(Eng) What You Like is What Helps You Study Foreign Languages: Me and Dutch Continued

“Students who experience heightened emotional interest are pulled toward a subject because they are energized, excited, and emotionally engaged by the material.” These words of Joseph Mazer (ref. below) go hand in hand with communication behaviours, including teachers’ immediacy behaviours. It’s hard to review all such behaviours but I’d like to mention just a few of them:

Non-verbal immediacy behaviours comprise:

  • smiling at your students while teaching them;
  • moving around the classroom while teaching your students;
  • removing physical barriers between yourself and your students;
  • keeping eye-contact with your students, etc.

Verbal immediacy behaviours comprise:

  • knowing your students’ first names and addressing them in this way;
  • using the pronouns which bring you together: “we”, “our, “us”;
  • giving constant feedback and making it as personalized as possible;
  • allowing for your students’ hobbies to be shared in the classroom;
  • being involved in your students’ feelings, as well as sympathizing with your students’ experiences, emotions, etc.

“Interests” and “feelings” – the key words here. The more we know about the students and the more input we can offer, the more output we can get back when the students absorb the material completely. Gradually, thanks to the introduction of immediacy behaviours, our students suck up like a sponge bits of information we offer .

I’ve decided, therefore, to share one of my personal interests with you. As a teacher and, foremost, as a lifelong language learner, I learn best when I hold on to something I can easily relate to. Having studied Dutch for a year now (mainly on my own), I very often turn to “Historia” magazine in Dutch, which is full of inspiring articles. Some take me to the ruins of an English monastery from the 16th century, whereas some others invite me to taste the Russia of Ivan the Great. When I read a news item on archeological excavations or when I, for a change, try to understand still another hypothesis as to what Jesus Christ might have actually looked like, I focus on the content first and then comes the language. Learning by building a mental scaffold on what you already know about England or Russia helps a lot. I usually build parallels, as if building bridges, between the languages I know; the bridges have different names: inflection-based; derivation-based; etymology-based; syntax-based, etc. Translating, comparing, contrasting and remembering – these tasks appear then logical, if not methodological to me.

Having, let’s say, read an article about a nun (or a noblewoman) buried off the monastery premises five hundred years ago, I construct a list of the expressions taken from the article which, when carefully analyzed, help me further on to reconstruct the article about the same nun (hopefully!) to myself, with my own words.

What I give you below is a selection of expressions / words / sentences taken from “Historia” magazine, Dutch version. In my self-teaching process, I divide the expressions into several sections. Often generic and fluid, the phrases can easily be adapted to fit any other context. As for my morphology-based or syntax-based self-study, I am a great fan of discovery techniques. Obviously, not priding myself on being a Columbus or a Marco Polo in this field, I’m absolutely convinced that inductive teaching, as part of any student educational exploration, if not a quest, should never be ignored, or even undermined.

Teachers are lifelong learners, which I always repeat! So, here you are – another recipe on how to study a foreign language and how to combine the process with personal hobbies. This is an example of immediacy behaviours which teachers may as well practise with their students in the classroom. Knowing your students’ interests seems essential here, though. You choose the material they find fascinating and studying is nothing but pleasure when discovering some grammar rules together.


a/ the plural form: double vowel (sing.) – single vowel (pl.)---- examples: steed – steden (city – cities); piraat – piraten (pirate – pirates); steen – stenen (stone – stones);

b/ the plural form – some foreign words form the plural by an apostrophe and an “-s” ---- examples: auto – auto’s (car – cars); nazi – nazi’s (Nazi – Nazis);

c/ the plural form – the most common plural endings are “-en” or “-s” ---- examples: cirkel – cirkels (circle – circles); onderzoeker – onderzoekers (researcher – researchers); monument – monumenten (monument – monuments); kinder – kinderen (child – children);

d/ imperfectum – the past tense and the imperfective aspect: when the root of the infinitive finishes with such voiceless consonants as “-t”, “-k”, “-f”, etc., then  “-te(n)” is used in the imperfectum for regular verbs ---- examples: werken – werkte (work – worked); veroorzaaken – veroorzaakte (cause – caused); maaken – maakte (make – made); heeten – heette (be named – was named);

e/ imperfectum – the past tense and the imperfective aspect: when the root of the infinitive finishes with voiced consonants, then “-de(n)” is used in the imperfectum for regular verbs ---- willen – wilde (want – wanted); trouwen – trouwde (get married – got married); identificeeren – identificeerden (identify – identified); probeeren – probeerden (try – tried);

f/ participium (past participle) used mainly in the past complex tense (together with the auxiliary “have” or “be”) and as part of the passive voice; "ge-" is used at the beginning as the indicator in regular verbs --- examples: werd gemaakt (was made); werd gegeten (was eaten); werd gegooid (was thrown); werd gevonden (was found); heb gezondigd (have sinned); de zogeheten (the so called).


a/ noun suffixes typical of Dutch words: “-rij”, “-heid”---- examples: hekserij (witchcraft); blindheid (blindness);

b/ adjectival suffixes typical of Dutch words: “-lijk”, “-rijk”’, “-s(e)”, “-isch”, “-zaam”-----examples: dergelijk (similar, such); belangrijk (important); middeleeuwse vrouwen (medieval women); historisch (historical); vreedzaam (peaceful);

c/ negative prefixes in Dutch words: "im-" , "on-" ---- examples: immoreel (immoral); onjuist (unjust, incorrect); ongeschreven (unwritten).


a/ compound nouns: there are no hyphens in contrast to English, the noun determining age, weight, etc. is also in the singular ---- examples: de 50 kilo zware staaf (the-fifty-kilo-heavy bar); een 3500 jaar oude speelgoed (a-3500-year-old toy);

b/nouns which determine phrases with the cardinal numerals are in the singular---- examples: 300 jaar (300 years); 20 jaar geleden (20 years ago); 500 jaar ouder dan (500 years older than); 525 meter boven zeeniveau (525 meters above sea level);

c/ expressing decades in history--- example: vanaf de jaren 1930 (starting from the 1930s);

d/ expressing centuries --- examples: de 16e eeuw (the 16th century); in de loop van de 17een 18e eeuw (during, in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries);

e/ expressing BC and AD --- examples: 2000 v. Chr. (in 2000 BC – voor Christus – before Christ); 140 na Chr. (AD 140 – na Christus – after Christ).


a/ in de middeleeuwen – in the Middle Ages;

b/ de Eerste / Tweede Wereldoorlog – the Great / Second World War;

c/ de Amerikaanse Burgeroorlog – the American Civil War;

d/ in de jonge steentijde – in the New Stone Age;

e/ op het Weens Congres – during the Vienna Congress;

f/ de Duitse Habsburgers – the German Habsburgs.


a/ IN ---- examples: in de loop van de eeuwen (in the course of centuries); in het algemeen (in general); in het zuiden van (south of); in gebruik (in use); in handen van (in the hands of); in het begin van (at the beginning of);

b/ MET ---- examples: met behulp van (using, with the help of, by means of); stoppen met (stop, give up, resign);

c/ TER --- examples: werd ter dood verordeeld (was sentenced to death); de rijkste mens ter wereld (the richest man in the world).

There appears to be a problem with prepositional phrases in the Dutch language, at least to me. What helps sometimes is their direct translation into English, another Germanic language. Sometimes such analogous expressions are easily absorbed and gradually remembered to become part of the user’s (active) vocabulary. Apart from the apparent ambiguity hidden behind the Dutch prepositions, in the Dutch language there is also a considerable number of the so called separable verbs which consist of their lexical core and separable particle. Sometimes the two units stay together, in other instances – they are mercilessly separated. My next challenge is, therefore, to approach syntax and to draw conclusions from any parallels observed in sentence structure and in marked / unmarked word order.

As you can see, which I hope you can, the examples I’ve presented above may work just fine in any context, history-bound or history-free. Besides, the knowledge of grammar and word-formation rules is an asset in this kind of self-study. I said at the start of the post that a set of immediacy behaviours is important in the didactic process. And I know it is – your students’ interests enhance your lessons and your own interests refresh your English competences and boost your own lexis.

Just one final thought: you’ve probably noticed, by going through the examples above, that very often Dutch words are similar in their roots, morphological affixes to their English equivalents. Comparative linguistics helps a lot in your study or self-study. Apart from this, you may always go back to Latin, or to other classical languages because, as Alastair Kane tells us, “Etymology reminds us of the living, organic nature of languages (ref. below)”.



  • History magazine:

“Historia” – Dutch version: Vipmedia, 7/2015

  • Methodology – immediacy behaviours DOA: 12.10.2015:


  • Methodology – etymology  DOA: 12.10.2015: