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Spelling of Vowels - Vocabulary - Numbers 10-20 - Broadcasting in Holland

The Spelling of Vowels
Numbers 10-20
Broadcasting in Holland

Just listen to the sounds of Dutch - don't worry about a thing - much will be explained in the course of the lessons.

Tegenwind in Nederland

Als je in Nederland fietst dan heb je òf wind mee, òf je hebt wind tegen. Meestal heb je natuurlijk tegenwind, en als je 's morgens met tegenwind naar je werk of naar school fietst, dan draait de wind vaak, en dan heb je aan het eind van de dag niet de wind mee maar weer tegenwind. Als je 's morgens wind mee hebt dan draait de wind nooit. Theoretisch zou je zeggen dat het ook wel eens windstil zou moeten zijn, maar dat gebeurt bijna nooit. click to hear

Headwinds in Holland

Riding a bicycle in Holland you'll either have the wind in your back, or you'll have the wind against. Of course, most of the time you'll have the wind against you, and in case you have the wind against when riding your bike to work or to school in the morning, you'll often find the wind has shifted at the end of the day. If you have the wind at your back in the morning it never changes direction. In theory, you'd expect an occasional day of no wind, but that's rare, very rare.
[The Face of Dutch,  The Face of a Biking Dutchman, with Helmet]

[Marco riding a bike]

M'n vrouw zegt dat het alleen windstil is als je wil vliegeren. click to hear
't Is alleen windstil als je wilt vliegeren. click to hear 2 3
('je wilt' click to hear 2 is correct, 'je wil' is not correct)
My wife says the only time there's no wind is when you'd like to fly a kite.
The only time that there's no wind is when you want to fly a kite.
wind mee click to hear 2 3 tailwind - (de) tegenwind click to hear headwind
[It is of course only when the wind speed exceeds the biker's speed that wind in the back is perceived as such.]

The Long and Short of Dutch Vowels

Dutch spelling is fairly phonetic. In general, there is just one way of writing each sound, and each letter and letter combination is usually pronounced in the same way. Once you know the pronunciation of the letters, you can almost always easily see from written Dutch how to say it, and on hearing Dutch you will know how it's written.
There are (of course!) exceptions, but not that many, and most are not very important. Speaking Dutch following only the general rules - pronoucing every letter in the standard way - would not be really bad Dutch. The only things that early on need explanation is the 'voiceless E' (in the next lesson) and the spelling of long vowels.
Zoals je 't zegt? click to hear 2 3 Like you say it? (Asking if a name is written phonetically, according to the spelling rules)

The pronunciation examples are not meant as vocabulary to be learned

Double vowels are always long, but single vowels can be either long or short.

heg click to hear
'short e'
deeg click to hear
'long e'
degen click to hear
'long e' / 'voiceless e'
(a light sword)
motor click to hear
'long o' / 'short o'

There is a rule, and it is really logical and not that difficult. It may take a moment to understand - this will be a somewhat long lesson, take your time - but once you've mastered the spelling of long and short vowels Dutch will look much clearer, much less confusing, and you will be able to confidently pronounce written Dutch.

Let me stress again that the 'long vowels' and 'short vowels' are just traditional names; the difference between them is actually more of tone. A 'short' vowel can be stretched, and the word will still be correctly understood. Linguists call the long vowel 'free' and the short vowel 'covered.'

Compare the vowels in these words:

man click to hear
'short a'
maan click to hear
'long a'
Ma click to hear
'long a'
mannen click to hear
'short a'
manen click to hear
'long a'

slap click to hear
'short a'
slaap click to hear
'long a'
sla click to hear
'long a'
slappe click to hear
'short a'
slapen click to hear
'long a'
(to sleep)
(slap click to hear is the adverb, while slap click to hear and slappe click to hear are the two forms of the adjective. More in Lesson 5 and Lesson 11)

Why are the single A's in ma and manen, sla and slapen long?

example example
double vowel maan click to hear slaap click to hear always long
single vowel at the end of a word Ma click to hear sla click to hear long (except for -e which is voiceless)
single vowel followed by one or more consonants at the end of a word man click to hear slap click to hear short
single vowel followed by one consonant followed by another vowel manen click to hear slapen click to hear long (syllable split: ma-nen, sla-pen)
single vowel followed by two or more consonants mannen click to hear slappe click to hear short (syllable split: man-nen, slap-pe)

The Dutch spelling rule is that a single vowel at the end of a word (ma) or at the end of a syllable (ma-nen) is long - except E at the end of a word. A single vowel followed by one or more consonants in a syllable or word is always short (man, man-nen.) If there is one consonant between vowels, that consonant almost always goes to the second syllable; two or more consonants are usually divided between syllables. More examples: which vowels are long? Try for yourself first, then compare with how I say them.

cister - citer click to hear (mediaeval string instruments)
la - lat - laat - latten - lade - laden click to hear 2
(drawer - slat - late - slats - drawer - drawers)
ka - kat - kater - katten click to hear - 2
(an aggressive, loud woman - cat - male cat - cats)
pa - pas - pa's - passen - Pasen click to hear
(Dad - step - Dad's/Dads - to fit - Easter)
na - nat - naad - natte - naden click to hear
(after - wet - seam - wet - seams)
waden - watten - Wadden - water click to hear - 2
(to wade - 'cotton wool' - flood plain area - water)
bas - bes - bis - bos - bus click to hear
(bass - berry - 'encore' - forest - bus/metal jar)
krik - krikken - krieken - smid - smiecht - wicht click to hear
(jack (tool) - to jack - early morning - smith - rogue - ~girl)
knop - knoop - knoppen - knopen click to hear
(bud - button - buds - buttons)
mus - mussen - muze - muziek - muzikaal - mug click to hear
(sparrow - sparrows - muse - music - musical - mosquito)

Diphthongs (AU/OU, EI/IJ, EU, OE and UI) are always long.
kou - koud click to hear ('the cold - cold')
mij - mijn click to hear ('me - my (mine)')
deuk - keuken click to hear ('dent - kitchen')
koekoek click to hear ('cuckoo')
lui - luid click to hear ('lazy - loud')

Continue reading about Dutch spelling and pronunciation in Lesson 11
And compare: hear all Dutch vowels and diphthongs side-by-side


brood click to hear - 2
[a head of lettuce]
sla click to hear
appel click to hear
tomaat click to hear
prei click to hear
bloemkolen click to hear
fruit click to hear
sinaasappel click to hear
kip click to hear
[a piece of meat]
vlees click to hear
worst click to hear
[a few strips of raw bacon]
spek click to hear
spek click to hear
[a block of cheese]
kaas click to hear >>
[a house]
huis click to hear
[a door]
deur click to hear - 2
[brick wall]
muur click to
[wooden fence]
schutting click to hear
[yard, garden]
tuin click to hear - 2
['small garden,' flowerbed]
tuintje click to hear - 2

Numbers 2

click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to
click to

<< numbers, simple math and dimensions >>

The Broadcasting System in Holland

[a radio]
radio, radiotoestel click to hear
['radio listening licence']
click to hear
[a small television set]
televisie click to hear = TV click to hear
Until commercial radio and TV came to Holland in the 1990s, most of the broadcasting was provided by 'broadcasting organisations,' omroepverenigingen click to hear. Members would pay a yearly fee of a few dollars, and the number of members determined the amount of broadcast time given to each organisation: like an election. I think it's unique in the world, and a very fair system. Next to the omroepverenigingen an independent organisation provided news and sports coverage. The broadcasting facilities were run by the government.

The broadcasting organisations represented the different segments of the Dutch population: Labor, Conservative, Roman Catholic, and several Protestant groups. The various groups in the Dutch population of the fifties and sixties lived somewhat separately, with their own schools, sports clubs and students' societies, and also their own political parties. Some people would only listen to the broadcasts of their own group.
This compartmentalization of Dutch society is called verzuiling click to hear - Dutch zuil click to hear is 'pillar' like in a Greek temple. I've seen it translated as 'pillarization,' but that doesn't seem right to me. It looks too much like another word. Wouldn't 'compartmentalization' be a better translation?
I think Dutch society changed much with the shake-up of the late sixties and the diminishing role of religion, not many people going to church anymore. The old boundaries have faded.

Dutch national radio and television started without commercials, but to pay for the broadcasting, each household had to buy a listening and viewing permit (omroepkaart) click to hear - about $75 a year in the 1980s. As David Lodge has rightly noted in 'Changing Places,' without commercials disc jockeys need to do much more talking, and it isn't always entertaining.
In the late sixties blocks of ads around the news programs on radio and TV were introduced.
A very nice feature of Dutch broadcasting and politics is that there are no political commercials on radio or TV, and also not in the newspapers, so politicians don't need the big money for that. It keeps politics a little cleaner.

For a long time the 'pirate station' Radio Veronica click to hear was broadcasting pop radio with commercials from a ship just outside the territorial waters. It filled a great need because there was very little pop and rock on national radio, until a third national radio channel was started in the late 60s. In the mid-sixties, some businessmen tried to start a commercial TV station on an old oil rig in the North Sea, but that was stopped by the authorities after a few months. Marines boarded the rig and seized the transmitting equipment.
Eventually, both 'Radio Veronica' and some of the people behind the commercial TV station 'came on land' and 'joined the system' to become popular broadcasting organisations. << - essays - >>

(Learning Dutch)
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