November 21, 2016

KALKOEN - "turkey"

Thanksgiving is this week for those of us living in the United States. It's a great time of year to think about birds, or fûgels [FOO-guhls]:
Photograph of Eastern Wild Turkey

de kalkoen, de kalkoenen
the turkey, the turkeys

The plural is de kalkoenen. Say it with a long "aw" vowel followed by a very faint -l, and with a long "oo" in the final syllable so it rhymes with moon. The plural ends with an unaccented schwa and -n. [kawl-KOON] and [kawl-KOON-uhn]

Of course, generally speaking, you're not going to see wild turkeys running around Friesland. So, let's also learn the words for a few common birds living in that area of the world.

de reager, de reagers
Heron photograph by Gary Houston, 2005

the heron, the herons

Say this word so the first syllable sounds like the word "ray" and so that the second syllable takes a schwa. The -g- may have a harsh, clearing-the-throat, sound. The plural takes a final -s just like in English. [REY-guhr]

The most common heron in Friesland is the gray heron, literally called an "eel heron": de ielreager. Pronounce the Frisian iel like the English "eel." [EEL-rey-guhr]

The "eel" prefix shows up in some other names. One of them, quite interestingly, is the Frisian word for a cormorant.

Cormorant in Friesland, 2015 - Photo by author
de ielgoes (literally "eel goose"), de ielguozzen
the cormorant, the cormorants

Note that the second part of the word, guos or guozzen, takes an "aw" sound in the vowel. [EEL-gaws] and [EEL-gaw-zuhn]

Black-tailed godwit by Frank Vassen
Even a brief list of Frisian birds like this one would be incomplete without a mention of the black-tailed godwit, the national bird of the Netherlands. Say its name to rhyme with "crease." [SKREEs]

de skries, de skriezen
the godwit, the godwits

Northern Lapwing by Alpsdrake
Finally, another important bird to know about is the ljip, or northern lapwing or peewit. The eggs of these birds are traditionally sought out in the spring, which is called aaisykjen (literally "egg seeking"). Pronounce ljip with an "ih" like in the English "lip." [LYIHP]

de ljip, de ljippen
the peewit, the peewits

September 29, 2016

Omrop Fryslân Remaining Independent (For Now At Least)

I've confirmed this news from earlier this month as well as I can: it seems the attempt to merge independent media stations in the Netherlands did not succeed after all. While this issue may come back to haunt us another time, at least for the moment, Omrop Fryslân is remaining independent.

Translation of first paragraph from a Sept. 3rd article from "It Nijs" :

"Omrop Fryslân and the other regional broadcasters are remaining independent initially. The planned merger is not proceeding. State Secretary Sander Dekker decided that today. There is too much resistance from the participating media organizations according to Dekker. Eight of the thirteen regional broadcasters opposed the new restructuring. Omrop Fryslân was one of those eight."

Good news indeed!

September 13, 2016

DOARP - "village" (Excerpt From My Book Draft)

I know I haven't posted in a while. Today, I'd like to share a little change of pace with you. I am slowly working on a Frisian coursebook meant for English-speakers. It is on the immersive side and immediately gives full examples of language usage. However, the highlighted terms in boxes are meant to be the active focus when starting out.

Anyways, here's a small excerpt from my current draft. I'm in the beginning stages of this project and am not sure where it will go yet.

Please do not redistribute this lesson draft without first obtaining my consent. Links back to this blog, however, are always fine and very much welcome!

it doarp ~ the small town / village ~ [UHt DWAWRp]

Ik wenje yn in lyts doarp.
I live in a small town.
[IHk VEHn-nyuh EEn UHn LEEts DWAWRp]

Us doarp leit yn it hert fan Fryslân.
Our town lies in the heart of Friesland.

de stêd ~ the city ~ [DUH shTEHt]

Ljouwert is in grutte stêd.
Ljouwert (Dutch: Leeuwarden) is a big city.
[LYOW-wuht IHs UHn GROOt-tuh shTEHt.]

Harns is in havenstêd oan 'e kust.*
Harns (Dutch: Harlingen) is a port city on the coast.
[HAHRns IHs UHn HAH-vuh-shTEHt OHn ’UH KOOst.]

            *The 'e is a shortened form of de which you will often see in Frisian writing.

Bisto tefreden oer dyn stêd?*
Are you happy with your city?
[BIHs-doh tuh-FRAY-dun OOr DEEn shTEHt?]

*Tefreden means “content,” “satisfied,” or “happy with.”

de dyk ~ the road / also: the dike ~ [DUH DEEK]

Hy is tefreden oer de diken tusken de stêd en de see.*
He is happy with the roads between the city and the sea.
[HIGH IHs tuh-FRAY-dun OOr DUH DEEK-kuhn TUHs-kuhn DUH shTEHt EHn DUH SAY.]

            *Diken [DEEK-kuhn] means either “roads” or “dikes.” The singular dyk is also said with a shortened “ee” sound somewhat like the one in “seek.”

De dyk is wer iepen foar alle ferkear.
The road is again open for all traffic.
[DUH DEEK IHs VER EE-puhn FWAWr AHL-luh fuh-KEER.]

Mar de dyk is net gefaarlik foar fytsers.   
But the road is not dangerous for cyclists.
[MAWR DUH DEEK IHs NET guh-FAWR-luhk FWAWr FEET-suhrs.]*

            *Bicyclists are very common in the Netherlands and often have paths of their own on the roads marked with red pavement.  Singular: de fytser, the bicyclist, [DUH FEET-suhr].

May 18, 2016

SLEAT - "small canal"

That last lesson was more than a bit intense, so today I'll keep things light and share a small sampling of some Frisian words that look like English but mean other things entirely.

You may remember honk from a previous lesson, which means "home" or "base." Here are a few other words that can be misleading to the English eye:

fonk / fûnk
a spark (cognate with the Dutch word "vonk")

Fonk (plural fonken) rhymes with the English word "honk." Fûnk (a variation on the same word) takes a long "oo like in "moon."

narrow canal, drainage ditch

This one looks like someone misspelled "sleet," but it is a useful word in the Netherlands, where these orderly waterways are everywhere! 

Here's an example from the news of what they look like. Say it with an "ay" like in "day" followed by a schwa. [SLEY-uht] 

And here's one of my own pictures of a sleat:

In sleat, 2015 - Photo by author

Just to round things out, a larger sleat is called a feart. That word can also mean a sea journey. Say feart with an "ay" like in "day" and a schwa too, but drop the r. [FEY-uht] 

This particular canal was labeled as a feart, but I have to admit that, coming from the other side of the Atlantic, I find the distinction a bit hazy:

In feart, 2015 - Photo by author
A few more. Here is a very common and useful word:


It may look like it should mean the water surrounding a castle, but it is said with either an "ah" like in father or a shortened vowel more like the one in our word "put." The infinitive form, moatte, is said with an "ah." [MAW-tuh]

E.g., Ik moat sjen means "I must look." [IHk MUHt tCHIHn]


I think it is pronounced with a vowel similar to the long "oo" in "moon." 

An example: Ik joech him in dúst means "I gave him a push." A push into the dust maybe?

I'll end with a few innocent words that can get caught on English-language censoring filters: fokker means someone who breeds animals, like horses, and fûke means a trap (there is a rather grim but excellent Frisian-language film called De Fûke based on the book by Rink van der Velde). The pronunciations are [FAWk-kuhr] and [FOO-kuh] respectively.

April 29, 2016

Telling Time In West Frisian

In this post, we'll explore a very practical but complex subject: telling time. Please give credit back to this blog if you wish to share the post. The rough pronunciations suggested in the brackets are meant to provide some approximate guidance, but are not always exact.

I'll start off with a very important warning for us English speakers: Frisian follows the same pattern as Dutch for the half-hour. It looks ahead to the hour that is coming up, not back to the hour past like we do in English! 

E.g., our "half past four" is literally a half until five!

Hoe let is it?
Literally: How late is it; what time is it?

It is...
It is...
[UHT IHs...]

It is twa oere. It is sân oere.
It is two o'clock. It is seven o'clock
[UHT IHs TWAH OOr-ruh. UHT IHs SAWn OOr-ruh]

Use normal numbers for telling the hour. This changes when we look at half-hours:

It is...
It is...
[UHT IHs...]

Healwei fiven.
Literally: halfway to five; half past four (4:30).
[EEL-vigh FEE-vuhn]

You can say: healwei ienen (12:30), healwei twaen (1:30), healwei trijen (2:30), healwei fjouweren (3:30)... healwei seizen (5:30), healwei sânen (6:30), healwei achten (7:30), healwei njoggenen (8:30), healwei tsienen (9:30), healwei alven (10:30), and healwei tolven (11:30).

Notably, the twenty-four hour clock ("military time") is also used.

If we want to say that it is fifteen past an hour, we use the preposition oer, pronounced with a long "oo" sound. [OOr].

Kertier oer achten.
Literally: a quarter over eight; eight fifteen, 8:15
[keh-TEER OOr AHkh-tuhn]

However, another way to say fifteen past is to say the hour, oere, and then fifteen. It is confusing, yes. The hour name comes before in this case. Listen for that critical extra schwa that distinguishes the word for "hour," oere [OOr-ruh], from the word for "over," oer [OOr].

Sechtjin oere fyftjin
16:15... 4:15 P.M.
[SEHkh-tyuhn OOr-ruh FIHf-tyuhn]

Santjin oere fyftjin
17:15... 5:15 P.M.
[SAWn-tyuhn OOr-ruh FIHf-tyuhn]

Anyways, back to quarters. Conveniently, the Frisian word kertier looks a bit like the English word "quarter." Stress is on the second syllable, which is said with a long "ee" like in "tear," which we are all probably shedding by now as we try to tell time in Frisian. The first syllable takes a short "ih" like in "kit."

As we were saying, a "quarter past" is kertier oer. To say it is a quarter before, we use the preposition foar:

Kertier foar fjouweren. Kertier foar achten.
Quarter to four. Quarter to eight.
[kih-TEER FWAWr FYOW-wuh-ruhn] 
[kih-TEER FWAWr AHkh-tuhn]

Similarly, if we want to say "twenty before," it's tweintich foar:

Tweintich foar fiven.
Twenty before five.
[TVIGHn-tukh FWAWr FEE-vuhn]

Twenty after five is: Tweintich oer fiven.

Finally, telling time with "twenty five" before or after can get really obnoxious. The half-hour is used like an anchor, which you'll remember looks forward to the next hour unlike in English.

So, twenty five to seven--or 6:35 to the English eye--is literally said "five over the half to seven."

Fiif oer hielwei sânen.
[FEEf OOr EEL-vigh SAHn-nuhn]

I wouldn't recommend sweating about this too much. Just be aware that it's something you might see. The basics of healwei, kertier, oer, and foar should take you very far.

April 1, 2016

GRAP - "joke"

Happy April Fool's Day! Here's a little West Frisian lesson to celebrate!

Grap, meaning "joke" or "prank," is pronounced with a long "aw" sound similar to the vowel in English "drop." (GRAWP)

The diminutive, i.e., a "little joke," is grapke, and the second syllable takes a schwa. (GRAWP-kuh).

To "play a trick" or to "make a joke" is in grapke meitsje in West Frisian. (UHN GRAWP-kuh MIGH-tchuh).

March 17, 2016

IN STUIT - "a time, momertarily"

Today, let's introduce a fairly common word with a pronunciation that may throw you for a bit of a loop if you are just reading it: stuit, pronounced with with the same vowel in the English "aye" or -"igh" like in "night" (I am also hearing, less commonly, a long "ah" in some places).

The word shows up in expressions relating to a short time, but also seems to mean a goal-point in sports.

Honestly, I chose this particular lesson because of the recent bad news regarding Omrop Fryslân: the media merger law passed this week and the station will be losing its independence under that new law. Perhaps it can be appealed to the European Union? I don't know. But the situation is unpleasant, and perhaps we can best focus on making sure that Frisian survives and thrives despite the present moment.

Op in stuit
For a moment, momentarily, for a time.
(AWp UHn stIGHt)

Remember, op, meaning "on," "for," "to", "at, "by" (etc.) takes a similar vowel to the one in "pot" and in, meaning "a" or "an," takes a schwa.

Op in stuit krijt men jins nocht
In a moment one gets fed up... [thank you to Evert for the correction!]
(AWp UHn stIGHT krIGHt mUHn yIHns nAWkht)

Op slach en stuit
By blow and moment, e.g., immediately.
Op slach en stuit
(AWp SLAHkh UHn stIGHt).

Slach is said with the long "ah in "father" and the harsh "kh" in the German word Bach. It can mean many things, among them: "blow," "battle," "warp" or "a turning," "birdsong," or "a kind of."

Meanwhile, if you are looking for other momentary diversions, you can now follow Fun With Frisian on Facebook:

February 18, 2016

Frisian Now Available On Google Translate

Google Translate started offering Frisian/English translations today!

The verdict so far: overall, it seems to handle West Frisian about as well as it handles most other languages. This is leaps and bounds beyond what we had before. The translator can occasionally reverse meanings or flail on colloquial expressions, but it certainly opens doors that were closed in the past. 

February 9, 2016

BENIJD - "curious"

The word for this lesson is a common one in West Frisian, benijd, meaning "curious." Stress is on the second syllable which is said much like the word "night." The -d becomes devoiced (more of a -t). The first syllable takes a schwa. Buh-NIGHt.

For those who are curious about the media merger situation with Omrop Fryslân, no final decision has yet been reached (the issue was up in the Senate at the beginning of February and then got delayed). We may hear more in March. 

Anyways, on to the uses of benijd.

Ik bin benijd.
I am curious. 

Ik is pronounced like the English "ick" and bin like the English "bin." This phrase is also the title of a TV show on the aforementioned Omrop Fryslân, one with shorts about culture in Friesland.

Ik bin benijd wat er sizze sil. 
I am curious what he will say.
[Ihk bihn buh-NIGHt vawt ehr SEEz-zuh sihl.]

Wy binne benijd nei jo/dyn/syn/har/it ferhaal.
We are curious about your (formal)/your (informal) / his / her / the story. 

The words wy ("we") and nei ("to," "about") both take the -IGH sound like in "night" or "dye." Remember that the word it ("the") is pronounced with a schwa. UHt. 

Ferhaal begins with a schwa... the -r may get dropped. The second syllable takes a long "ah" as in "father." Fuh-HAHL.