Dutch Words I Can’t Keep Straight

Posted on Jun 21, 2013 | 13 comments

There are a few lot of words in Dutch that I just can never seem to get right. This list is really a running one, as I always seem to be forgetting things, or my knowledge of certain words seems to become hazy after not hearing or reading them for a while. I thought I might share my follies here as a bit of comic relief. I do have to laugh sometimes because it often creates an unusual mental picture, especially in regard to the first example. Hopefully I’ll get these things straight some day because I think it could be important, it’s literally life and death in the last case.




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  • Yannick Pottiez

    Really funy, I never noticed these similarities 😛 Do you have other examples?

    • http://www.oppositeocean.com/ Leah@OppositeOcean

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Yannick! :) I am making new examples all the time. I’ll be sure to share more of my confusion in the future. In the meantime, here’s some input from a friend that also finds learning Dutch a bit confusing sometimes. She says, “i always mixed up begeleiden (to accompany) and beledigen (to insult) and also verwijten (to blame), verwijzen (to refer) and bewijzen (to prove)! so confusing!”

      • Yannick Pottiez

        Hehe yea I hear dutch is really difficult (Im a native). It get’s even more confusing when one word has several completly different meanings. For example: uitslag (rash / result), gerecht (court / dish), toets (test / button). And there are even some words whose meaning depends on the pronounciation! Like: verspringen, regent, overweg, voorkomen.

        • http://www.oppositeocean.com/ Leah@OppositeOcean

          We also have these kind of tricky words in English that mean one thing in a certain context and then another in a different context. It’s strange though, because as a native speaker you’re not always aware that they exist. It’s interesting how sometimes I can see a word in Dutch and it looks very strange to me, then I realize, it’s a literal translation of the English word, too. For example, I saw ‘doodlijn’ the other day and just found it to be such an odd word… then I realized, that’s exactly like the English ‘deadline’. I just don’t think of the English word as peculiar or strange because it’s strongly tied to a mental concept, and I don’t see it literally. :) Ah, languages. So interesting! :) As you may guess, I’m a literature and linguistics student. 😉

          • Yannick Pottiez

            Hmm, I never heard of “doodlijn”, we normally say “deadline” in Dutch. It seems like a purism, you hear that more often lately. It is an alarming custom in Flemish nationalistic settings. Recently there was a case about a “frituur” in Kortrijk who was prohibited to bear a French name. Maybe you heard it on the news. They use language as a political weapon. However, I believe that we should see languages as they are: a mean of communication and a bridge to other cultures :) What do you think about this? Yes I figured that out, according to your blog 😛 Even an engineering student can think it is interesting 😛

          • http://www.oppositeocean.com/ Leah@OppositeOcean

            I don’t remember now where I read ‘doodlijn’ but I think it was somewhere on the internet. I actually have read a bit about the language debates recently. I think there was an argument a while back in Ghent about using English advertisements on public transportation from De Lijn. I do agree with you that languages serve foremost as devices of communication. For me, they are certainly expressive but they are also fun. :) If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experiences with language it’s that the rules are not set in stone. When your objective is communication there are not necessarily right or wrong ways of going about it. To adhere to the thought that one way is completely right and another way is completely wrong will present you with a lot of limitations.

      • Yannick Pottiez

        Languages are fun 😉

  • http://www.quintessentially-english.blogspot.com/ Erin @Quintessentially English

    Hahaha this post amused me. It’s like in French if you say “Je suis chaud” which many English people do as you assume it means I am hot. However what it actually means is basically I’m horny. Instead you have to say “J’ai chaud” which directly translated means I have heat.

    Erin x

    • http://www.oppositeocean.com/ Leah@OppositeOcean

      :) Glad you liked it! Funny how we can so quickly say something we don’t mean when we translate literally!

  • http://www.oppositeocean.com/ Leah@OppositeOcean

    It’s quite a funny thought isn’t it, to think of the Queen Rabbit? :) I don’t mind having this confusion so much when the result is so amusing. 😀 Thanks for the offer of help. I’m learning more each day and that’s really all I can ask, I think. :) Trying to keep an open mind and make sure that it all remains interesting and fun.

    • Melissa Callaert

      You’ll be fine! I give dutch classes to my exchange students every year and i heard the most weird things but we are a difficult language so it’s okay! How are you?

  • http://bijgebrekaanbeter.blogspot.com/ Bij Gebrek Aan Beter

    Hahaha, this is funny to see. :)

  • http://www.belgium4dummies.com Jim Powers

    Hey Leah,

    I’ve recently finished my website, which might help foreign folks who would like to get to know Belgium a little more.

    Have a look!


    Btw, I’ve made a little video too:


    Thanks and good luck with your struggle :p