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English for the Dutch

The bilingual

"English is simplified French"

I was speaking with two young Dutch guys in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam, and one of them said "You know what I think is the easiest language to learn?" Well, I know the answer to this one, for a Dutch person — but I said no.

"English," he said. English is easy, and Dutch is difficult.

English is so easy, he said, because it's basically simplified French. And he drew a bit of a map of how when the Normans came over & the various Celts were here 'n' there with Germanic and Norman in this part, etc.... In order to communicate with each other, they spoke simplified French. And that's why English is easy to learn.

The science behind his calculations was biased. The "logic," I felt, was based upon cultural preferences, and not specific verifiable evidence. It's okay; it's just not science.

And I do wonder what it is that makes Dutch difficult. He and his friend were saying that Dutch is an agglomeration of about six different languages. Well, they didn't use that word; just the simplified French ones. I think Dutch is considered difficult for other reasons than its inherent toughness. But I have to admit, I didn't learn it.

This fellow did point out something about Dutch that would make it hard to learn, which is that it has been revised in stages over the last few decades, once about every ten years,* I believe he said. He gave an example of a word that has changed in these successive revisions: Cadeaux, the word for gifts. It was first changed to cadeaus; then, ten years later, changed again (to something I don't remember,) and, finally (or at least most recently) to kadoos. This is in line with the Dutch phonology — still the same word, but now spelled like it sounds (kaDOSE.) He wasn't happy about it, feeling that "kadoos" is really more like a kid's word.

So Dutch may indeed be especially difficult. I do think, though, that English is easy for reasons he wasn't considering. Movies, TV.... England, America. And it's the international language, ubiquitous for better or worse.

I agreed that English is about half Latin and half Germanic, but not that it's simplified French. At least I did that much for my native language. Beyond that, I don't think it needs my help.

— November 2000, Amsterdam

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* The spelling of the Dutch language has not been revised every ten years over the last few decades.

In reality, the spelling is to be updated every ten years, beginning in 1995 (official in 1996,) incrementally revised in 2005 (official in 2006,) and soforth....

The Nieuwe Spelling of 1996 was indeed a major change — mostly the official preference of one popular spelling system over the other.

Proceeding revisions will be minor and corrective, based upon concensus after discussion, toward a standardization of certain disputed usages — probably mostly involving the arbitration on words new or borrowed.

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