Adverts don’t work…

on me normally, as I’m over the age of 30 and know what I like. To be honest, a lot of them now make little sense, as it’s been years since I was in touch with the cultural zeitgeist and have no idea of the multi-layered facets and references which have been lovingly interwoven by those hard-working guys in the ad agencies.

However, occasionally one makes it through.

This is VERY tempting. Sadly, it’s too early in terms of my availability but it has prompted thoughts for slightly later, which would fit in with my traditional time to visit The Netherlands. Hmmm, let me ponder….


I’m more or less half way through my CELTA TEFL course and my group of nascent teachers is moving from a pre-intermediate group to an upper intermediate group. I may have mentioned, once or twice, to my co-students that I’m studying Dutch and have been asked at what level I would place myself as a learner. It’s tricky to self-evaluate, there are four language skills, reading and listening – receptive skills, as well as speaking and writing – productive skills.

I’d place my skill levels in the following order: reading, speaking, writing and finally listening. The last, listening, is as I know now, the one most learners of foreign languages find most difficult to master because you have to process language in real time and you have no control over the speed or vocabulary offered to you. Whereas with writing, you can take your time and if you have a dictionary close by, can refer to it for assistance with unknown vocabulary. The same applies with writing.

Speaking can be produced at your pace, with your choice of vocabulary and so long as you don’t take decades to speak  or mangle the pronunciation, you have a better chance of producing something hopefully intelligible in not too tedious a manner for the listener.

I’m very aware that listening to native speech is the most difficult thing to master, due to the speed, contractions, elisions and vocabulary gaps. I listen to Dutch sentences which, cue an obvious joke, sound like “double” Dutch but when I see written, are immediately comprehensible. I really should tune my radio to NPO1 Radio more often.

So what level am I at? Well, the on-line test I found was a written multiple choice, my strongest skill, I was still quietly pleased to have managed a 74% score and be judged intermediate. More work is needed and once my CELTA course has concluded, there may well be opportunities to gain more practice! 🙂

Here’s the site’s definition of intermediate.

You are able to understand the main parts of familiar matters (school, work, recreational activities, etc.) and can deal with most situations that may arise when travelling in areas where the target language is spoken. You can communicate with others on simple topics that are personal and familiar and are also briefly able to describe events, hopes and ambitions while giving reasons for them as well as providing explanations for your opinions and goals.

That seems accurate but I want to improve further! Er is een lange weg te gaan.

Does this work?

Duolingo went a bit mad yesterday.

The instruction is to Translate this text – “She works” into Dutch. As you can see, I wrote “Zij werkt.” I was marked wrong, since the “juiste oplosssing” or correct solution is “Zij werkt.”

I know.




Duolingo Dutch Gold – again

After trying some other Dutch classes, I felt I had to return to DuoLingo and refresh my vocabulary and return each topic to gold, the colour of completion. Duolingo are correct, when they say that learning a language requires practice every day. Revisiting these lessons illustrates the vagaries of memory. For example I could remember such daunting words as “bezienswaardigheden” – places of interest or sights to be seen but not remember that “alleen” means only.

So after a week of increasing my scores on all the lessons, I’m now back at solid gold level. Hooray!


I can certainly recommend Duolingo to get you started in a language, it won’t get you anywhere near fluency but it will provide you with an excellent base on which to increase and develop your knowledge.


Recently, I’ve been dreaming – literally – of being back in The Netherlands. The UK (while it lasts) is so fucking shitty at the moment, what with ugly Brexiteers and repulsive Scot Nats making everything confrontational and unpleasant, that I felt the need to get away from it all. Of course I realise that The Netherlands is also riven, with Geert Wilders strutting about causing trouble and the Turks adding to the strife. However, being abroad and in lovely Utrecht, will still be a tonic (with gin) and cause for rejoicing.

This visit I’ll be using the centrally located city as a jumping off spot to travel to a couple of other places. East is Arnhem. West is Rotterdam and Delft. North is Amsterdam. Far north is Groeningen or possibly Leiden. I’ll be on the trains for a while but as most places are only an hour from each other, it will be entirely enjoyable!

Both my flights and hotel have been booked, so the countdown has started.

Veel plezier!

The Goldfinch

The Mauritshuis in Den Haag have just launched a brilliantly well designed and fun website all about The Goldfinch, the tiny, world famous painting by Carel Fabritius.
If you like a) art b) Dutch art from the Golden Age c) a really clever web site, d) birds including goldfinches – I like all of those – you could do worse than spend a relaxing 10 mins at

Veel plezier!


Homophones or homonyms?

I love the idiosyncrasies which arise between and in languages.

For example in English the sentence; “My orange is orange” could be translated into Dutch as “Mijn sinaasappel is oranje.” Oranje is not repeated in this instance because the Dutch distinguish between the fruit and the colour.

Going the other way, “Mijn bloem is geel” translates as “My flower is yellow.” But consider this sentence from a recipe; “Schudt de kip met een paar stukken tegelijk, in een plastic zak in de bloem met wat zout en peper door elkaar.” Which translates as “Shake the chicken, a few pieces at a time, in a plastic bag containing flour with some salt and pepper.”

“Flower” and “flour” are homophones of each other, sounding the same but being spelled differently. “Bloem” is a homonym, being a word which has the same spelling but different meanings.

I find it a fascinating coincidence that the Dutch use a homonym for an English homophone.

Although etymologically is should not be that much of a surprise as bloem and bloemen, originate as does “bloom” from old Norse while “flower” and “flour” originate from Latin florere to flourish, to thrive and of course to bloom.

Languages are connected in so many ways.