Opposite Ocean: Learning Dutch is 'silly'

Opposite Ocean: Learning Dutch is 'silly'

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Dutch is full of humourous words when translated literally into English, as Leah Budke discovers through comical illustrations by artist Laura Frame.

Maybe when you read the title of this post you thought I was going to go on about how silly it is to learn a language that so few people speak and that is not so useful outside of the Low Countries. I sometimes had the feeling when I first came here, especially during the frustrating days, that I was putting a lot of time and effort into a rather useless pursuit. Depending upon where that tricky creature called life decides to take me in the future maybe my knowledge of Dutch will prove useful, or maybe not. It’s hard to know, but that’s not really what this post is about.

Along the journey of acquiring some proficiency in this mysterious little language there have been lots of laughs. Anyone that’s started out on the monumental journey of learning a second language can attest to the fact that it always challenges you to see things from a different perspective, to break out of the linguistic norms that have structured your life and thought processes up until the present. You begin to realise that not only are there many different ways to express your thoughts and feelings, but there are also many different ways of living life. It’s not to say that one way is more correct than another, but the essence of it all is to realise that life is not limited to a set amount of options on how to express oneself or how to live one’s life.

Sometimes when you’re learning a new language you just have to laugh at the way things are expressed. It can be an extremely confusing and frustrating process and laughing about such crazy words or expressions is the only way for me to get through it. I delight in coming across a Dutch word that so literally expresses a concept or gives me a hilarious mental picture to help attach it firmly in my vocabulary. This is why I was absolutely delighted when I came across Laura Frame’s Facebook page. She’s a splendidly creative artist who attaches whimsy to Dutch words in a way that always spreads a smile across my face. Her illustrations perfectly capture that moment of silly bewilderment I always feel when I come across a new Dutch word that delivers a strange mental picture (think zeehond).

I’ve embedded some of my favourite illustrations of Laura Frame’s here in this post. If you’ve enjoyed them, let her know! Become a fan on her Facebook page so you’ll never miss a moment to laugh as you learn a new Dutch word and check out her personal website.

Amusing Dutch word #1: Wasbeer (raccoon) literal translation 'wash bear'.


Amusing Dutch word #2: Tandpasta (toothpaste) literal translation 'tooth pasta'.


Amusing Dutch word #3: Luipaard (leopard) literal translation 'lazy horse'.


 Amazing Dutch word #4: Gelukzak (lucky guy) – literal translation 'happy sack'.

Learning Dutch words


Amusing Dutch word #5: Madelief (daisy) – literal translation 'loveable maggot'.

Learning Dutch words



Reprinted with permission from Opposite Ocean.

Opposite OceanOpposite Ocean: Leah Budke is a web blog created and maintained by Leah Budke. Leah is a twenty-something American living abroad in Europe with a passion for languages, art, literature, and one special Belgian. She is a university graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish but finds that the drive to learn endures. Follow her as she cycles awkwardly through the streets of Ghent, Belgium, attempts to learn Dutch, and reveals all the quirks that make up the curious yet charming country of Belgium.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • carrico posted:

    on 23rd October 2014, 14:34:47 - Reply

    Hah! This article inspired me to Wikionary 'lekker.' Got some wild, suggestive definitions. Delicious comes to mind. The Afrikaans do some interesting things with the word. Lekker post. Klopft dat?
  • wolf posted:

    on 23rd October 2014, 13:28:12 - Reply

    'zwaartekracht' is not derived from 'zwart' (black) but from 'zwaar' heavy.
    Funny items may be:
    baby'tje (little baby)
    achtervolgen (afterfollow) to chase
    beschaving (sheddering, planing) for civilisation
  • Same Ocean posted:

    on 23rd October 2014, 10:35:34 - Reply

    How about 'zwaartekracht' (black force) for the English word 'gravity'?? Very funny language indeed. Nice article, thanks.