The Dutch 'Anaconda' challenge
The Dutch and English languages have so many words in common. In fact, if you take a closer look, there are numerous occasions when you can immediately understand what it is all about. For example "Ik drink wijn" (I drink wine) or "Ik eet brood" (I eat bread).
Unfortunately, not always! For instance, what exactly is an: "Internetpaginainformatieverbeteringspuntenplan?"
Before you panic or simply give up, have a look below at some sneaky language peculiarities and how to deal with them.
The looooong Dutch challenge
The Dutch love long words, or as I call them, "anaconda" words. The real question is not why they use them (or how to avoid them), but rather how to break them down, and of course, how to remember them.
Let’s have a look at a few examples:
› "anacondawoord" (anaconda word)
› "coachingsessie” (coaching session)
Do you still believe that the Dutch word is that much more difficult? Try ignoring the single space between words and try again. Better now?
Here is another example: "eenpersoonsbed" (single bed). Look closely and break into smaller pieces:
› "een" (one)
› "persoons" (person’s)
› "bed" (bed)
Not that bad if you pause to take a closer look, right?
The 60 letter word
Back to our example: "Internetpaginainformatieverbeteringspuntenplan" - a real anaconda word! The most important thing to remember is not to get overwhelmed.
Let’s take a deep breath and start looking for pieces:
› "Internetpagina" (Internet page - just like above, add a gap between the two words)
› "Informatie" (information)
› "Verbeter" (to make better, to improve)
› "Een punt" (a point)
› "Een plan" (a plan)
So, what we have here is a word describing a plan with points to improve the information on an Internet page!
Let’s get wild here and add "actiestrategie" (action strategy). Now we have: "internetpaginainformatieverbeteringspuntenplan-
This 60 letter anaconda word exists only in theory - even most Dutch people would agree that such a long word is unacceptable, if not ridiculous. The point to take away from this example is that you should always stay calm and work with what you know.
Furthermore, all these long words have one thing in common that makes them that much easier to understand: they only ever refer to one "thing" (i.e. there are no double meanings).
Watch for the adder, befriend the "anacondas"
The Dutch love to say: "Er zit misschien een addertje onder het gras" (Maybe there is a little adder (small venomous snake) under the grass), which means that when things look too easy, there may be something more going on; a hidden agenda if you wish.
To those who have already started learning Dutch, this comes as no surprise. But believe me: it is better to be alert and look out for the adder than to think of the entire language as a swamp and avoid it because you imagine the snakes are bigger and much more dangerous there!
If fact, why not try memorising a couple of those words and throwing them out at a party or a friendly gathering? The Dutch will be so surprised and impressed! But above all, you will see that you are not the only one to get a shock when such "anaconda" words pop up.
Albert Both is a specialist on learning Dutch fast and gaining Dutch fluency while having fun.
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