Posted on

An Italian in the Netherlands

An Italian in the Netherlands

How did I manage my first year living in the Netherlands? So far so good, but here are some reflections and tips  that may help my fellow Italians in the Netherlands.

Driving and road signs

Though I have no problems driving, my orienteering skills are practically non-existent. You may say ‘there are Google maps or Waze’; well, you don’t know me! And you don’t know the Dutch road signs. The good thing is that there are motorways (snelwegen ) all over the place, and accessing them is very easy, since there are no toll boots where you have to stop or slow down to pay the fee. My problem are the white signs on the road : there are white solid lines, white segmented lines, but also white curving solid and segmented lines that intersect the straight ones, usually where you have five or six lanes. Not to mention the arrows with a round belly … Aye, there’s the rub! With my orienteering skills and being new to the Netherlands, my first experiences where quite traumatizing. I basically always ended up in the wrong lines, everybody honked at me, and I got even more confused not understanding what I had done wrong. Also, certain roundabouts have two or three lanes with sometimes a low curb, instead of the long  line,  to separate them…guess which one I always choose! However, I’m now managing  better than before. Find a car, stick to it and do what the other driver is doing. That may help if you are heading in the same direction!


Coming from Italy, I was born and grown within a ‘food culture’, which to Italians  is everything:  a powerful socializing means, a business tool, a courting strategy, a family thing. Lunch and dinner are both big meals, with a first and a second course, and during them you talk a lot about everything. You eat slowly, enjoy food and the company of those sitting at the table with you. Unlike the Dutch, you can eat pretty late: dinner may be between 7.30 and 9 pm (meaning that you may start eating at any time between the two times). Moving to the Netherlands, the ‘meal times culture shock’ was probably the one I found the most difficult to adapt to. I couldn’t  feel hungry at 6 pm, which was the usual time when I used to have a cup of tea and biscuits in my native country. Besides that, many food combinations are not the same. If I take coffee or tea and dip cookies in it, it looks weird and people make comments . But what are cookies for, if not for being dipped in hot beverages? On the other hand, having dinner so early has its benefits: the evening snack at 9pm is one; watch out for your diet though. Try to eat fruits, not the fantastic, delicious, whipped cream covered cakes that lie in the fridge!

The language

Nobody can deny that Dutch is a very difficult language, with its harsh, guttural sounds, super-long words or, on the contrary, very short ones, like er, even, maar, echt, erg, wel, not to mention the verb prefixes and suffixes like aan-, op-, ver-, –mee, just to mention some. However, don’t be scared and keep trying! My advice? Watch TV, commercials are super to learn whole, pretty basic phrases. You might sound a bit like a TV spot at the beginning, but with some training it will get better and better. Supermarket brochures are also very useful:  you can learn vocabulary about food, drinks, clothing; they were my first reading material, I even took them to bed to read some before sleeping! Finally, expose yourself to the language as much as you can, try to speak it whenever you have the opportunity, watch children’s programmes or the news to begin with, listen to the radio, watch the weather forecast (real passion of every Dutch person!) and you’ll learn in no time!

Written by Nicoletta Gueli

Posted on


Why learn Hindi?

Even though Hindi might not give you exciting career possibilities, and you probably won’t be able to speak it every day, it is a great language to learn, for several reasons. You can hear it spoken more and more frequently even in Europe. Like some of my students, you might even find yourself involved in a relationship with a Hindi-speaking person. What’s more, through Hindi you can access Bollywood cinema. Did you know that Indian film industry is the biggest in the world? Hindi movies made in Mumbai make up only a part of it, but even this part is so big that just watching those films and listening to their catchy songs can keep you busy for several years.

How to start learning Hindi?

The most obvious start – after namaste (‘good morning/goodbye’) – is the script. For some students it’s a delight, for some a nightmare. In any case – it makes you reconsider the obviousness of a Latin alphabet. Devanagari (‘[script] from the city of gods’ – beautiful name, isn’t it?) is not an alphabet in a strict sense, because the signs represent syllables, not letters. Unlike Latin, the signs are arranged logically and not randomly. The order reflects the way the sounds are pronounced – in which part of the mouth, with or without aspiration, etc.  If you like symmetry and clear rules, you will find Devanagari to be pure beauty.

How difficult is the grammar?

If you already speak one or more languages from the Indo-European family, then Hindi grammar is not rocket science. The basic concepts of tenses are pretty much the same as in English – simple tenses, continuous tenses, perfect tenses; nouns and adjectives agree in gender and number just like they do e.g. in German. There are some peculiarities, like the absence of the verb “to have” or the way past simple tense is built. Still, the Indo-European core keeps you safe on the ground.

Hindi vocabulary

To put it honestly: Hindi has a lot of words taken from different sources. Depending on whether you casually chat with someone, watch news, or listen to a song, you may encounter either Hinglish (English vocabulary glued together with Hindi grammar), a heavily Sanskritized shuddh Hindi (‘pure Hindi’), or what was in the past called Hindustani and spoken by Indian Muslims, full of loanwords from Persian and Arabic. It may seem like a huge mess, but the richness and diversity of Hindi and its vocabulary reflects the complicated history and politics of the region.

Through Hindi, you will not only challenge your brain to learn new concepts and structures, but – even more importantly – you will be able to access another culture with its fascinating complexity!

Written by Natalia Wojnakowska

Posted on


Learning Dutch, 7 great words

Do you sometimes feel limited when you are expressing your feelings in Dutch? Life is amazingly great, and all you have in your repertoire is ‘heel goed!’ What spectrum and degrees of comparison do the Dutch have for great, marvelous, outstanding, fantastic, when things are really positive, over the top? Here you can find seven words to express positive emotions and a context/example on how to use them.


To be pronounced with a very long Dutch ‘eeeee’, as in ‘saaaaay’ (say). The longer your ‘eeee’, the greater the compliment, because ‘uitstekend’ means ‘outstanding’. How to use this word in different situations:
Hoe gaat het met je? How are you? Uitstekend!
Heeft het gesmaakt? Did you enjoy your meal? Uitstekend!
Hoe ging je examen? How did you do your exam? Uitstekend!


To be pronounced with a long Dutch ‘aaaaaa’, like you start laughing already, because it means hilarious. How to use this word in different situations:
Hoe vond je de film? Hilarisch!
Hoe vond je zijn reactie? What did you think of his reaction? Hilarisch!
Hoe vind je de Nederlandse zomer? What do you think of the Dutch Summer? Hilarisch!


Again, focus on a long ‘eeeeee’ as in ‘saaaaay’ (say). Heerlijk means delicious. The ‘lijk’ at the end should be pronounced as ‘luk’, without any stress. Heerlijk means delicious. How to use this word in different situations:
En, heeft het gesmaakt? And, did it taste well? Het was heerlijk!
Nog een dag en dan is het weekend. Just one more day and then we have the weekend. Heerlijk!
Mooi weer, he? Nice weather, hey? Heerlijk!


Fantastisch gets the emphasize on the second syllable ‘tas’. Please note, ‘sch’ at the end of a word is always pronounced as a simple ‘s’. And of course, it means ‘fantastic’. How to use this word in different situations:
Hoe vind je de trompettist? How do you like the trumpet player? Fantastisch!
Hoe was je wereldreis? How was your trip around the world? Fantastisch!
Wat een fantastisch idee! What fantastic idea!


If something is magnificent, and you want to express that, then you say ‘geweldig’, with stress on ‘wel’. The more emphasis you put on this ‘wel’ the better the experience is expressed. How to use this word in different situations:
Ben je al verhuisd, bevalt het? Did you move house, how do you like it? Geweldig!
Je hebt me geweldig geholpen! You have helped me in a great way!
Wat vind je van deze auteur? Het is een geweldig boek! It’s a great book!


‘Grappig’ is een grappig woord, like ‘funny’ is a funny word. The word ‘funny’ sounds really light, try to pronounce the Dutch equivalent ‘grappig’ with the same lightness. The ‘g’ at the beginning and end, should be pronounced as a very soft ‘g’ and the ‘ig’ at the end is pronounced as ‘ug’ How to use this word in different situations:
Wat een leuk verhaal. What a nice story. Wat grappig.
Ik dacht precies hetzelfde. I thought exactly the same. Wat grappig!
Waarom lach je? Why are you laughing? Ik vind het helemaal niet grappig.


Again, soft pronunciation of the ‘sch’ in the beginning and the ‘ug’ at the end. This word means ‘cute’. How to use this word in different situations:
Wat een lief cadeautje, wat schattig! What a sweet present, how cute!
O, wat een schattige baby! Oh, what a cute baby!
Ik vind alle jonge dieren schattig. I find all young animals cute. Heel schattig!

Are these words hard to pronounce? Always keep in mind that long sounding vowels are very important in the Dutch language. It is far more important than the consonants that you perhaps see as most difficult and unpronounceable obstacles. Just jump lightly over the consonants and dive into the vowels. Language is like music, get the tone, the rhythm and off you go! Would you like more context on how to use these words? Book a session with one of our tutors and share your super, fantastic, hilarious situations! Geweldig leuk!

Posted on


15 Tips on how to expand your Dutch vocabulary

What is more important when learning a language; knowledge of grammar or acquisition of vocabulary? Well, you do need words to form your very first sentences. Putting them in the right form and order, has to do with grammar. That’s why knowledge of grammar and acquisition of vocabulary are close friends. Of course, you all know Duolingo and flashcards, so we like to share some other ideas that may help you expand your vocabulary.

1. Use your mobile phone

Use your mobile phone to take pictures of anything you come across that you do not understand. This can be a headline in a newspaper, or a word in a text, or a sign or text in the street, in a shop or restaurant. Snap it!

2. Create your own dictionary

What to do with all those pictures? Create your own dictionary, in paper form or online. Write down all words that are unknown to you in your little booklet or online document. Look up the meaning and write it down or make small drawings.

3. Getting familiar

Just writing and reading is not enough. Form simple sentences in which you use your new words, that’s how you will remember them. You can conduct a reality test on yourself, by implementing phrases in conversations with your Dutch colleagues and neighbors.

4. Television & subtitles

When you watch an English-spoken movie on tv, switch on Dutch subtitles or when it is a Dutch movie, switch on English subtitles. That is how Dutch children learn English easily, it might work for you as well.

5. Watch the Dutch newscast

Watch Dutch newscast, for kids Jeugdjournaal and for adults Journaal. Watching the news in Dutch might be a bit challenging. No worries, on UitzendingGemist you can watch each item over and over again, until you get the complete picture. You can start with just one news item first.

6. Watch video’s

Watch video’s together with your tutor, discuss the subject, and test your skills by writing a summary of what you have seen.

7. Label objects

A traditional way to familiarize yourself with the names of daily possessions is to simply label step by step your kitchen, living room, bathroom , bedroom, wardrobe, your drawer, your friend, office etc.

8. Know your false friends

Especially for those who are afraid to make mistakes, you can create a special ‘Danger Category’ in your personal vocab list. Check it out on Wikipedia´s Lijst van Valse Vrienden

9. Practice synonyms

Waiting for the bus or tram? Instead of checking your email, check and play around with some words that are new to you.

10. Dutch sayings & expressions

Lost in the jungle of Dutch expressions and sayings? You can check the meaning at and sometimes find the equivalent in English or French as well.

11. Abbreviations

The Dutch love it! Welcome to the world of Dutch abbreviations. Research the abbreviations at

12. Sing a song

While cooking or working out, put on one of your favorite Dutch songs, and sing along.

13. Unconscious learning

Put on the radio, a podcast, Dutch music or tv, when you’re travelling, waiting, cooking or cleaning. At a certain point you will notice that you understood what was said! Geweldig! (Great!)

14. Dutch theatre

In a number of theaters in The Netherlands you can watch Dutch performances with English subtitles.

15. The weather

Last but not least, watch and study the Dutch weather forecast, and practice your weather chit-chat with any Dutch local you meet in the elevator, in the bus, at the coffee machine at work etc.

What else?

Do you have funny tips on expanding vocabulary, that you like to share with us? You can send your contribution to

Go with the flow

On our new website, that we hope to launch in September, you will find on the homepage ‘The magic phrase of the day’. This hot sauce for your Dutch conversations will help you sound like a local. Coming soon!


Posted on



This is an article for native Dutch speakers, who were used to speak Dutch at work, but because of international colleagues, need to speak English, at least at all team meetings. Although most of the Dutch have a rather good understanding of English, using this language for professional purposes needs a little more attention. You might think, ‘Why is this so important? Isn’t it great that ‘we’ are flexible and able to have all meetings in Dutch now?’


Yes, it is important! There is something very interesting about the Dutch language and all languages in general. It is like when you were born near Table Mountain in Cape Town. Ask a person who has been living there his whole life, ‘Did you ever go to the top?’ 99% of all encounters, the person will respond; ‘No, why should I? Would you ever climb a mountain or take a tour to the top and enjoy the view, when you were born next to it? No! Never been there, the idea never came up.’ The mountain always was, is and always will be there, no questions. It is as normal as the air you breathe. That is how most people feel about their own language, it is a natural state of mind and knowledge. Only when you start learning another language or when you start teaching your language, you’ll come across some very interesting issues. How does that work for the Dutch and their language? And how can others perceive that?

Just a few quotes from internationals;
‘When the Dutch need something from you, they can be very straightforward, which gives the impression that they are rude or agitated.’
‘When the Dutch ask you something, it feels like an order, there is no politeness, softness, kindness.’
‘Now and then, I feel deeply offended by the way the Dutch speak to me. Taking my Dutch colleagues into consideration, this seems to be a normal way of communication. I do my best to get along with it.’


Everyone knows this marvelous guy, who always can fix any problem, and on top of that, did you know that he is also extremely proficient in different languages. In Germany he speaks German, in France he speaks French, in Spain he speaks Spanish, in Italy he speaks Italian, but in The Netherlands, he speaks English. The Dutch, watching James Bond, Superman, and all contemporary English-speaking television heroes and role models, literally grow up hearing English every day. That’s why we speak English ‘so well’. Back to the mountain! The Dutch mountain is the huge mountain of little words, that makes speaking Dutch so difficult. The funny thing is, the Dutch are not aware – living in their flat country – of the huge impact these little words. By the way, how to translate them into English? No idea, just leave it out.


Contradictory to James, not everyone knows Margarita; she is an expat from Brazil, and she almost quit her job recently. The reason is ‘little words’, or more specifically, the missing of little words, correctly translated into the English language. What happened? Margarita works in a middle size company in The Netherlands, where all employees including the board are Dutch. Her team is in a meeting together and, because of Margarita, the meeting is not in Dutch, but in English. Which can be considered as very kind, since they are making an attempt to include Margarita to the meeting. When her manager asks her ‘Can you take notes?’, Margarita feels a sudden anger coming up, ‘why order/command me in such a rude way?’ There have been a few other small communication incidents earlier, and this really is the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

A Dutch will hardly understand what is going on, why Margarita feels upset. When we analyze this situation, what her manager would have said in Dutch is ‘Kun jij even notuleren?’ of ‘Zou jij even kunnen notuleren?’ of ‘Kun jij misschien even notuleren?’ ‘Even; ‘misschien,’ little words that soften the Dutch language and should be translated with the famous word ‘please’, because they actually mean ‘please’. The way Margarita was addressed, shocked her to her core, and it felt like a straightforward command that translated to: ‘Do it, hey!’ One of her colleague’s was able to interfere and explain the situation to her, that there was no bad intention at all. Finally, Margarita did not leave the meeting, nor the company, nor the country.


Margarita’s manager is a nice guy, who – like all Dutch natives – sprinkles little words like ‘even, eens, maar, hoor (!), misschien’ throughout their conversations all day. The Dutch, not aware that these words stand for ‘please’, will not translate these words with ‘please’ when they speak English, which makes their English sound rude. Nevertheless, if you leave these words out in Dutch conversations with native Dutch speakers, they will feel offended as well! For the Dutch; just give it a try, 24 hours without any ‘even, eens, maar, misschien, hoor’, and tell me how you feel.

Do internationals need to know this? It might be useful, to be able to reconsider your feelings and see it from a different perspective. Do the Dutch need to know this? As a native Dutch speaker, you better! You of course want to be polite and friendly in your communication. The last thing you want is for internationals who came to your company – with their specific qualities and experience – to leave, because of communication issues.


Tip for the Dutch: Watch your James Bond movies once again. Although he can be a bit rough, our James is a real English gentleman. Just analyze the dialogues on the word ‘please’, and imagine how you would say these phrases in natural Dutch.

Tip for Dutch companies; Make sure your employees speak the level of Dutch required for working in an international team. Flowently can help you and design an English course tailored to the needs of your company.

Tip for international and Dutch employees and HR teams; Flowently offers Intercultural Workshops, that will help you become aware of your unconscious cultural preferences. This will provide insight in Dutch history, culture and customs and can help you feel at home more easily.
Tip for internationals; Learn Dutch with Flowently and you will learn practical conversational Dutch, that cannot be provided by books solely.
Shaken or stirred? Geef mij maar een biertje!  (maar = please)

Contact us and we will connect you to one of our tutors or teachers, English native speaker.


Posted on


„Why and how should you learn Polish?”


Come on, the reason to learn ANY language is to broaden our horizons, challenge our brains and talk to people representing different cultures. So let’s rephrase the questions thus: if you decide to learn Polish, will you be able to use it? I believe the answer is… tak (yes), because there are many people to practice with! 38 million inhabitants of Poland (almost double the number for Netherlands and Belgium counted together) make us the fifth largest nation of the European Union. Add another 20 million Poles scattered all around the Globe. High chances of meeting one of us even in the grocery store around the corner!


Oczywiście [oh-chee-vish-tje] (of course)! Polish is an Indo-European language, hence a relative to English, German, Dutch, etc., and no relative to Hungarian, Arabic, or Chinese. The languages most similar to Polish are Czech and Slovak – with a bit of effort, we can understand our southern neighbors. However, their languages sound like children talk to us… and it’s exactly the same the other way round.
I see many Westerners taking up Russian if they want to learn a Slavic language. Unfortunately, Russian is quite different than Polish. It doesn’t even use the same method of writing. Polish is written with Latin alphabet (with a few tiny additions), which makes it a lot easier to learn than Russian with its own Cyrillic script.


Okay, sometimes it seems so. For example, chrząszcz may look quite terrifying indeed. But what if I tell you that these nine letters form only five sounds? Think of such examples as “sh”, “ch”, and “ph” in English or “tsch” in German. The latter is really extreme, as it uses four letters for a single sound! Even if chrząszcz [khshonshch] is still pretty tough to pronounce (even for us natives!), you won’t have to say it too often – it means… a beetle.


It’s not complicated at all! Some words (like the poor chrząszcz) may challenge your tongue, but they won’t challenge your brain. At least once you have learned the sound each letter stands for. Unlike English, whose pronunciation is anything but logical and coherent, in Polish the letters never abandon their fixed pronunciation. They show the same loyalty and persistence as the Polish people did during 123 years of non-independence (1795-1918). Despite all the hardships, the language and culture was never forgotten, which makes it even more interesting to explore.

Do you feel like learning Polish now? I hope your answer is tak!

Written by Natalia Wojnakowska