You often have a bit more flexibility in terms of word order when a prepositional phrase is present (e.g. "in de haven"). Thus:
Zij zijn in de haven aan het werken. -- correct
Zij zijn aan het werken in de haven. -- correct
One might choose one variation over another depending on the context and the placement of emphasis on a particular part(s) of the sentence.
And which variation places emphasis on what?
Is this accurate?
Zij zijn in de haven aan het werken. = The emphasis is on where they are.
Zij zijn aan het werken in de haven. = The emphasis is on what they are doing.
I ask, because word order sometimes is so different in Dutch, that I don't want to assume that the word order means the same thing in Dutch as it might in English, emphasis-wise.
Unfortunately no. Direct objects can be a bit tricky in terms of finding the proper place to put them within a clause. Let's break down your sentence:
Ik ben -- Subject + Finite (conjugated) Verb stand at the front of what could, arguably, be considered the left part of the clause. As mentioned above you can, technically, place some sentence components (and even other clauses for that matter) before the Subject and Finite Verb. But for this example you cannot place another component before these components.
aan het lezen -- Special construction implying a continuous/ongoing action. This is to be placed at the end of the right part of the clause.
Thus, so far we have:
- Ik ben ... ... ... aan het lezen.
Finally, we have a non-specific direct object, een boek.
The most common place for a direct object is between the end of the middle part and the beginning of the right part. If you position your direct object there, it will almost always be correct.
However, to remove the idea of simply guessing, place non-specific direct objects between the middle and right parts.
Place specific direct objects between the left and middle parts of the clause.
You must place non-specific direct objects here. You can place specific direct objects in this position as well, especially if you wish to emphasise the direct object.
- Ik ben een boek aan het lezen.
The positioning of the direct object is not as clear in this example -- due to there not being any other components besides those listed above. However, if we were to add, for example, a Time element you can see the difference:
Ik ben momenteel een boek aan het lezen. - "I am presently/at this moment reading a book."
Ik ben jouw boek momenteel aan het lezen. -- "I am presently/at this moment reading your book."
Non-Specific Direct Objects
direct object that starts with an indefinite article: een (a) or no article for plural nouns.
direct object that starts with a cardinal number, e.g. drie, vier, vijf.
direct object that starts with an indefinite pronoun, e.g. geen (no), enige, enkele or wat (some, a few), veel (much, many).
Specific Direct Objects
direct object that starts with a definite article: de and het
direct object that starts with a possessive or demonstrative pronoun, e.g. mijn (my), jouw (your), die, dat (that, those), deze, dit (this, these)
proper name (persons, cities, book titles, etc.)
I'm guessing you're referring to the separable verb voorlezen?
The prefix of a separable verb remains attached to the verb when it's in the form of a past participle or infinitive:
Ik ben een boek aan het voorlezen. -- "I am reading a book aloud/out loud."
Ik lees een boek voor. -- "I read a book aloud/out loud." (present tense)
Ik heb dat boek al voorgelezen. -- "I have already read that book aloud/out loud."
While the essence of the meaning is the same. The translations in the answers here are more literal. With that being said the purpose of the lesson is to teach the continuous which in English grammar is technically verb+ing.
I believe that some people are misinterpreting the meaning of 'at work' in your question as being 'at the place of work' rather than what I think you are intending as they are currently [hard] at work, which would imply they are currently working. The same confusion would arise if you were to say 'they have gone to work on the boat' - this could mean they are going to do a form of work whilst on the boat or that it is the boat itself that requires work done to it.
Quite an interesting little caveat :-) but one that would serve you well to avoid if translating directly between the two languages.
I typed out the translation but made a typo - my finger hit a "D" after werken (werkend), and I didn't see it before I hit the button. I wanted to report it as a typo, but that's no longer an option. Anybody know what's up with that? Only three choices: "The audio does not sound correct;" "The Dutch sentence is unnatural or has an error;" or "The correct solution is unnatural or has an error." One used to be able to call out a typo or give an explanation as to why one was flagging a sentence.