Shrink to fit
Sure, I am Always Talkin’ Food, but I teach NT2 (Dutch as a second language) on the side. Mainly to young foreigners who came to Amsterdam for or with love. For privacy reasons the names in these columns are fictitious.
As impossible as my students find Dutch grammar, so very amusing they seem to find Dutch word structure. A constant source of entertainment.
‘A handschoen? A shoe for your hand? Did the Dutch used to walk on all fours?’ asks the French entertainer of the class Alain wittily.
Loud laughter is the result.
Some also show admiration for the flexibility, or call it simplicity, with which you can fabricate a new noun in the Dutch language out of almost any two. A doctor who checks your teeth is a tandarts (tooth doctor). An accommodation where children stay during the day when their parents are working? A kinderdagverblijf (child day stay).
Finally, they find the logic they so vainly long for in the Dutch grammar.
Their favorite? Handtekening. A “drawing” that you make with your hand. Far preferable to the English "signature" or the Spanish firma.
It is a pity, though, that you have to put de or het in front of every noun.
Are there at least rules for that?, Alain wants to know.
‘Yes, but none that would make you very happy, Alain’, I reply with a wink.
Well, one then.
As soon as it becomes clear that literally any noun transforms into a so-called het-woord when you shrink its proportions by using the suffix -je, they simply bypass the de and het issue altogether by formulating everything in elf dimensions. ‘Het mannetje (the little man) is sitting with het vrouwtje (the little woman) on het fietsje (the little bike) while eating het hamburgertje’.
Yet, they do not escape the dance entirely this way. For, which suffix exactly is appropriate: -je, -tje, -pje, -kje or -etje?
Fortunately for them, there are rules for that.
You could call Bambino het kleine broertje (the baby brother) of internationally acclaimed restaurant BAK. I call it my favorite wijnbarretje. A place where I could easily go every day. Sometimes for a quick glaasje (small glass) of natural wine or unfiltered local beer with a hapje (small bite), other times for an evening full of glaasjes and a myriad of hapjes, like the invincible duck nuggets (see photo).
From lunch till late it’s always a feestje (party) to be here.
Bambino, Vijzelgracht 5h Amsterdam. Open: Monday-Saturday 9:30 AM-11 PM, Sunday 11:30 AM-11 PM.
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