Since I moved to The Netherlands about one and a half year ago, learning Dutch as a third language became my daily challenge. As a native Portuguese speaker, every Germanic language seem to be full of oddities. Germanic languages can be segmented into three major branches of proto-languages: North Germanic, which is nowadays composed by Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic and Faroese. West Germanic, composed by Scots, English, Frisian, Dutch, Low German and German itself. And East Germanic, which for my own good is now extinct. With this in mind, one might think: “Apparently Dutch and English are not that far from one another!”. Well, I am afraid they are. Within these branches you will find entire language families, organized as sub-branches, and so on. These are details that I am certainly not looking forward to entail. What I really want to express is that for those who are not familiar with – perhaps – German, Dutch is an entirely new world. Although knowing English helps, sometimes you have to step away from it whether you wish to truly comprehend ‘het Nederlands‘. As a first example, I would like to share the following Dutch verbs (nl: werkwoorden):
ken.nen [ˈkɛnə(n) ]
we.ten [ˈwetə(n) ]
Both verbs translate to ‘to know‘, but as you can imagine there are specific cases where each of them might be applied. For example:
– Weet je waar ik deze winkel kan vinden?
[ Do you know where I can find this store? ]
– Nee, dat weet ik niet.
[ No, I don’t know that ]
– Kennen jullie mijn vader?
[ Do you (pl.) know my father? ]
– Ja, we kennen hem!
[ Yes, we know him! ]
Even though this seems confusing at a first glance, the difference between weten and kennen could be described as: kennen [to know (someone, somewhere), acquaintance, cognition] and weten [abstract knowledge]. It becomes even more evident when you bring them into latin based languages such as Portuguese, Spanish or French:
nl: kennen – pt: conhecer – fr: connaître – es: conocer
nl: weten – pt: saber – fr: savoir – es: saber
It is not rocket science. Right?