It’s going well!”) and be done with it.
The Land of a Thousand Opinions, The Land of Sobriety
In the 90s there was a famous Dutch song called ’15 miljoen mensen’ (’15 million people’) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8b_et-rfyM. The lyrics are about typical Dutch norms and values. For example, the importance of freedom of expression. If you want to know what someone’s opinion is, you can ask: “Wat vind je daarvan?”. Then someone gives you their opinion, that’s called ‘mening’. It has been said that the Dutch are very down to earth. You may disagree because your experience is that the Dutch are hysterical party people wearing orange clothes, singing ‘Hup, Holland, Hup’ all day long. Then you can say: “Ik ben het daar niet mee eens” (“I don’t agree”) or: “Wat een onzin!” (‘That’s rubbish!’). There are obviously more extreme forms of expression, but let’s stay positive here.
A useful construction to memorize is the ‘wat + adjective’ (‘how – adjective’) formula as a response to almost anything. In case of positive news you can for instance use the empathetic response: “Wat fijn!” (‘I’m glad to hear that!”) and when it’s about something bad or sad, you can say: “Wat vervelend!” (‘That’s too bad’) or “Wat erg!” when it’s more serious.
When You’re Completely Fed Up With Speaking Dutch
Tired from practicing Dutch all day? Or just don’t feel like it? Give yourself a little break and ditch the Dutch for a while. Of course you can make a brilliant move to make this known in Dutch. Tell those persistent Dutchies: “Ik heb geen zin om Nederlands te praten” (“I don’t feel like speaking Dutch”), “Ik ben moe” (“I’m tired”) or “Een andere keer graag” (“Another time, please”).
Just remember this, whatever you do: “Geef nooit op!” (“Never give up!”)
This article was written by Fleur from the Language Institute TaalTaal in Scheveningen. Fleur works as a Dutch teacher, language coordinator, and is also a writer. TaalTaal offers many types of Dutch courses, online and ‘in-person’, starting again the week of September 21st. TaalTaal specializes in immersion courses, integration exams, and much more. The next Open Day is coming up on 12 September.
Free intakes are available – HERE.