Laten vs. let
In this song ("Watje" by Doe Maar), the first part of the chorus goes:
Laten wij maar
Een liedje zingen
Over een mooie vrouw
I'm confused about the conjugation of "laten" here, as compared with English "let". I would have expected this usage to be imperative, roughly equivalent to this in English:
Just let us
Sing a song
About a beautiful woman
"Laten" is clearly not imperative, and "wij" translates to "we" (subject), not "us" (object). To show the source of confusion with conjugation, in English you would say "let her do that", not "lets she do that".
Going strictly by word order, this seems to be worded as a question ("do we let a song sing about a beautiful woman?"), which doesn't make any sense (and doesn't match the conjugation of "zingen").
Is this worded differently from English (and if so, is there a rule for it?), or have I just got the meaning horribly wrong?
The meaning of 'laten wij' has the same meaning as 'let us' in English. And it also has the same use, except that in Dutch we put 'we/wij' behind it and in English you put 'us'behind it. The sentence is not formed as a question but rather as a proposal. 'Let us now just sing a song about a beautiful woman..You can say in Dutch 'laat ons' , but that happens more in Belgium. in the Netherlands that sounds rather old-fashioned.
Just to clear up the confusion:
If you said ''laat ons maar een liedje zingen'' instead of ''laten wij maar een liedje zingen'', it would indeed mean something like ''just leave it to us to sing a song''.
E.g. if you disagreed with that idea, your reply could be: ''Nee, laat mij maar een liedje zingen'' (''No, leave it to me to sing a song''/''No, I'll sing a song (as opposed to you)'')/''No, I'll do the singing''
''laat ons maar een liedje zingen''-->''just leave it to us to sing a song''(=usually used as a reaction/reply)
''laten wij maar een liedje zingen''-->''let's just sing a song'' (=proposition)
Another usage: asking for/giving permission:
''Laat ons een liedje zingen, (alsjeblieft)''-->''Let us sing a song, please''
''Laat me je auto lenen''-->''Let me borrow your car''
(this applies to Dutch in the Netherlands, I'm not sure about Belgian Dutch)