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.

Mortgage free!

This chart shows the rapid decline of my mortgage. That large, final drop was due to the sale of my garage, so thank you to my lawyers and the buyer. The deal was concluded in a day and so once the paperwork is done, that will be me. It’s gone seven years early and the first time since 1986 I will have no monthly expenditure for rent or mortgage. “And relax……”




When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

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.

Dutch Ted Talk

Ted Talk by General Peter Van Uhm Nov 2011

Speech given in English.
Translated into Dutch by Rik Delaet Reviewed by Axel Saffran
Translated back into English by dkpw.

And if you see an underlined word in Dutch, that’s one I had to look up in my Van Dale dictionary! It was a fun exercise, not quick by any means but still a far more enjoyable experience than translating Latin when at school. If anyone with Dutch would like to correct my translation, please feel free!

Als hoogste militaire commandant van Nederland, met troepen over de hele wereld, ben ik echt

As the highest military commander of The Netherlands with troops over the whole world, I am

vereerd om hier vandaag te zijn. Als ik rondkijk op deze TEDxAmsterdam locatie, zie ik een heel

really honoured to be here today. When I look around at this TedTalk in Amsterdam, I see a very

bijzonder publiek. Jullie zijn de reden waarom heb ik ja heb gezegd op de uitnodiging om vandaag

special audience. You are the reason why I said “Yes” to the invitation to come here today.

hierheen te komen.

Als ik rondkijk, zie ik mensen die een bijdrage willen leveren. Ik zie mensen die een betere wereld

When I look around, I see people who want to contribute. I see people who want to make a better

willen maken, door het doen van baanbrekend wetenschappelijk werk, door het creëren van

world, through the use of ground-breaking scientific work, through the creation of impressive

indrukwekkende kunstwerken, door het schrijven van kritische artikelen of inspirerende boeken,

artworks, by writing critical articles or inspiring books, by setting up sustainable businesses. You

door het opstarten van duurzame bedrijven. Jullie hebben je eigen instrumenten gekozen om deze

have chosen your own instruments to carry out this mission of creating a better world. Some chose

missie te vervullen van het creëren van een betere wereld. Sommigen kozen de microscoop als hun

the microscope as their tool. Others chose dancing or painting or making music like we have just

instrument. Anderen kozen dansen of schilderen of het maken van muziek zoals we net hebben

heard. Some chose the pen. Others work through the means of money.

gehoord. Sommigen kozen de pen. Anderen werken door middel van het instrument van het geld.

Dames en heren, ik maakte een andere keuze. Bedankt. Dames en heren – (Gelach) (Applaus) Ik

Ladies and gentlemen, I made another choice. Thank you. Ladies & gentlemen, I seek the same.

streef naar hetzelfde doel. Ik deel de doelen van de sprekers die aan het woord zijn geweest. Ik heb

goal. I share the goal of the speakers who have already spoken. I have not chosen the pen, the

niet gekozen voor de pen, het penseel of de camera. Ik koos voor dit instrument. Ik koos voor het

paintbrush or the camera. I choose this instrument. I choose the gun.



Continue reading “Dutch Ted Talk”

Gone Dutch


Well after 222 days, I’ve managed to finish the DuoLingo Dutch course. “Conquered” as the certificate says, is definitely overstating my proficiency, especially in the spoken language but it’s been fun. DuoLingo has provided me with a hopefully solidly wide foundation which will aid in future studies. I’ve bought a detailed grammar and dictionary as well as some dual language books, and a couple books wholly in Dutch; De Achterhuis literally The Annex in English known as Anne Franks’ Diary and Meisje met parel, The Girl With the Pearl (Earring) by Tracy Chevalier. Having had a brief skim through the first few pages it is easy to determine which has been translated from English and which is written in native, although colloquial Dutch. The Chevalier was easier to translate.

Reading is all very well but the trickiest thing will be thinking and speaking in Dutch. On-line resources will help, as will another trip!