The Dutch language is really difficult to learn. But what is worse, Dutch first names are very hard to remember. I often don’t even recognize them as a name.
Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
I was sitting at a computer in Radix, next to the same colleague as usual. As I was having a brief chat with him, I received a hastily written text message from his supervisor: ‘I could send wouters proposal though.’ For a French person, English is hard enough, so when I hear or see a new word, I always ask for the translation or search for it. So I typed into Google Translate the unfamiliar word which looked like an adjective to me: ‘wouters’. No translation for it. In any language. Just then my colleague glanced at the screen and said with an exasperated voice: ‘Yes… that’s my name.’ I felt kind of sorry for him, because after talking to him for two weeks, I still didn’t know his name.
For foreigners from anywhere in the world, Dutch names are impossible to pronounce, to remember, to spell or even to distinguish in a sentence. To make matters worse, some of them are only part of their more familiar full name. Xander, one of my housemates, should be called Alexander – proof that the Dutch are too lazy to write their own names. Finally, when you have managed to remember the name of your Dutch housemate, you must still try to spell it correctly. Like Natasja with a ‘j’ instead of Natasha with an ‘h’. I decided to live with 20 Dutch housemates, so you can understand what a hard time I had at first.
Cindy Lainé, guest researcher in Plant genetics, from France
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Cindy Lainé uit Frankrijk zat al twee weken dagelijks naast dezelfde Nederlandse collega toen diens begeleider haar een haastig appje stuurde: ‘I could send wouters proposal though.’ In een poging deze zin te begrijpen, tikte ze het woord ‘wouters’ in in Google Translate. Tevergeefs. Geen vertaling bekend, in welke taal dan ook. Op dat moment keek haar collega over haar schouder en zei geprikkeld: ‘Ja, dat is mijn naam’. Nogal gênant, maar Nederlanders maken het buitenlanders ook niet makkelijk, vindt Cindy. ‘Hun voornamen zijn onmogelijk om uit te spreken, onthouden, spellen of zelfs herkennen in een zin.’