Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three on Thursday -- The Dutch Language

For today's post, I thought it would be fun to share a few necessary phrases for Americans visiting the Netherlands.

Okay, I admit that my Dutch-speaking skills are limited at best (though I understand -- usually -- what people are trying to say to me), but I'll do my best here not to misspell every other word.

1. Spreekt u Engels? (This, of course, means "Do you speak English?" This will be your most-used phrase of all. Remember it.)

2. Ik wil frietjes zonder mayo. (This means "I'd like fries without mayonnaise." This is very important, because if you don't happen to like your french fries smothered in mayo, you have to specify that right up front!)

3. Waar is de WC? (This means "Where is your bathroom?" Be careful not to ask for an actual "badkamer" (bathroom), because that would mean the room where the bathtub/shower is located. There may not be a toilet in that room at all. And keep in mind that WC is pronounced Vay-Say.)

If you happen to have children with you while you're traveling in the Netherlands, you will need a few more phrases, of course.

1. Op de stoep! (This means "Stay on the sidewalk!" This is useful as there are not only the sidewalks where people can walk, but bike paths (usually barely distinguishable from the sidewalk) and the streets. In the cities and dorpjes -- villages -- these are all brick. Sometimes the bricks are slightly different colors. Sometimes not.)

2. Niet springen op de bank! (This means "No jumping on the couch!" Self explanatory.)

3. Wil je een snoepje? (This means "Would you like a piece of candy?" For some reason, complete strangers have no qualms about offering (often unwrapped) candy to your children. The good part is, you can accept the offer without worry.)

So, there is your Nederlands 101 lesson in necessary phrases. Now you're ready to visit!


  1. I was in Amsterdam this summer, and nobody spoke Dutch to me. I practiced phrases and listened to a language tape and everything, but I didn't get to use anything. Of course, after the train ride and not understanding any of the announcements, my confidence was shaken, anyway.

  2. Most people here do speak English (and most of those speak it very well!).

    In the smaller cities, though, people will want you to speak more Dutch. (Guess where I live?)

  3. I have been both in the small villages and the big city there, and all of the Dutch give you the "I will try to understand your english, but I doubt I can speak it back to you" nod. They are all very nice about it. But clearly think you're nuts for trying to not speak Dutch to them. Oh the hazards of international travel. LOL

  4. Your article about Dutch language is really interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I have intensive knowledge about Dutch language , culture etc. I think people should complete a language course to improve their language skills.