Get a feel for Dutch culture and language by reading books
Windmills, clogs and Dutch directness; as a country, you can only be known for so many things. The culture of the Netherlands isn’t as flat as its landscape, though. If you want to get a feel for its culture, the folks at Regina Coeli recommend reading books. Not travel guides or informative books, but novels written by Dutch authors. If you tackle reading in Dutch seriously, your knowledge of the language will also improve.
The value of reading novels
Novels give you the opportunity to empathise with characters and immerse yourself in a world of experience that’s more or less coloured by the author’s cultural background. By reading books by Dutch writers, you learn more about the Dutch perspective on themes such as the importance of religion, colonisation, immigration and far-reaching events.
How do you read Dutch literature?
Nobody says you have to read books in Dutch. Many Dutch books have been translated into multiple languages, such as these titles:
- The Discomfort of Evening - Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize
- The Discovery of Heaven - Harry Mulisch
- Bonita Avenue - Peter Buwalda
- In Europe - Geert Mak
- The Sisters of Auschwitz - Roxane van Iperen
If you can already read a bit of Dutch, then put yourself to the test with one of these less challenging books in their original language:
- Het achterhuis - Anne Frank (the world-famous diary of a woman in hiding in Amsterdam)
- Het diner - Herman Koch
- Oosterschelde windkracht 10 - Jan Terlouw (about the flood of 1953)
- De serie dagboeken van Hendrik Groen (about the life of elderly people in a Dutch nursing home; reminiscent of the diaries of Adriana Mole)
- Lampje - Annet Schaap (an award-winning children’s book about a girl who grows up in a lighthouse)
Or, alternatively, go to leeslicht.nl for novels written in simple Dutch.
Improve your Dutch by reading
By reading a book in a foreign language, not only do you develop your vocabulary, but you also get a feel for sentence structure, the rhythm of the language, and how its grammar is used. You get to know different speaking styles by reading conversations and, because you can see the words in front of you, you’re also able to remember them better.
A lot of foreign literature has been translated into Dutch, so you can even opt to read the Dutch translations of your favourite novels.
Make sure you take a relaxed approach to reading, and don’t go looking up every word you don’t know. Instead, try to guess the meaning of the word from its context. If you still can’t figure it out, underline the word and go on reading. Look it up later. That way, you can keep reading and get into the story.
A natural feel for the Dutch language
When you read in Dutch, you put all kinds of processes to work in your head so that you get a natural feeling for the language. It works the same way when it comes to speaking. By doing it, you get better and automatically pick up the language of the people you speak to.
If you’d like to speed up that process or need help improving your pronunciation, then a language course at Regina Coeli is a great idea. Get in contact now and find out what languages you could start learning today!