My year of learning Dutch – Consonance

Friday, August 19th, 2016

…in which I come to grips with my first challenge.

You forget what a package language is because you take your native language with your first steps.  First comes sound.  Every “new” language comes with familiar and unfamiliar sounds.  And for the English speaker, the first challenge is what the Dutch do to “g”.

One advantage of learning a language as an adult is that you can be guided by orthography.  English speakers have an advantage in learning any other language: not having to learn the eccentric spelling of English words.  Pronunciation of Dutch is predictable from the spelling, allowing for a couple of phonotactic rules, but first they must get to grips with this monster. And children learn languages so easily because they don’t have this orthographical hangup.

By the speakers in Duolingo, this sounded to anglophone ears like a rather raspy ‘h’: think Eliza Dolittle’s attempt to reinstate her dropped aitches.  So “In Hhhertford, Hhhereford, and Hhhampshire…” becomes “In Groningen en Den Haag gisteren…”.

Favourite word so far is “graag” for the reasons above.  This great word is like a politeness particle turning the abrupt Ik wil (“I want…”) into the more polite Ik wil graag (“I would like…”).


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