Amsterdam language question

Mar 23rd, 2002, 04:23 AM
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Amsterdam language question

I have been reading mixed opinions about learning a few Dutch phrases to use in Amsterdam. Most of what I've read said "Don't bother, the locals will only laugh at you, and they don't encourage trying to speak Dutch." Experiences please? I don't want to be rude, is it okay to show up at a hotel or restaurant and start speaking English right off the bat?
(I also have a silly question. I have this bad habit of saying Damn a lot, like when I stub my toe, etc. What does this mean when you say it in Amsterdam? LOL)
Mar 23rd, 2002, 04:28 AM
Ben Haines
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I gave up trying to use Dutch in that civilised country years ago. They do not laugh, but they do move straight into English.

I think dam means dam, a bulwark against water. The Dutch for damned may be Verdompt.

Ben Haines, London
Mar 23rd, 2002, 11:12 AM
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x, you have been told right. Most Dutch appreciate the opportunity to speak Engels. They are the most fluent on the continent. However, even though I can understand much of it now, I still prefer to use English to avoid misunderstandings. Most 10 year old Dutchies know more English than you would learn in a year over there. When you approach someone, just say, "Sorry, I only speak English." It is rare to receive a puzzeled look; normally you'll be greeted with "OK, what would you like?"
To embellish your trip these few words may come in handy:
Hello; goedendag (pr. something like whoe-ye-dahggg), normally shortened to dag (dahggg).
Good-bye; goedendag, shortened to dag. (The Dutch are like the Italians with ciao)
See you later; tot ziens (tote seeens. use this one a lot; they love it and it's easy to master).
Please; alstublieft (allz-too-bleef)
Thank you; dank U (dahnk oo, as in boot), or dank je (dahnk ye) to a younger person.
The only one you won't be able to pronounce, even after hearing a Dutch person drill it in to you, is dag. It sounds like like they are clearing their throat.
As for damn, I suggest you start practicing with dang or darn or dolly. The Dutch know damn, but profanity is not appreciated.
For more info on Dutch, some anecdotes of my attempts to learn it, and other info on these lines, see my page on "languages, numbers, and alphabets" at
Mar 23rd, 2002, 02:59 PM
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I agree that the Dutch will hardly let you speak their language. And apparently my attempts at Dutch (sometimes) made them think I as German! Occasionally they switched to German, but then when I spoke German, I got asked "where ARE you from?"


I had a slightly different experience in Maastricht, at least at one gas station I remember vivdly. Looking for help on driving directions, and nothing but Dutch at all there. But we managed to communicate.

But as for your question: "is it okay to show up at a hotel or restaurant and start speaking English right off the bat?" - - you might start with hello, and a three second pause. Not necessarily rude in any country. and if not response follows, just ask slowly and clearly "Excuse me. Do you speak English?" In English. 90% of the time you will be answered in English in Amsterdam. and 9 of 10% of the others will immediately produce someone who is more comfortable (if not more fluent) in English.

Still, this approach would qualify as slightly better manners than simply starting in English.

Best wishes,


Mar 23rd, 2002, 03:09 PM
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It's been a few years since I was in the Netherlands, but I did try out the danke u vell sort of thing. I got nice smiles, and a gentle pronunciation correction...and then the person went right into English.

And a story: I asked a woman at a train station if I was on the right track for my train. She answered me in English, so I sat down on a bench. A young woman with Down's Syndrome sat next to me and asked in very careful English "You are American?" I said yes. She said "I would like to practice my English. O.K.?" So we chatted in simple (no slang, no past pluperfects, whatever they are) English until my train came. Made me feel pretty lazy when a woman with a learning disability had a better command of my language than I did of hers.
Mar 23rd, 2002, 03:26 PM
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Thanks for all the responses!
Mar 23rd, 2002, 04:37 PM
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Don't worry almost everyone knows english. I would just learn the word for more ice. They only give you a couple of ice cubes.
Mar 23rd, 2002, 06:53 PM
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