May 28, 2018

Video: From 0 to 100 Years In Frisian

Numbers as ages in Frisian going up to a hundred. A very nice way to really see and hear the language:

"From baby to centennial, filmed in one village in Friesland, which is a northern province of the Netherlands. Frisian is an entirely different language than Dutch."  ImagineVideoclips

April 5, 2018

SUVEL - "dairy"

I saw this word today while reading and thought that it would make a good basis for a lesson. English-speakers who have so much as dabbled in Frisian will be quite familiar with the word tsiis, a veritable twin-flame to its English equivalent "cheese." However, the word suvel will likely be less familiar.
"Butter, bread, and green cheese"
Photograph by author

Suvel is the Frisian word for "dairy." The first syllable is said with the long -oo- in "soothe" and the second syllable is pronounced with a schwa. [SOO-vuhl]

Let's branch out from this starting point. Taalweb Frysk explains the word's meaning further. Incidentally, the Frisian for "meaning" is betsjutting, related to the verb tsjutte - "to indicate," "to point," or "to interpret."

...molke en alles wat fan molke makke wurdt, lykas bûter, tsiis, yochert..

...milk and all that is made from milk, such as butter, cheese, yogurt...

[MOHL-kuh EHn AWL-luhs VAWT FAWN MOHL-kuh MAHk-kuh VUHT, LEE-kuhs BOO-tuhr, chEEs, yOH-huht]

Here is an example of the word suvel in an article from Omrop Fryslân:

Kâns op staking yn 'e suvel. Meiwurkers fan Fryske suvelfabriken binne ree om takom wike it wurk del te lizzen.

Chance of a strike in the dairy. Employees of Frisian dairy factories are ready to quit work next week. (Del te lizzen more literally means "to lay down" work.)

Kij op It Amelân, 2015 - Photograph by author
Of course, any mention of dairy requires that we know the word for "cow." 

Ko, pronounced like the English co- as in "co-op," is a singular cow. [kOH]

Kij, pronounced like the first part of "kite," [kIGH], is the plural form, cattle.

A "calf" is keal, said with an -ee- quickly blending into an -eh- sound. [kYEHL]. Meanwhile, a bull is bolle, pronounced like the English "bowl" followed by a schwa in the second syllable. [BOHL-luh]

What if you don't eat dairy? Maybe you are a feganist [fey-GAHN-ihst], a vegan. Or maybe not. In any case, "fruits and vegetables" can be either griente en fruit orless commonlygriente en fruchten. Note the reversal from the usual English word order.  [GREEN-tuh] is vegetables. Fruit looks like English, but it rhymes with "out." [FROWt]. So look out when you see fruit in Frisian! Fruchten is said with a long -oo- vowel in the first syllable like the word that it means in English. [FROOkh-tuhn]. There are also nôten (grains) and nuten (nuts): [NAWT-uhn] pronounced like the word "knot" and [NOOT-uhn] pronounced like the word "newt," respectively.

Lekker ite! 
Good eating (literally: "delicious eating")!
[LEHK-kuhr EE-tuh!] 

February 23, 2018


I recently came across the word reden in a useful phrase, which I will of course share here. However, it also turns out that there are different, similar-looking words in Frisian with their own distinct meanings. Today, let's explore these.

One of the common meanings of reden  is a "cause" or a "reason." Pronounce the first syllable like the English word "ray" followed by the word "done" (a schwa vowel). REY-duhn.

There's a phrase for saying that something is obvious which goes like this:

Eleven Cities Route - Alvestêdetocht on
...yn 'e reden lizze... obvious... (literally: "lies within the reasons or causes...")
[...EEn uh REY-duhn LIHz-zuh...]

It leit yn 'e reden dat elk syn sin altyd net krije kin.
It is obvious that everyone can't have their desire/wish all the time.
[UHt LIGHt EEn uh REY-duhn DAWT EHlk SEEn SIHn AWL-teet NET krIGH-uh KIHn.]

What is also obvious is that ice skating is important in Friesland! So, we have another use for the word reden: it can mean "an ice skate."

Redens is the plural, meaning "ice skates." [REY-duhns]

Also, reden can mean a "talk," "conversation," or "discussion."

Mnemonic: Obviously we have cause to talk about ice skating!

How about the similar-looking word rêden? The first syllable is pronounced like the English word "red" and ends like our word "done." REHd-duhn. 

This word is common in news articles, as it means to be saved or rescued. rêden... saved / is rescued...
[IHs REHd-duhn]

Here's one of many examples from Omrop Fryslân (article here):

Man út grêft rêden
Man saved from canal
[MAHn OOt grEHft REHd-duhn]

There is also a verb, rêde, which can mean "to rescue" or "to occupy with."

Wat is dêr te rêden?
What is there to do?

Rêd by itself sometimes means a "wheel" or "circle." 

For example, reuzerêd, the word for a giant Ferris wheel such as the London Eye, is a combination of the word for "a giant" (like in fairy tales) and the word for "wheel." 

Rêd can also mean "quickly," "fast," or "soon."

Sa rêd as de wyn.
As swift as the wind.

Mnemonic: Swiftly save us from the red wheel!

Photograph by Steven Fine on Wikimedia Commons

February 7, 2018

Starting March 5th, 2018 - Free Online Frisian Course Through FutureLearn

Excellent news: the University of Groningen is once again offering their free online Frisian course through FutureLearn! You can register to start on March 5, 2018.

Personally, I highly recommend this course. It's in English, and you'll learn to hear Frisian as well as read it. It will give you a very good basic foundation in the language.

January 15, 2018

A Brief Look At Frisian Contractions - 'T, 'E, etc.

This post is from a question that came up on the Fun With Frisian Facebook group. To start off the year, let's look into contractions in Frisian. What do all those 't and 'e abbreviations mean? We'll try to find out.

I'll be referencing Pieter Meijes Tiersma's (R.I.P.) excellent "Frisian Reference Grammar" for major parts of this lesson. The book is out of print and often unreasonably priced, but if you check a site like periodically, sooner or later you might find a copy for under $50 (it's a thin paperback of 157 pages including the index).


't - sometimes, this is a reduced form of the pronoun it meaning "it," which is normally pronounced with a schwa in Frisian [UHT], but can be shortened. For example: 't wie in lange dei - it was a long day. And another example:

't is tiid
it is time
[tIHs TEEt]

't - at other times, 't is short for "the."

Frisian has two definite articles where English has only "the": de and it. Both are said with a schwa in Frisian: [DUH] and [UHT]. On the bright side, Frisian is not as complex as German this way, but it is still more work than English. All plural nouns take de where we'd use "the." However, singular Frisian nouns vary between it and de:

  • 't - the Frisian it (singular "the") may be shortened this way before a vowel. Exampleby 't âld folk, "by the old folk" from the anthem of Friesland.

  • 't - fan 't - the contraction gets some unusual use in certain phrases related to the year and the four seasons. Even seasons that normally are de, like de winter, take 't in this odd phrase. It looks like it means "from the..." but it is a way of saying "this winter" or "in the winter."
fan 't jier
this year

fan 't maitiid / fan 't winter / fan 't hjerst / fan 't simmer...
this spring / this winter / this autumn / this summer...

't - the 't contraction also shows up a lot after other words, often as a shortening of dat which means "that" and is normally pronounced like English "dot." [DAWT]

dy't - who, which, that - [DEEt]
wa't - who (that) - [VAHt]


in dream dy't útkomt
a dream which has come true

wa't ik bin 
who I am

Generally, when you see -'t as an ending, look to the main word to get the meaning:

dêr't ... there...
doe't ...when...
wannear't ... when / at the time that...
hoenear't ... when / at the time that...


Now, onward to the shortened form for de, the other singular "the" in Frisian.

'e - shows up after the very common prepositions yn, op, and om.

yn 'e wei 
in the way

'e - optional after the common prepositions oer, oantroch, and foar.

oan 'e kant
to the side

'e - certain phrases involving hûs (house), which normally would be it hûs.

Examples: yn 'e hûs (inside) and út 'e hûs (out of the house).


sa'n - "such a" - short for sa in.

Wy hawwe der net ien sa'n by.
We have only one such as that.

Ik ha sa'n sin oan...
I wish for / I have such a desire for...


-sto - shortened forms with the informal you, do, said like the English word "doe" the female deer. Despite the spelling, you still hear do.

bisto - bist do - are you?
hasto - hast do - do you have?
tinksto - do you think that?
datsto - that you


Of course, there are many other contractions in Frisian. You will get more and more used to them as you read the language. Hopefully, this article has demystified a few of the more prevalent Frisian contractions.

November 5, 2017

WINTERTIID - "Fall Back Time"

Here is the United States, we have just set the clocks back... one week after the Netherlands. The Frisian word for this is wintertiid, meaning Winter Time. The word winter is like ours, except said with an initial v- instead of a w-, and the second part, tiid, is said with the long -ee- in "meet." [VIHN-tuh-tEEt]. Notice that it is a cognate with our word "tide."

Last week, Omrop Fryslân ran a nice little article with people expressing their opinions about the time change (link here). It's full of useful vocabulary and expressions. My cartoon characters, Sjoerd, Sytske, and Anke, are here to help with today's lesson, which is based on that article:

We kinne dochs in oere langer sliepe!
We can sleep another hour longer!
[vUH KIHN-nuh DAWkhs UHN OOr-ruh LAWN-guhr SLEE-puh!]

We is the unemphasized form of wy, meaning "we". It is said with a schwa. 

Note the word order: in English we say "can sleep," but in Frisian the verb going with "can" appears at the end of the sentence.

Dat enerzjy-argumint is al lang efterhelle. Gau ophâlde mei dy ûnsin!
That energy argument is already long out-of-date. Enough with the insanity already!
[DAWT ehn-uhr-ZHEE AHR-goo-MIHNt IHs LAWng EHF-tuhr-HEL-luh. GOW awp-HAHL-duh MIGH duh OON-sihn!]

Gau actually means "quickly" or "immediately." The literal translation of "Gau ophâlde mei dy ûnsin!" would be more along the lines of "Immediately halt with the insanity/nonsense!"

Wat in drokte om neat. Hâldt it no ris sa't it is. Ik wurd der deawurch fan...
What a fuss over nothing. Keep it now as it is. I'm tired to death of (hearing about it).
[VAHt uhn DRAWK-tuh AWM NEET. HAHLT uht NOH RIHS SAHt uht IHs. IHk VUHt dEHr DAY-uh-vUHRkh FAWN...]

Drokte literally means "business." It is connected to drok, the word for a "crowd" or "pressure."

Note that the spelled -r- in the Frisian wurd is not said out loud. "Ik wurd" can be more precisely translated as "I should be" or "I will be."

October 26, 2017

"Fun With Frisian" Facebook Page

My feelings about Facebook are very mixed. On the one hand, it seems specifically "designed" to have a chaotic layout and eat up your time. On the other hand, I love the active use of Frisian by so many individuals and groups there. It has done a lot for the language, if we're being honest.

Anyways, this blog has a Facebook page, one that sometimes features shorter and more frequent lessons than you may see here on the blog. Please feel free to follow it if you would like:

September 25, 2017

REEK - "smoke"

Frisian has quite a few expressions that might not make sense if you take them word-for-word. They must be learned as a whole. Today, let's look at two such expressions based off the word reek, pronounced [rEYk] like the English word "rake." Reek means "smoke" in Frisian.

First, we can speak of someone or something being "out of the smoke" or "from the smoke" if we want to say that it is far away:

 ...út de reek / út 'e reek...
...out of the way, far away 
[OOt duh rEYk]

Hy wennet in hiel ein út 'e reek.
He lives a long way away.

No wie it gefal dat de pleats wat út 'e reek lei.
Now it was the case that the farm was far way.

However, we can reverse our meaning by saying that someone or something is "under the smoke." That means it is close by.

...under de reek fan Ljouwert wenje... close to Ljouwert (Leeuwarden)...
[OON-der DUH rEYk FAWN LYOW-wuht VEHn-nyuh]

Marsum is in lyts doarp ûnder de reek fan Ljouwert.
Marsum is a little village near Ljouwert.

Se is berne yn it doarpke ûnder de reek fan Dokkum.
She was born in a village near Dokkum. 

May 13, 2017

SLOPE and SLOPPE (False Cognates)

Let's look at a two words that are false cognates to the English eye: slope and sloppe. 

With only one -p- the word can mean "destroyed" or "demolished." It is connected to the noun sloop which is both Frisian and Dutch for "demolition". From a headline from Omprop Fryslân:

Ald skoalle net slope.
Old school not destroyed.
[AWT skWAWL-luh NET SLOH-puh.]

Here, slope is pronounced with the long "oh" in our word "slope" (like a sloping hill), followed by a schwa. SLOH-puh.

On the other hand, we have the similar-looking word sloppe. Its vowel is pronounced much more like the one in "slop" or "sloppy," its false English friend. Sloppe is also two syllables and ends with a schwa sound.

It wie sloppe kofje. It wie sloppe tee. 
It was weak coffee. It was weak tea.

Sa slop as in doek.
As weak as a cloth.

Sloppe can also indicate free ("slack") time. In sloppe tiid  is a period of free time.

Here is a link to some more examples of sloppe and slop on Taalweb Frysk.

March 21, 2017


Stripferhaal and tekenteltsje are two ways to say "comic" in Frisian.

Stripferhaal begins with the long "ee" in "streak," a schwa in the second syllable, and an "ah" vowel like in "father" in the last syllable. [STREEP-fuhr-hahl] Strip [STREEP] by itself is another, short word for comic. Ferhaal means "story."

Tekenteltsje also breaks down into two word roots. Teken means "sign" and the verb tekenje is "to draw." Teltsje also means a "story or tale." Put some emphasis on the first syllable and say it starting with the vowel in the word "say." The second syllable takes a schwa. The teltsje part begins with the "eh" vowel in "tell" conveniently, and the next syllable has another schwa. [TAY-kuhn-TEHL-tsyuh]

Anyways, there is a reason for this particular lesson. If you enjoy Frisian and you enjoy comics, please check out my new sister-site, Fun With Frisian Comics. They are on Wordpress because it is slightly easier to work with images there and it makes sense to keep the strips separate anyways. You can share the comics, but please give credit back to the site.

March 12, 2017

Telling Frisian Apart From Dutch For Us Foreigners

Today I stumbled across a nice little video about telling written Frisian, Dutch, and Afrikaans apart. This is a very worthwhile subject if you are traveling in the Netherlands as a foreigner.

Here, I'd like to expand a bit more on a few tricks that I have picked up for distinguishing spoken Frisian from Dutch as a foreigner, other than "Hey... I actually understand some of what they're saying... that must be Frisian!"

As the video notes, the "jij" in Dutch can be very helpful. It sounds like the word "eye" with a y- in front [YIGH] and is one way of saying "you"... the plural "you"--"jullie" [YOO-lee] also is distinctively Dutch.

If you hear "kijk" [KIGHk] (with the same vowel in English "kite"), this is another sign that you are probably hearing Dutch and not Frisian. It means "look," so it is a reasonably frequent word in Dutch, but is not something you'd encounter often in Frisian.

Conversely, if you hear a lot of sounds close to the English "chin," that is more likely Frisian. E.g., sjen, "look," and tsjin, "against."

The words "het" and "met" are give-a-ways that you are hearing Dutch. That harsh, throat-clearing consonant in "het" is far more common in Dutch than Frisian, though the consonant does show up in Frisian sometimes. Some speakers seem to use it more than others. Dutch, unlike Frisian, also uses that harsh consonant frequently to begin past participles, spelled with a beginning "ge-" but sounding like a German ch followed by the "eh" vowel in "head."

Why is this helpful? Well, for one, Frisian-language broadcasting isn't always in Frisian. It's assumed that viewers speak Dutch too, so people responding to news interviews may well be replying in Dutch and not Frisian. Good to know when you are a foreigner.