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.


December 17, 2015

OARS AS OARS - "Different From Usual"

The title of the post is probably misleading, as this blog regularly delves into Frisian-language music.

Today, let's look at "Fries Om Utens," a song about loving and missing Friesland. I have noticed some problems with a few previously linked video clips, but hopefully this one should stay up for a while since it is from a different source. The video includes lyrics along with the singing. Part of the song is in English.

"Fries Om Utens" video on YouTube with lyrics.

Printed lyrics for Fries Om Utens.

Let's take a peek at some useful vocabulary before we get into an English translation of the song:
Wier means "truth" and is pronounced like the English word "veer."

Photo by OrderInTheQuartz, 2015. All rights reserved.
Farmhouse, 2015 - Photo by author
Hiel oars as oars - entirely different from usual. Hiel was discussed in an earlier post. Oars is handily pronounced like the English word it resembles, though it means "other" or "another." As takes a long "a" like in father and means "as," or "like," or "resembling" in this context. It has broader uses, however, including "if, "in such a way," "how," etc.

Fan hâld is a phrase meaning "to love." E.g., "Ik hâld fan dy" means "I love you" in West Frisian.

Nei dy. The word nei, said like "night" without the final -t, comes up in many phrases. It can mean "for" or "to." E.g., from the chorus: Fryslân o Fryslân, ik longerje nei dy... "Friesland, oh Friesland, I long for you." You can also use nei if you are going somewhere: e.g., nei hûs, "to house/home," from the chorus.

The song title means "a Frisian who lives abroad."

Here is an English translation of Fries Om Utens, leaning heavily towards the literal side:

Oh, yes it's true, I feel today
Wholly different from usual... I understand well.
My home has been all over the world,
No place I can love so (much as I love you).

I steal hearts, the others' pain.
I make friends; lose a pair.
The last days, I've been afraid,
Because I long for you so much.

I should say to you that I'm proud
And my thoughts always stay close to you.
Friesland, you call me: yes, I want to go home.
And if I ever should become a stranger
And your land no more feels like my own....
Friesland, oh Friesland, I long for you.

Oh Frisian ground, you give me bread.
The green meadows, the scent of hay.
Your wild skies, your wide lakes...
That is my picture of time.

Tell stories, sing of your land.
It is where in early times my life began.
I wonder how it can be
That I myself am not (there) today.

October 24, 2015

A Few Phrases And Sayings

This has been an exciting autumn: after many years and much dreaming, I finally made it to Friesland for the first time!

Photograph by OrderInTheQuartz, 2015. All rights reserved.When you're traveling in the Netherlands, a bit of Dutch is very helpful, even in the province of Friesland itself. Some areas, such as the capital city of Ljouwert (Leeuwarden) are predominantly Dutch-speaking. Many signs tend to be in Dutch. Even the commercials on the Frisian TV station are in Dutch. That said, lots of people speak English and German too, so I didn't feel like I had to learn huge amounts of Dutch to get by.

I found that more people spoke Frisian outside the capital. Admittedly, my spoken Frisian is... sadly lacking. I'm much more comfortable reading it. In any case, here are a few words and sayings that can come in handy if you are traveling in Friesland:

Tige tank meaning "many thanks." The first syllable of tige sounds like the English word "tea" and the second takes a schwa. Tank has the usual long -a- like in "father." TEE-guh TAHnk.

Photograph by OrderInTheQuartz, 2015. All rights reserved.The great thing about this phrase is that it is very obviously Frisian: no possibility that you are just going about mangling Dutch or German.

Oant sjen - This means "see you again" or "good-bye." It sounds a lot like "want chin"...not the most graceful way to remember it, but it's best to go with whatever works, right? Again, this is a specifically Frisian expression (in Dutch they say tot ziens). You can show your interest in the language by using it. 

Hoi! This is an informal greeting meaning "hi!" that you hear. It sounds just like the English "ahoy!" if you drop the first syllable. I think it's both Dutch and Frisian. People sometimes exchange it as a greeting when you are passing by each other on the bike trails.

You also hear agoeie sometimes. That seems more specifically Frisian and is a general greeting. A with schwa sound, and goeie sounding like the English word "gooey."

People wish each other "luck" or "success" far more frequently than in American culture. This can be a good expression to use if you are saying good-bye or parting. You can say either Lok! or Sukses! Note that lok is pronounced with a long "oh" vowel so it rhymes with "woke."

It doesn't hurt to be passingly familiar with a few of these phrases. Some are patriotic, be aware:

Photograph by OrderInTheQuartz, 2015. All rights reserved.Leaver dea as slaef - "better dead than a slave," famous from the Battle of Warns. There is more on this blog too.

Fryslân boppe! - "Friesland rules!" or "Friesland over all!" (boppe literally means "on top" or "above"). If you're not feeling like being nice, there's also Fryslân boppe en de rest yn'e groppe. "Friesland rules and all the rest drool," we might say in English... but it literally means that everyone else is in a ditch or gutter. 

My very favorite Frisian saying is this one, however:

Foar de kofje net eamelje  - "Don't hassle me before coffee." 

July 28, 2015

DE NOARDSEEWEAGEN - "The North Sea Waves"

This month, let's take a look at a song that is so quintessentially Frisian that it is actually called Friezeliet, or "Frisian Song," even when it's in German.

Here is a full West Frisian version sung by Anneke Douma. You can use it to follow along with the pronunciation of the song's four verses.

First verse:

Bûterblommen - Jörg Hempel
  Dêr 't de noardseeweagen spiele oan it strân,
  dêr 't de bûterblommen bloeie yn 't griene lân.
  Dêr 't de kobben krite skril yn 't stoarmgerûs,
  dêr is myn lânsdouwe. Stie myn âldershûs.
  Dêr 't de kobben krite skril yn 't stoarmgerûs,
  dêr is myn lânsdouwe. Stie myn âldershûs.

  There, where the North Sea waves flow over the strand...
  There, where the buttercups bloom in the green land...
  There, where the gulls lament shrilly in the sounding
  There is my homeland where stood my forefathers'   

A few vocabulary notes on the first verse:

Spiele can mean "to wash or clean," "to flow," or "to rain heavily."

Lânsdouwe translates as "lea," a flat, open area of meadow or grassy land, but the word can also mean "region" or "landscape."  

Krite is a verb meaning "lament," "weep", "squeak," or "creak."

Gerûs can mean "noise," "murmur," "a repeating murmur," "an unclear sound," "blowing," or "gusts."

Second verse:

Wadden Sea - Janhendrik Dolsma
Wyn en weagen songen dêr har liet foar my,
efter hege diken gie myn jeugd foarby.
Mar myn herte lange nei de wide wrâld,
'k woe om fierrens swalkje sûnder honk en hâld. 
Mar myn herte lange nei de wide wrâld,
'k woe om fierrens swalkje sûnder honk en hâld.

There, wind and waves sang their song for me...
Beyond the high dikes my youth went by.
But my heart longed for the wide world,
I wanted to wander far off without a home or hold.

Foarby is a common word.  It means something that is past, ended, or that has been surpassed.

Honk is one of West Frisian's many false cognates. It means "home" or "base," or a sanctuary or a resting place. To remember it, think of honking geese settling down into a new home or sanctuary after a migration.

Hâld means "a hold" or "support."  E.g., hâld en wâld, "support and protection."

Third verse:
North Frisia - Dico de Klein

Folle lok en lijen haw ik neitiid fûn,
wat ik ienris dreamde hat my 't libben jûn.
`k Socht de fiere kimen, dêr 't myn hert my  dreau,
nearne koe ik bankje, want ien langstme bleau.
`k Socht de fiere kimen, dêr 't myn hert my  dreau,
nearne koe ik bankje, want ien langstme bleau.

Later I found much luck and grief... 
What I had once dreamed, life gave me.
I looked for the far horizons where my heart drove me...
Nowhere could I dwell, because one longing remained....

Folle is another common Frisian word worth knowing. It can mean "a large amount of" or "often," depending on context.

Lije means "suffering" or "grief."

Socht is the first person past tense of the verb sykje, "to seek" or "to look for." Be careful not to confuse it with sjoch, the first person present tense of the verb sjen, "to see." The first person past tense of sjen is seach.

Dreau is the first person past tense of driuwe, "to drive" or "to float." 

Bankje is a verb meaning "stay," "reside," "live," "dwell," or "endure." 

 Fourth Verse:
Traditional Frisian Farmhouse

Langstme nei it griene bûntbeblomme lân,
dêr 't de noardseeweagen spiele oan it strân.
Dêr 't de kobben krite skril yn 't stoarmgerûs,
nei de eigen oarde en myn lêste hûs. 
Dêr 't de kobben krite skril yn 't stoarmgerûs,
nei de eigen oarde en myn lêste hûs.

The longing for the green land blooming with roan color...
There, where the North Sea waves flow over the strand.
There, where the gulls lament shrilly in the sounding storm... 
For my own place and my last home.

Bûntbeblomme is an odd but poetic word. Bûnt means a roan color, the color of fur... flowers blooming in roan colors. 

Oard means "place," "region," or "location" in this context. Think of the some the older meanings of the English "ward" to remember it. Oard can also mean "another" or "a second."

June 7, 2015

SELSSTANNICH - "independent"

This post will be a change of pace: events are unfolding in Friesland that may have a very real impact on the future of the West Frisian language itself. Omrop Fryslân is facing a potential media merger that could threaten its independent status. The station currently broadcasts vital content including Frisian-language children's programming and the daily news. The employees of the station have written an open letter expressing grave concerns about the merger (available here in Frisian and Dutch). This is an English translation of the letter... any errors are, of course, my own. Please fell free to share this post or translation with anyone who may be interested in the situation in Friesland.

There can be no Friesland without an independent broadcasting station.

Omrop Fryslân is supposed to be merged with a large, national broadcasting organization from the northern part of the Netherlands. At least, that  is the plan that all the regional management boards in our country have thought up and submitted to State Secretary Dekker.

The employees of Omrop Fryslân do not agree with this plan and are greatly worried about it. We believe that the station must remain completely independent going into the future. According to the management boards, our editors could remain independent, but we think that this development is the beginning of the end of our autonomy and that the next step is now just around the corner: an increasing loss of control over our own content.


One of the most important reasons for the creation of an independent Radio Fryslân in 1988 was to allow us to use our own Frisian language and to allow us to bring our own Frisian culture into the spotlight in the best possible way, with our own broadcast channel. For nearly thirty years, the station has brought the Frisian language and the Frisian culture to your living room. Skûtsje Sailing, the Eleven Cities Tour, cultural events, documentaries, school television, the daily news, and entertainment: all in Frisian or a Frisian dialect.


Omrop Fryslân is the only public station that broadcasts in the second national language, Frisian. According to European covenants, Friesland has a right to an autonomous, separate station. The plan for a merger contradicts those agreements.


The regional broadcasting directors' plan does not guarantee that Omrop Fryslân can maintain its place as a representative of Frisian culture. As a consequence of the plan, a director from outside the province could decide for organizational reasons that we must stop some of our programs or cease reporting about important events in Friesland. And ultimately, for the same reasons, the Frisian language itself could be marginalized by the merger.


That is what we as employees want to prevent at all costs. We are not closing our eyes to reality: there must be cuts, and a lot of other developments are coming our way.  Therefore, it is good to work with others such as other groups of journalists in Friesland, as well as businesses outside Friesland. But let this always be based on freedom of choice so that we can always make independent decisions about what is good for Omrop Fryslân: in the end, this ensures that our province will have a free press.


We are gladdened by all the responses from people, organizations, and groups who agree with us and who wish to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with us to protect, strengthen, and advance an independent Omrop Fryslân, one which can confidently and passionately look to the future. Omrop Fryslân belongs to all of us and it is important to us that it remains so!

-The employees of Omrop Fryslân