Dutch Difficulty – The Elusive Word

There is (at least) one word in the Dutch language that still eludes me. It’s a word that I just can’t quite my tongue round. It’s a word I’ll avoid saying if at all possible.

That place hard for expats to say
© Expat Life with a Double Buggy

The list of impossible words was, of course, once quite long. Fourteen years ago it was a limitless list. Luckily, it has got much smaller over the years. 

Let’s face it, the Dutch language is not the easiest for a British person to get a grip on. There are lots of throaty sounds which simply don’t exist in the English language. I have had to learn to growl and gargle in whole new ways, just to communicate with the people in the country I now call home.

When I first came to the Netherlands I lived temporarily in a place called Voorschoten. Thankfully it was only for a few months because I really couldn’t pronounce it properly in those early days. It’s the “sch” part that caused issues. The same sound is the culprit when non-Dutch visitors are trying to say Scheveningen. It took a while, but I did eventually master the guttural sound.

That once elusive word ui as part of uitgang
© Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Ui (the Dutch word for onion) was the other word that I avoided if I could, simple enough if you refuse to talk about food. But that also meant I couldn’t talk about leaving the house (uitgaan) or about exits (uitgang). But I eventually got over those hurdles.

However, one word remains. It sits as a solitary, lonely word on my ‘impossible to say’ list. It glares at me, sits there with an evil smile, daring me to make a fool of myself, challenging me to find an alternative way of saying what it means.

Difficulty. I have difficulty with the Dutch word for difficulty. Moeite. There, I’ve said it out loud. Faced my Dutch demon but alas, I still can’t say it like a native. Tips welcome on how to say it like a real Dutchman…..
What word eludes you in your host country language? Why?

*This post is adapted from a post originally published on my blog A Letter from the Netherlands*


3 thoughts on “Dutch Difficulty – The Elusive Word”

  1. Oooh I hate the 'ui' sound as well! If people miraculously believe I'm Dutch when I speak to them, the illusion is shattered as soon as I utter that sound.
    My biggest difficulty is with distinguishing the v from the w – not to mention the f from the v, although at least when someone spells it out for me it sounds different!


  2. Oh lord… I'm still a Nederlands-newbie, but basically anything with “r” makes me sound ridiculous (I grew up in Boston, where we “pahk the cah”). I'm also not fond of “eu” sounds like peuter, keuken, as I can't seem to make the sound consistently. Thankfully, the south has a much softer “g” so I haven't had to make as many guttural sounds.


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