Dutch: Bodybuilding for your face

Speaking Dutch isn't quite gargling, but it isn't easy either. You develop the muscles in your face when speaking it, explained Ronald Ohlsen on a crash course during KEI week.

‘Speaking Dutch is bodybuilding for your face,’ explains Ronald Ohlsen to the puzzled international students sitting in front of him. As part of the KEI to your Future event in Pathé, the Dutch teacher from the Language Centre shed some light on Dutch and how to pronounce it.

The crash course starts with the question of what Dutch sounds like. A girl sitting in the third row says that she thinks Dutch is a mixture of German and English. Ohlsen starts to laugh, ‘When I speak German I clench my teeth and hardly move my lips, whereas everything is more mobile in Dutch. You develop the muscles in your face when speaking it. Wait and see, once you speak Dutch and then go home to your family they will ask what’s happened to your face.’


To demonstrate this, Ohlsen asks the audience to say words like ‘Schiphol’ or ‘Vincent van Gogh.’ Laughing and giggling accompanies every single exercise and reaches its climax as Ohlsen rattles anecdotes off in the different accents found in the Netherlands.

Another highlight is the sing-along with the ‘world-famous’ jingle Dag, hoe gaat het? After one round of listening, the students join in. They enthusiastically sing ‘dag hoe gaat het; goed, en met jou’ and get their first insight into what it feels like to speak Dutch.

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Flavio Sousa da Vitoria (23) from Brazil smiles: ‘I love it, I feel a bit like a child learning my first words, but I guess it has to be that way. When I first heard Dutch people speaking I thought they were gargling!’

At the end, Ohlsen invites everybody to come and follow a Dutch course at the Language Centre of the University. But he warns: ‘Not all classes are as much fun and easy as this one.’