Friday, August 09, 2013

Improve Your Dutch Through Murder

Given the amount of time the good lady wife and myself have lived here, our Dutch is really not so great. It's pretty good, but had we lived in France or Germany, or some other place where people are disinclined to switch automatically over to your language, we'd be fluent by now. But especially in Amsterdam, where even the most dishevelled beggar can converse in pretty good English (although, occasionally, that's because they are British), it's pretty hard to learn Dutch. You really have to want to, otherwise your laziness and the eagerness of the locals to show off their language skills, will make you give up pretty soon.

To help our Dutch, we've taken to finding TV series to edify us in the language. The both of us enjoy a good crime story – us and 95% of the rest of the world, it must be said – so it seemed a good to check out that genre. After all there's no point in forcing yourself to watching things you'd hate in your own language. So we've stayed away from reality shows – us and 5% of the rest of the world, it must be said – and we haven't bothered to check if the Dutch have an equivalent of Glee. {Editor's note: Vrolijkheid, a show which features a class at the Koninklijke Nederlandse Podiumkunstenarenacadamie who, in between a set of tedious interpersonal issues, manage to sing some autotuned covers of Eurovision hits, does not exist, as far as I'm aware.}

Crime fighters arranged by height.
We started with Spoorloos Verdwenen based on the simple reason that a friend of ours is in it. It is a police procedural show, a little like CSI, but without the budget, following the missing persons bureau as they go about their daily business of looking for lost people. It means "Missing without a Trace." Although, of course, there is always a trace, because they do manage to find them. Or at least bits of them.

It was kind of fun and rarely so complicated our Dutch couldn't follow it to some degree. In fact, even people under duress enunciated very clearly so we could understand.

As a police procedural it fell over a few times because I'm pretty sure they aren't supposed to break into every place they come to and when the case broadens or becomes clearly a fraud or murder case, they still continue to investigate without the assistance of other departments. But this might actually be how the Dutch police operate. Although my experience of Dutch companies leads me to believe that once a missing person's case becomes a murder case, the real missing persons' bureau will go, "sorry, we can't help you any more."

What might be a more realistic aspect of policing in the Netherlands, is the fact that during every case, the boss will state, "every second counts" and then at 5 o'clock, everyone goes home. A few quibbles aside, we enjoyed it and it definitely helped our Dutch.

Greedy Trifle.
After this we tried a little of Gerede Twijfel, which is somehow a mixture of Buffy and one of those detective shows where they dig up old unsolved crimes and try to solve them (like Cold Case). In it a professor and his cabal of student archetypes investigate crimes the police gave up on. As did we. We didn't last long as it was clearly aimed at people half hour age and four times our tolerance of cliches.

We’re now on Baantjer. This long-running detective show is confusingly named after the author who created the characters. A bit like calling a Sherlock Holmes series, Doyle.


This series also has the benefit that at some point at least one other friend will make a brief appearance. Baantjer is a much more thoughtful affair than the previous two. We’re watching an early series made the 90s and it feels somewhat like Inspector Morse or Columbo, however, with a somewhat jarring 1980s soundtrack. I don’t know why it should have a 1980s soundtrack when it was made a decade later, but it does.

There is definitely something of the Columbo / Morse in Baantjer's De Cock. Which is a weird sentence having written it. He definitely has Columbo's gift for the "Oh, there's just one more thing" question, that looks like an after thought, but in fact gets right to the point.

Crime fighters arranged by height
Because it's more of a thinker and because the characters mumble a lot more, it's a lot more of a challenge for our Dutch. Sometimes too much. Occasionally we can clearly see that Somebodie van de Whatsit has become the prime suspect, but we have no idea why.

We have a lot to watch if we stick with it (it went on for 12 seasons) and by the end we should be able to understand pretty much every piece of Dutch someone mumbles at us. Especially if it's in the form of an explanation of where they were last night between 2 and 4 am.

1 comment:

Femke D said...

And then you can start reading all the Baantjer books to improve your reading skills too! As for older Dutch police series, I can also recommend 'bureau kruislaan' (kind of like Cheers in a police station) and 'Unit 13' where a lot of the same actors are actually up against organized crime.

Great blog!
Femke