Numbers, Dutch Style

A few weeks ago, the tv series Fringe (which you should all be watching) started off an episode with various people gathered around radios, listening for certain numbers. The first numbers we heard? They were in Dutch! If you’ve seen the episode, you will remember the reactions the characters had upon hearing the numbers: heads clutched between hands in agony. Technically, it wasn’t that the numbers were in Dutch that caused the pain, although when I first began learning Dutch numbers, I must admit I probably looked the same at times!

Back when I was learning French in high school, I remember thinking that the French way of counting the 90s was bizarre: four twenty ten (four times twenty plus 10). Why make it more difficult than it needs to be! Then I discovered how the Dutch do two-digit numbers. Take 28 for example, as seen in the address in the photo. In English, you would say twenty-eight. In Dutch, it’s “eight and twenty”. Any number from 21 to 99 (excluding 30, 40, etc.) is done this way: eenentwintig (21), negenennegentig (99). It makes sense, and I still prefer it to the French mathematics, but it does take some getting used to.

The difference can also lead to confusion when translated. As an English speaker, when I mentally translate the numbers, it’s not uncommon for me to hear achtentwintig (28), but transpose it to 82 in my head. The Dutch have the same problem sometimes when trying to say a number in English. For them sixty-three can become 36. It’s all a matter of perspective.

This is one of those things that can be frustrating, but can also be interesting. It’s one of those little differences that I enjoy … unless I’m trying to keep a lot of numbers straight at one time!


Foto Vrijdag 2.48 Bicycle Thief

I awoke at 5:30 this morning to a clatter from outside. It was too early to be either Sinterklaas (Dec. 5) or Santa Claus (Dec. 25), so I chose to remain as still as a opossum playing dead, rather than to spring from my warm, comfy bed to see what was the matter. The noise seemed to come from the alley next to our house, making it sound as if someone was breaking into our back garden door. Disturbing when you’ve been suddenly woken! I soon realized our tiny fortress was safe, but took a moment to realize that a neighbor’s bicycle most likely was not so safe. I eventually translated the clanks and clatters to be the sound of a bicycle lock being broken. Unfortunately, by the time I figured this out, all was quiet again, so I had little chance of scaring off the thief.

This particular photo was taken earlier this year in the Janskerkhof. I like the spotlight effect, and feel like the bicycles should break out into a romantic duet.