Learning Dutch : First decide if your ‘brush’ is a lady or a gentlemen?

Atleast ‘brush’ does not have to fight for gender equality in the language English. A brush is a brush. Not ‘he’, not ‘she’, it is ‘it’. Unlike Hindi, Spanish or Dutch; where ‘brush’, ‘desk’ or even ‘heart’ can be a lady or a gentlemen, masculine or feminine, on their own. Does not makes sense?!! Especially as an English speaker…..

English, they say, is a charming language. A language of the elite. Have you heard that….or believed that? I grew up believing the same. As every kid of the eighties, I thought it was my duty to correct my mom, when she accidently said ‘a apple’. Many of you whose parents did not learn English since childhood, have to admit, that they joked around the accent and pronounciation of their parents. There was a time when I too snickered and judged people on level of their English. Living in US and sailing through on the language front made me thank god and my parents for one right thing in my life!!

Tadaa!! One day life brought me to Belgium and perspectives changes. In a country where Dutch and French are official languages, I am now on the receiving end.

Learning Dutch i.e. Nederlands (as Dutch is called in Dutch :D ) has been very rewarding for me. If you have tried learning Dutch, you would agree it is one of the easier languages to master. In this series, I bring to you what are challenges I have faced in the past ten months and what has helped me quickly reach the fifth level in this short period of time.

Challenge #1 : Grammatical gender i.e. Masculine and Feminine words

Just like real world, words in Dutch have to identify them as masculine or feminine…well,most of the times. Sometimes they can decide to say neutral. Yes, you have to believe me and some of you would be nodding their heads, when I say that in many languages around the world a fork can be Ms. or Mr. A bed can be Ms. or Mr. Even fear can be a lady, a gentleman or neutral

In this manner, we can see that objects and abstract nouns which are normally considered neutral in English; have a grammatical gender in languages like Dutch. Things and emotions can be said to be masculine or feminine or neutral and thus have to be used in that particular context.

As I mentioned earlier, Dutch is easier than French, atleast for me. Those of you opted for high-school French can vouch for the same please. The good reason is that, here it is enough to understand the concept that nouns have gender — masculine or feminine , in addition to the option of being neutral.

Most linguistic decisions in Dutch are taken on basis of whether they are neutral or have taken a gender. It does not matters much which gender they have taken. Whereas in languages like Hindi, French, Spanish etc. a lot depends on whether the noun is a lady or a gentleman. Right now we can be ebullient that we understood the concept of grammatical gender.

How to determine the same and how does this impacts the language learning is the second challenge of learning dutch series. Share your experiences with grammatical gender and is ‘brush’ a lady or gentleman in your language. In Dutch…Mr. Brush it is!!



Analytics & Arts Enthusiast | Toastmaster | Aspiring polyglot and ayurveda practitioner | Relaunching career at 40 | And, yes MS, MBA

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Shilpa Singhal

Analytics & Arts Enthusiast | Toastmaster | Aspiring polyglot and ayurveda practitioner | Relaunching career at 40 | And, yes MS, MBA