Does Only spelling Matter? A Word from the Creator of the Text of the Dutch Spelling Contest

Kees van Kooten

Kees van Kooten

Yesterday the Volkskrant introduced the composer of the text of the 24th edition of the Grand Dictation of the Dutch Language (het Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal), a Dutch spelling contest that is scheduled to be broadcast on 18 December 2013. Kees van Kooten, a 71-year-old Dutch comic and writer, will be in charge of writing the Dictation.

Van Kooten is planning to write something entirely different than his predecessors, because he believes that up until the present day contestants could get high scores by simply learning by heart the contents of the Green Booklet (het Groene Boekje) ­- a booklet with a green cover (hence its name) containing a list of words in the official spelling of the Dutch language.

According to the Volkskrant, Van Kooten is not particularly annoyed by incorrect spelling, however, but by language use that yields confusing results. Mistakes concerning reflexive verbs and prepositions can especially make the Dutch language ugly, in Van Kooten’s opinion.

A question that comes to mind is to what extent Van Kooten’s remarks are relevant in the context of the Dictation – for even though he might really believe that correct grammar is at least as important as correct spelling, the contestants in the Dictation will be dictated a grammatically correct text, which they will only need to write down. They will not be asked to produce grammatical constructions themselves.

Despite Van Kooten’s remarks, it seems that participants in the Dictation will not need to worry.  As usual, they can turn to the Green Booklet to learn that nepopenhaard (i.e. fake fireplace) is spelled in one go, whereas haute-couturewinkel (i.e. high couture shop) requires a dash, and Koningin Beatrixestafette (i.e. Queen Beatrix relay race) requires a space – so far, their grammar skills are nog yet tested.

Het Groene Boekje

Het Groene Boekje

In case you would like to test your Dutch spelling skills – to find out whether you need to practise for the contest – you could give this 2-minute test a try!

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