ui – ei - ooi – oei –eeuw A date with my recent best friend – Dutch gr

Hello Hello! It’s me again, border(less) Monika! I’ve got something new in my border life and I would like to share with you! And this one is about my favourite topic – languages!

A few days ago I have participated in an intensive Dutch language course organized by EUREGIO’s Tourism Team, as a part of the project Grenzeloze Toeristische Innovatie (GTI) – “Borderless Tourism Innovations”. I am already quite familiar with the project GTI as within my IVY volunteering I have been supporting the GTI team in a few activities. To introduce the GTI project in one sentence, I would say that the main purpose of the GTI project is to support and strengthen the role of the local touristic SMEs in the cross-border region of EUREGIO.

As my colleague from the GTI team approached me with the question if I would be also interested to take part in the language course I did not hesitate a second! I mean, how could I, it was an excellent opportunity to learn something new again! The next day already I was on my way to Coesfeld (around 50km from Gronau) to attend the lesson.

The weather was again (as usual for this time of a year) rather bad – there was something similar to snow falling down from the sky above, and a feeling temperature around -10°C, at least. I must say that even though I am used to cold winters (temperatures around -15°C are quite normal in my homeland - Slovakia, moreover, I have lived in Finland where -20°C was a normal temperature in March and it was also normal to cycle to work), but the winter in the Netherlands/Germany is much worse, or at least it feels much worse! Although the temperature is higher, it is mostly very windy and the consistence of snow is, let me say, rather “different” (more of a cross between rain-snow-hail). What’s more, when it rains, it rains basically right into your eyes (quite a smart rain that can hit you exactly inside your eye, right?). Btw, trust me no umbrella really helps here…

Wait a minute, did I just complain about the weather? Ups…seems like I am slowly becoming a bit more Dutch (oh no, I guess am mingling with the culture more and more). Because the weather (complaining about it) is the topic number one here in the Netherlands. Let me give you an example – coming to work/school/to visit someone/meet someone on a street – Dutch people usually start a conversation like: “Koud, hé? / Lekker weer of niet?”– meaning literally – Cold, right? / Delicious weather, isn’t it? Are you also asking how the weather can be delicious? Yes, it can, but only in the Netherlands, as the Dutch word “lekker” - meaning literally delicious can be used to describe almost everything – food, weather, sleep – “lekker geslapen?” did you sleep deliciously –meaning did you sleep well, etc. As you are guessing, of course, the meaning of the word changes depending on the context, but the word is always the same. Believe it or not – people even say “lekker werken” (I guess you manage to translate that, and yes, I am also wondering about it). Or if the Dutch people offer you a cup of coffee, you can simply answer: “Ja, lekker!” Or even only “lekker!”

How to use the word “lekker” was only one of the things we have learned in the language course. Now, back to the language course! The main purpose to organize this language course in the first place was to let the project partners in above mentioned project GTI to learn basics of the Dutch grammar and to use it in practice.

Most of the participants have already had a previous experience with the Dutch language due to intensive interactions with the Dutch customers at work. However, most of them described their personal experience from daily work life as following:

It is more likely that the Dutch customers usually start a conversation in German (approach them directly in German) rather than in Dutch, while the other way around, Germans would more likely speak German to Dutch people, if that is possible. Important to say, I am only talking about the border region. Nevertheless, I have always wondered why, haven’t you too?

Well, since the last week the mystery is solved and I finally have (kind of) an answer, as the teacher of the language course tried to bring a light to this question and here is the answer!

Generally (n.b. do not see it as a rule), Dutch people do not mind speaking in foreign languages with mistakes, it does not really matter in the beginning of learning a language, as long as they make their selves understandable. They simply talk, rather than giving much thought to the grammar, while Germans on the other hand, have a tendency to be perfectionists, hence, first they think if it would be grammatically correct, hence it often ends there and they rather use German instead (because of not being 100% sure if it is correct). Moreover, in the border region, especially in tourism, gastronomy and business, a high percentage of Dutch people would automatically speak German to you if you are German (or if you seem to be one – often happens to me too, but that must be also by force of habit because of the high number of German tourists/visitors in Enschede – Dutch border city where I live).

I must admit that I tend to act like Germans when it comes to languages – I am being a bit of a perfectionist – if I am not sure about the Dutch grammar, I would rather use English instead. I am aware though, that this is not the way to learn the language and I am slowly trying to change the strategy to speed up with my Dutch. Also the participants in the language course seemed to be doing the same, and seemed to be very motivated to learn Dutch. And trust me – Dutch pronunciation is definitely not a piece of cake! Just try with to read the title of my post! Believe or not, these are not only the sounds or syllables, but also words!

For example ui, if it stands alone means an onion, or ei is an egg. To make it even more complicated –uil is owl. Not to mix them is quite a challenge and generally, the pronunciation of - ui is a difficult task for people learning Dutch. But, our teacher gave us a tip how to master it:

“Open your mouth like you trying to pronounce a letter “a” and right before the sound of an “a” ends, shut your mouth quickly and you get it right!” So, do you get it? No? Do not worry, neither do I, but the good news is that everyone can master it in time!

Just to give you an idea – here is the sample of a sentence to practice a pronunciation of –ui (that’s what we have been doing in a class together – quite fun I must say!).

“Duitse dames drinken uitsluitend druivensap.” (German ladies drink grape juice exclusively.)

Doesn’t look that easy, does it? Bus as I said, everybody can eventually do it! Moreover, our teacher gave us one tip to help us and it was - use an English word if you do not come up with the Dutch one – Dutch people will mostly understand you. Actually, that has already been my strategy, anyway :)

My “classmates” also liked this tip and as teacher asked later in the class: “Hoe wordt het weer in het weekend?” (How is the weather on the weekend?”, the “student” answered: Ik hoop dat sun is shining!

And that is one of the reasons why languages are my favourite topic – cause it is sooo much fun! :)

Besides training in Dutch pronunciation, we have also paid attention to the grammar. The teacher (btw – a native Dutch speaker living in Germany for over 30 years –quite a master of both languages, I would say!) managed to explain the main grammar rules in such an easy and funny way that it made me believe for a day that Dutch is actually an easy language! Yes, I said it and I mean it! That’s the power of teaching foreign languages! My respect for the teacher Annette!

Thus, with this feeling I have left the class and went back to my border(less) life to practice my Dutch! Because a practice makes a master! Besides, it appeared to me that the participants felt the same way and were quite motivated to speak the language. What a nice example not to see different languages as an obstacle in cross-border cooperation, but rather an opportunity to learn something new! It is only up to us how we use these opportunities. To take a part in cross-border projects focused on learning languages used on the borders is an exclusive opportunity to make yourself “smarter every day” and culturally/linguistically enriched!

My thanks to EUREGIO and IVY Initiative to support us – young European citizens to actively take a part in these cross-border projects! Couldn’t wish for a better project which would fit me more!

I am looking forward to participating in the second part of the language course in two weeks! I am lucky I am still here at EUREGIO – and I still have 4 weeks to go! Yaaay :)

Tot de volgende keer!

Border(less) Monika

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