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.

February 22, 2017

BINDE - "troop" (Military Vocabulary Words)

I decided to delete the forum since clicking on parts of the hosting website created fake malware warnings.

In any case, I was recently reading part of a book that had a lot of military action vocabulary words. They seemed like a good subject for a new lesson. Certainly, these words can be very helpful if you are reading about history.

De binde
The troop, company, band, or gang.
[DUH BIHN-duh]

Hy foarme in eigen binde. 
He formed his own band of troops.
[HIGH FWAWR-muh uhn IGH-guhn BIHN-duh.]

De manskippen
The troops
[DUH mawn-SKIHP-pun]

It leger is ree om mear manskippen te stjoeren.
The army is ready to send more troops.
[UHT LEY-khur ihs REY AWM MEER mawn-SKIHP-puhn tuh STYOO-ruhn.]

The -g- in leger, meaning "army" or "military," sounds much like the harsh consonant in the German word "Bach" or the Hebrew word "l'chaim."


Yn de 3e iuw binne de Romeinen hieltyd mear gebiet kwytrekke.
In the third century, the Romans lost more and more territory.
[EEN duh TREH-duh EE-yoo BIHN-nuh duh roh-MIGH-nuhn HEEL-teed MEER guh-BEET kvee-TREH-kuh.]


This word also takes the harsh consonant in leger above. The stress is on the second syllable and the first syllable is pronounced with the long -oo- in the English "moon."

Hy wurdt yn in mûklaach lokke en ferslein.
He was ambushed and defeated.
[HIGH vuht EEn uhn mook-LAHKH LOHK-kuh ehn fuh-SHLIGHN.]

With all these military words, it would be handy to know how to say "war" or "battle" in Frisian:



Both take that harsh, throat-clearing consonant again. The word krigers, meaning "warriors," has a visible connection to kriich.

We'll end here with slach, the word for battle (as a verb, it means "to strike," "to hit, or "to beat"). Say it with, yet again, that harsh -kh- sound we don't have in English. [SLAHkh]

January 13, 2017

FERHÚZJE - "to move"

Happy New Year! This year started off with a bang. I am in the middle of the topic of this lesson: moving!

The verb ferhúzje means "to move" as when you are changing homes or offices. You can see how it is connected to the word hûs meaning "house." Say it with the stress on the second syllable. The first syllable takes a schwa and may de-emphasize the -r- you see in writing. The second syllable takes an "oo" vowel a bit shorter than the one in "moon." The verb ends with another schwa. [fuh-HOO-zyuh]

Ferhúsdei is "moving day." From previous lessons, remember that the Frisian word for "day" is pronounced like the word "dye" [DIGH].

Another word meaning "to move" is bewege, but that is more about physical motion or changing a state.

Of course, when you move you are surrounded by boxes. Two words to be familiar with are de doaze [duh DOH-zuh] and it kistje [uht KISH-juh]. The second word seems to refer to small boxes, including ones for jewelry, crates, and also to coffins. The first one is more what we usually have in mind when we speak of boxes. You can see a video and an article about a bunch of boxes that were spilled in Ljouwert at

Ik soe ferhúzje nei Dokkum.
I'd like to move to Dokkum.
[IHk SOO fuh-HOO-zjuh NIGH DAWK-kuhm.]

Mar ik kin noch net ferhúzje.
But I can't move now. / But I still can't move.
[MAWR IHk KIHN NET fuh-HOO-zjuh.]

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.