Proving Your Street Cred

I ran into my Dutch neighbor Anneke the other day, and we started chatting.

(Well, okay, Anneke was chatting and I was stumbling, but hey, it works.)

That’s when I heard it. She used a phrase that just rolled off her tongue.

It was spoken with such casual effect, just the right intonation and delivered with an almost imperceptible shrug.

When I heard it, I recognized it immediately from my intensive Dutch course. At the time, it was just another phrase to memorize, then try to recall and use in everyday conversation.

But when Anneke casually tossed it out, it reminded me that I’d heard the same phrase the week before.

Walking back home, I mulled it over.

Every language has a few words or phrases that, when thrown into everyday conversation, indicate total command of the language.

Or in my case, that it sounds as if you know what you’re saying. The imperative word being ‘sounds.’

So I’ve come up with my short list of Dutch words and phrases that are bound to raise the perception of your linguistic credentials.

Repeat after me…

Natuurlijk – As you can probably guess, it means ‘naturally.’ The Dutch use this word the way Americans use ‘of course.’ Make sure you give it strong emphasis on the second syllable and draw it out, but deliver it without a hint of sarcasm. Even when Nederlanders employ sarcasm, it’s very understated. Never as blatant as the ubiquitous ‘well, duh’ phrase that seems to be all the rage with many American teens.

Prima – This cute, little Italian-sounding word means ‘fine’ or ‘very well.’ If someone’s explaining something to you and seeks agreement, rather than say a boring ‘ja,’ you can use prima.

Dat klopt – Means ‘that is correct.’ Use it the way Americans toss off ‘yeah, that’s right’ or ‘that’s true.’

Which reminds me of the final two entries in our efforts to raise your credibility.

Ja hoor – While this literally means ‘yes, (I) hear,’ it’s handy for instances when you want to say ‘yeah’ or ‘sure, okay” or even ‘yeah, I got it’ (when you’re letting them know you heard and understand). Used in casual conversation only.

Nee hoor – Similarly, this is used when chatting with someone you know well. It’s the equivalent of a casual ‘nope’ instead of a more definitive ‘no.’ You can also use when you mean ‘just kidding’ or ‘not really’ or ‘of course not.’

Well there you have it. Sprinkle these sayings into your conversations and you’ll have people convinced you know more Nederlands than you actually do.

Just don’t be surprised if they then start to speak faster. But that’s another problem for another day…

What casual words or phrases do YOU tend to use in everyday conversation?? Do share!


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