Dutch Quirk #76: Say ‘I learn you’ when they want to teach you something

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Let’s set the scene: you’re complaining to your significant other about not getting the hang of a phrase in Dutch. They smile at you, and then pipe up with the ever-endearing “don’t worry, schatje (darling), I’ll learn you how!”

With this classic phrase, you know they’ve given you their word to help you — and you won’t be stuck assaulting passers-by with the kind of Dutch that amounts to a war crime.

What is it?

Like congratulating every single person at a birthday party, this quirk is as stereotypically Dutch as putting plakjes of kaas (slices of cheese) in your sandwich.

It’s a phrase that you’re likely to hear from your Dutch friends, coworkers, or significant other when you find yourself in need of a little help.

If it sounds a little weird to foreign ears, it’s because this is an example of Dunglish (also known as steenkolenengels — “coal English” or broken English).

Even though The Netherlands speaks the best English out of all non-English speaking countries, its occupants do manage to season the language with their own Dutch flair. ✨

Why do they do it?

Like switching to English when you’re trying to communicate with them in mangled Nederlands, Dutchies like to be helpful (and save time whilst they’re doing so).

Beneath their somewhat reserved exterior, Dutchies are warm and friendly! Image: Depositphotos

If you’re friends, and they can help you out in such a way that saves you time, then they’ll do it.

Or, y’know, maybe they’re trying to say sorry for forcing a salty drop (liquorice) on you. 😉

Why is it quirky? 

The phrase “I’ll learn you” is a direct translation of the Dutch phrase “ik zal je leren” (I will you learn).

Most other wonky translations from Dutch into English exist solely as Dunglish, but “I’ll learn you” has taken on a life of its own.

It’s actually not uncommon to hear non-Dutchies unironically use this phrase, as there’s something rather endearing about it!

Should you join in? 

That depends!

If you’re a native English speaker, then the strange grammar might feel a wee bit odd to say.

However, don’t let that keep you from participating in the spirit of the thing — extending a helping hand to someone that needs it. 🤗

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana Pereira 🇱🇰
Liana juggles her role as an Editor with wrapping up a degree in cognitive linguistics and assisting with DutchReview's affiliate portfolio. Since arriving in the Netherlands for her studies in 2018, she's thrilled to have the 'write' opportunity to help other internationals feel more at home here — whether that's by penning an article on the best SIMs to buy in NL, the latest banking features, or important things to know about Dutch health insurance.


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