Monday, 26 May 2014

Dutch Difficulty - The Elusive Word

There is (at least) one word in the Dutch language that still eludes me. It's a word that I just can't quite my tongue round. It's a word I'll avoid saying if at all possible.

That place hard for expats to say
© Expat Life with a Double Buggy
The list of impossible words was, of course, once quite long. Fourteen years ago it was a limitless list. Luckily, it has got much smaller over the years. 

Let's face it, the Dutch language is not the easiest for a British person to get a grip on. There are lots of throaty sounds which simply don't exist in the English language. I have had to learn to growl and gargle in whole new ways, just to communicate with the people in the country I now call home.

When I first came to the Netherlands I lived temporarily in a place called Voorschoten. Thankfully it was only for a few months because I really couldn't pronounce it properly in those early days. It's the "sch" part that caused issues. The same sound is the culprit when non-Dutch visitors are trying to say Scheveningen. It took a while, but I did eventually master the guttural sound.

That once elusive word ui as part of uitgang
© Expat Life with a Double Buggy
Ui (the Dutch word for onion) was the other word that I avoided if I could, simple enough if you refuse to talk about food. But that also meant I couldn't talk about leaving the house (uitgaan) or about exits (uitgang). But I eventually got over those hurdles.

However, one word remains. It sits as a solitary, lonely word on my 'impossible to say' list. It glares at me, sits there with an evil smile, daring me to make a fool of myself, challenging me to find an alternative way of saying what it means.

Difficulty. I have difficulty with the Dutch word for difficulty. Moeite. There, I've said it out loud. Faced my Dutch demon but alas, I still can't say it like a native. Tips welcome on how to say it like a real Dutchman.....

What word eludes you in your host country language? Why?

*This post is adapted from a post originally published on my blog A Letter from the Netherlands*


  1. Oooh I hate the 'ui' sound as well! If people miraculously believe I'm Dutch when I speak to them, the illusion is shattered as soon as I utter that sound.
    My biggest difficulty is with distinguishing the v from the w - not to mention the f from the v, although at least when someone spells it out for me it sounds different!

  2. Sneeuw.

    My mouth is not physically flexible enough anymore to move that way, sorry!

  3. Oh lord... I'm still a Nederlands-newbie, but basically anything with "r" makes me sound ridiculous (I grew up in Boston, where we "pahk the cah"). I'm also not fond of "eu" sounds like peuter, keuken, as I can't seem to make the sound consistently. Thankfully, the south has a much softer "g" so I haven't had to make as many guttural sounds.