Articles by Klaus Rother about the Dutch language and culture


Klaus Rother writes about his experiences with Dutch culture. This story is part of the interview Kyra Broshuis recorded in the titles of Achterhoek Nieuws. You will find that here.

My view of Dutch culture

5000 years ago, the first farmers colonized the Drenthe area (Source: Prisma Wegwijzer Drenthe). They came from the east. They built dowels for her dead. You will also find many dowels just over the Dutch-German border, for example close to Meppen. It is undoubtedly the most impressive cultural memory of these people in that area. But it also means that there was no measurable difference between the cultures in those days.

After the first farmers came Frisians, Saxons, Romans, Franks, Normans, Spaniards, French, all with different cultures in the following centuries. In addition, the rise of Christianity, churches, monasteries, cities, science, education, principalities, kingdoms, feudalism, religions, industrial revolution, emancipation of the working class, international trade, wars, etc. led to the present modern Netherlands.

For example, if you enter the Netherlands by bicycle from Germany via a smuggler’s trail or a green border, a new world for cyclists welcomes you. A system of maps and notes takes you to every corner of the country. No other itinerary provides a better orientation for planning a cycling trip. Across the border in Wesel, Kleve and Viers, the Germans are copying this excellent system to attract tourists.

Many of my journeys go through villages, towns, forests, across fields and meadows, along canals, rivers and lakes. Futuristic skyscrapers in the cities alternate with small, narrow, traditional houses. I still remember my holidays with my parents in Katwijk and Noordwijk when I was young. We always rented a room in a house with a narrow, steep staircase. Later, when I worked in South America, I saw houses like this in color in Curaçao (Caribbean) and Olinda, a village of Dutch emigrants near Recife in Brazil.

With the first extensive breakfast, the hosts in Katwijk offered us chocolate and fruit sprinkles. We didn’t know that then. Since then we have enjoyed it at every breakfast. We also had to learn that in the Netherlands lunch is lunch and the main meal is in the evening. In Germany it is the other way around.

I have two volunteer jobs in the Netherlands and one in Germany. Every activity in the Netherlands starts with a cup of coffee. How nice! In Germany there is no coffee, not even during breaks. If you want it, bring the coffee. With the coffee, you have time to chat a little with your colleagues. Then you get to know them better. Tutorials are normal. The Dutch are sociable, freer in dealing with other people and not so formal.

The Dutch eat delicious cakes. Every coffee house has a delicious apple pie with whipped cream. Normally you can’t order another cake; there is no one else.

The Netherlands is a wetland with the sea off the coast, with lakes, rivers, canals, canals, bridges and locks. The best water engineers in the world can be found in this country.

The Netherlands is a beautiful country. Old churches, significant town halls, medieval castles, interesting Hanseatic cities, active mills, the low country with pastures with cattle, sheep and horses, with fields and forests attract visitors.

Dutch is a beautiful language. As with German, the origin is Germanic. Therefore, it should be easy for a German to learn Dutch. But after the start, every day gets harder. For example: You write the same word once with one vowel and another time with two vowels: culture – cultures; bread – bread; many many; know – know. See also the change from s to zi same word as house – houses. There has also been a change from f to vi letter – letters. Sometimes you have to use the magic formula “t’ex-kofschip” to know if a word ends in d or t. And there are still the problems of “the-and-words”.

Following the example of the Brothers Grimm and HC Andersen, Eelke de Jong and Hans Sleutelaar (Source: See her book ‘All Fairytales of the Low Countries’) have collected fairy tales with an original character. In addition, a large number of authors cater to the needs of young people and adults.

In painting we know big names such as: Jeroen Bosch, Pieter Brueghel, Jacob Cornelisz, Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Cornelis Troost, Vincent van Gogh, Rogier van der Weyden, etc. (Source: O. ter Kuile: 500 years Dutch painting). Not only the Dutch are happy about it.

From hieroglyphs to books

Many books can be found in the literary cafe: bought, donated, forgotten, informative, scientific, entertaining, funny, sad, religious, secular, Dutch, foreign, novels, poems, etc. Books need letters. And no book without writing.

In the history of all peoples and tribes, tradition begins without writing. Parents tell laws, rules, beliefs, events, judgments to their children. Young people learn orally and adopt the culture by listening, participating and imitating. Even now there are cultures in the Amazon region and other places far from civilization where writing is unknown.

At some point people start drawing, mostly people and animals. Pictures are the beginning of writing.

We know many texts from ancient Egypt in the form of hieroglyphs. It was hard to believe that 3000 BC. read. The government in the cities also made use of hieroglyphs, for example to calculate the population.

An innovative written communication. Each letter in a word has a sound. Take for example the words and pictures rake, onion, squid, bull. The sounds of the first letters form the word HOUSE. The purpose of this writing is to depict sounds, not things. With this image method, you can write words in any language.

The next innovation: The Egyptians simplified the images. They facilitated writing and communication on papyrus, a cheap material. The image “From the bull’s head in ancient Egypt to A” shows the development of this letter. It is the first letter of the Greek alphabet: alpha, the second is beta. We also call our alphabet with the well-known Latin letters alphabet.

The first alphabet writing appeared around 2000 BC. in Egypt. The Phoenicians are the first people to use that alphabet regularly. So they call it Phoenician script. It is also the origin of various alphabets like Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew etc.

The Phoenicians spread their writing around the Mediterranean. 700 BC the Latins or Romans adopt the alphabet. It is still called the Latin alphabet today.

To date, there have been minor changes to the script. These concern writing with upper or lower case letters, special spellings, combining or separating words, integration of new letters such as: ë and ï in Dutch, ä, ö, ü, ß in German; ñ in Spanish; ê, ã, õ in Portuguese.

30 BC the Romans conquer Egypt and also control the papyrus trade. Soon they had many libraries and bookstores in Rome. Slaves were the scribes who copied the scholars. The education of the inhabitants of Rome was high. That is why they had many books.

300 AD the Roman Empire collapses. Rome loses access to papyrus, books become more expensive, education declines, paper is not yet on the market. People now write on the prepared skin of animals. It takes a year and costs as much as a house to copy a book. The first paper production is in the year 1056 in Xátiva, Spain.

Even on paper, the books were works of art. See, for example, the leaf from the textbook for Prince Maximilian. In the letter P, the prince sits with his teacher. This is how the Latin Pater Noster begins. Above that is the Latin alphabet. Flowers, ornaments etc. adorn the text.

An important innovation in the Latin script is the integration of the Arabic numerals in the 10th century. The Romans write the Latin numbers: I, II, III, IV, V, X, L, C, D, M. The Arabs bring the familiar numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. With this, they have improved our arithmetic culture. Look at the addition with the same Latin and Arabic numerals. The zero is also an Arabic gift.

With Gutenberg in Mainz, a new era begins. In 1448 he prints a book in just two weeks, replacing authors with the printing press. Paper is now also available. Books become cheap and reach all people, rich and less rich. The advantage of printing is that the letters of the Latin alphabet can be separated. It is not like that in the Arabic language. The letters are more connected in handwriting, also partly higher or lower. Therefore, the printing of the Koran in the first 200 years after Gutenberg has not been as successful as the printing of the Bible.

Without hieroglyphs, writing and the printing press, we would not have books in public and private libraries. From Gutenberg to now, books support our culture. Events such as the Inquisition, book burnings and world wars have not prevented this. And we should be happy that we can read. Emperor Charlemagne could not yet.

Source of data: Wikipedia, Google Rhede / Bredevoort, 20.07.2022

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