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Femke van de Griendt: ‘Dutch is so much more than just spelling the letters d and t’

Femke is a third-year student of Dutch Language and Culture. She was a board member for a year, did an internship in times of COVID-19, and above all has a passion for her mother tongue.

‘What could be better than studying your own language? Everyone studied Dutch as a subject in high school but stops at the most boring moment. I believe if everyone were to study Dutch for a year, people would look at Dutch in a different light. It’s a very broad and relevant study programme. Stories and literature are important as books and media are vital components of society.’

‘Besides, it’s cool that you recognize things from your lectures in everyday life. We learned, for example, that the first sentence of a news broadcast is never a sentence (“Cabinet distraught”, “One hundred fatalities by the natural disaster”). Because of the study programme you have a kind of little radar on top of your head with which you recognize things, which is really cool.

Creative with language

‘I’m particularly interested in the Dutch that you and I speak, and the creative things that come out of it. It’s not just about using letters d and t correctly, language creativity is important as well. I keep lists of everything I hear around me and repeat words that sound nice. For example, druppen and druppelen: druppen happens once and druppelen is repetitive. Or how people create creative words; my younger sister was talking about a sneutoeter the other day, as a variation on droeftoeter. The beauty of language is that you can ask all sorts of questions about it. “If onnozel is a word, can you say nozel?” This is what goes on in my head all day.’

Druppen and druppelen both mean something along the lines of dripping, trickling, drizzling. Sneutoeter, a non-existing word, could be a variation on the existing word droeftoeter, which refers to a sad or hopeless person. Onnozel means dumb, naïve or harmless, the prefix on- in Dutch indicates denial.

A board year and an internship during the pandemic

‘Dutch Language and Culture is a small study programme and therefore it’s easy to make friends. I know people from my own year well and during my second year, I was a board member of the study association NNP. Unfortunately, a lot of second-semester activities couldn’t place due to the pandemic, but I only have fond memories of my board year. It’s fun and a good experience to learn to work together. In the beginning, we didn’t know each other very well, but now we still speak to each other very often – online, of course.’

‘The past few months I did an internship at reading promotion organisation Passionate Bulkboek. As a project assistant, I worked on the programme and organisation of a symposium on reading promotion and literature education. Normally, 700 teachers of Dutch and other experts in the field (publishers, librarians etc.) visit Rotterdam for this event, this time all present online. Fortunately, there were inspiring speakers with a passion for their profession. It was great fun to do something different next to my studies. Enthusiasm is so contagious!’

Education or something else?

‘I don’t really know what I want to do after graduation yet, but I have a lot of ideas. Sometimes I think it would be particularly nice to teach because that’s how you can make a difference. At other times I lean more towards the structural side, like education policy. I’ve yet to discover it all, but I’ll be working for a long time before I retire anyway. If I don’t like something, maybe I’ll go and do something else after a couple of years!’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

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