International students received a broescursus Gronings during the Let’s Gro Festival. Two hours spent enjoying not only Marlene Bakker, Professor Goffe, Olav Vos and Ede Staal but most of all the Grunnegs. ‘No, you pronounce “trappen” with a wet-sounding t.’
‘The absolutely most important Gronings word is moi’, explained Groningen native and multi-talent Olav Vos.
Moi can be uttered as an unemotional reaction and it can be used to express appreciation, doubt, offence or all sorts of other things. The fun thing about this broescursus Grunnegs taught ‘haailmoal op zien Engels’ is that everyone in the well-attended room had a chance to try out all of the material on 1 November.
‘How are you? In Gronings, you say: Hou wodt? That is easy to pronounce because it sounds almost exactly the same as how what?’
Two minutes later, the Chinese, English, Brazilian and Spanish students in the Grand Theatre uttered their first sentences of fluent Grunnegs.
t Kon minder.
But that was not our reason, of course. As you can imagine, the average international student wants to make a good impression when they are out partying, too.
Drunk is doen. Doen as n kakstoul (drunk as a bog): that makes you very weak, slap as n schuddeldouk. But a frizze worst or an aaierbal is a way to deal with the hangover.
Before you can reach that point, however, you need a good line. Olav Vos would not be Olav Vos if he did not have a couple of helpful suggestions to offer.
– Komst hier wel voaker? (not original, but certainly to the point).
– Kin ik die nait aargns van? (always show interest)
– Wilst wat van mie drinken? (Casanova).
– Zel’k die noar hoes bringen? (a complete gentleman).
– Hest ook n kledderpuut bie die? (safety is everything, kledderpuut = condom).
Marlene Bakker is just as captivated by Grunnegs as Olav Vos, but she is anxious to simply just start talking.
t nemt mie mit, loat mie achter/ zo as ales zich hier herhoalt
The singer, who was raised in Niezijl and Smeerling, had to spend a long time thinking about these two sentences. She had doubts. Zich is Dutch, but it is widely used by the younger generations. In the northern part of Groningen they say hom and the east either zok or zuk. I thought, no. Zo as ales zok hier herhoalt, I am not going to sing that. I had never heard anyone say that, either. Zich, yes; that was all I heard.’
The problem and the solution reflect the age in which we are living, says Professor of Frisian Language Goffe Jensma. Jensma, son of Frisian parents, was raised in the Groningen village of Kornhorn.
In 1955, 99 percent of the Kornhorn residents spoke Westerkwartiers, a Groningen dialect. Today, it has become the language of the minority; less than forty percent indicate they speak Gronings. That percentage is probably even lower, according to other research.’
People have become increasingly mobile since the Second World War, so the dialect they spoke expanded to include words and sayings from other dialects and languages. In the 1950s, Gronings was subdivided linguistically into eight dialects. Now linguists such as Jensma refer to four regional dialects.
At the same time, and this is likewise a global phenomenon, there is renewed interest in the regional languages. New speakers, such as singer Marlene Bakker, were not raised as dialect speakers. They want to speak Gronings, but they are desperately searching for the right words.
‘My parents spoke Gronings with each other but they spoke Dutch with us. I was 10 years old when we moved to Smeerling. I tried to join in conversations at school, but the other kids thought I sounded really weird. After that I never spoke it again.’
The fact that now she is singing it is because of the homesickness she experienced when she went to study at the Rock Academy in Tilburg when she was 17. Listening to the songs of Ede Staal was a way to fill the void of what she was missing so much in Brabant. It is no coincidence that the music on Marlene’s acclaimed album Raif is reminiscent of the Groningen singer. Or is it mainly the language that evokes the typical Groningen melancholy?
It doesn’t seem that way, because just like any other language, Gronings can lend itself to a full range of emotions.
Olav Vos plays around with it, and the audience has a great time. Can you engage in the art of verbal self-defence in Grunnegs ? Certainly, and it can be learned as well. It was not even three o’clock in the afternoon when a Chinese student managed to unleash the kind of threatening language that one normally only hears in the middle of the night in the Poelestraat.
‘Mout ik die n kroket dwars in de bek trappen?’
‘Close but not quite’, said Olav. ‘In Gronings, you pronounce “trappen” with a wet-sounding t.’
‘Mout ik die n kroket dwars in de bek trappen?’
‘Yes, that’s more like it. And now once more, everybody together.’