In case anyone's still interested a year later:
I don't know for sure where it comes from (see below for speculation), but much of Europe outside the UK uses it (all other Germanic/Scandinavian languages, most Slavic languages, all Baltic languages, and all Finno-Ugric languages) - or at least the "half seven" = 6:30 part. I'm not familiar enough with most of those languages to know whether they say 6:20 like Dutch, and online translators are stupendously lazy at translating time (they generally just use digits, or they translate the two number words separately and place them next to each other, or they just go full retard and translate "tien voor half zeven" as 7:20). I suspect that many of them don't go so far as to calculate from the half hour, but I know German does (it's just not as common as saying sechs Uhr zwanzig), and Norwegian and Danish do. Swedish and Icelandic don't, neither does Russian. Other than that, I'm not sure.
Perhaps I'm over-analyzing, but as the "half seven" part is used in all Lutheran-dominated countries, but not all Eastern Orthodox and only a handful of Catholic countries - all of which have or used to have Lutheran minority populations - I'm guessing the Germans had a hand in spreading it to at least some countries (such as Finland and Estonia). This is supported by the fact that the only Germanic language that doesn't use it is English, and the UK isn't Lutheran. Maybe religion has nothing to do with it and it's just a Germanic/Slavic/Baltic thing that was spread to Finland, Estonia and Hungary by the Germans and dropped or missed by the English? At any rate, it seems to originate in Northern or Eastern Europe.
On a side note, Danish uses an excessively complex method of counting above 50 which involves "halv"-number being used in a similar manner. For example, while forty-one is enogfyrre or one and forty, fifty-one is enoghalvtreds, which is a shortening of enoghalvtredsindstyve or one and half threescore, where half threescore = 50 because...half 3 = 2.5, times 20 = 50. This continues to 99, and starts again at 151. This is even worse than the French four x twenty + ten + nine = 99, because at least there's no half score nonsense. However, this crazy Danish counting scheme isn't old enough to say that it means Denmark came up with the "half seven" thing, but maybe they came up with the "ten til half seven" part, since they're one of only a few countries to use it.
Anyway, enough rambling.
Hi John. Very interesting contribution, I mean it, but the Danish counting part is far to inaccessible to me. I should apply for a mathematics class at the Harvard University.. or something like that. I makes me feel so human unable, If you know what I mean. Thanks though. Language is counting, measuring, positioning, technology too. So no harm done! Have fun.
I do hear 'twintig over zes', usually from young people (who may have been watching too much American TV), but I wouldn't go so far as to say It's good Dutch. I'm not native though; my Dutch husband thinks it's an OK structure, but he's doubting himself because he lived in England for 5 years and may have been 'contaminated'.
Hi Alex. "Twintig over zes" is to consider dialectic, so uncorrect. It happened to hear "zes uur twintig" or "zes uur vijventwintig". Or when the hour just passed: "zes uur en drie minuten" for instance. But I fear that is Flemish language (from Dutch speaking Belgium). Learning good Dutch means listen to Elthek and Raahiba their suggestions. Best wishes !
You can use twintig over zes, it's a personal preference but there's nothing wrong with it (http://taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/1177/acht_uur_zeventien_zeventien_over_acht_dertien_voor_halfnegen/). Both are used and acceptable.
Humm! C'est très interessant!
If it's a matter of personal preference, then I choose to go with the "minuut over uur" expression due to its relative simplicity.
I'll just have to keep in mind that some Dutch speakers will tell me the time in a way that will require I do quite a bit of arithmetic gymnastics in order to understand an otherwise simple concept.
This is what Google gave me, and it's how I think of it - use both the hour and the half hour to tell the time: http://blogs.transparent.com/dutch/what-time-is-it-telling-time-in-dutch/
At quarters, the full hour takes precedence:
6:00 - zes uur
6:10 - tien over zes
6:15 - kwart over zes (not 'kwart voor half zeven')
6:20 - tien voor half zeven
6:30 - half zeven (not 'half over zes' - or worse, 'half zes', which means 'half past five')
6:35 - vijf over half zeven
6:45 - kwart voor zeven (not 'kwart over half zeven')
6:55 - vijf voor zeven
7:00 - zeven uur
Indonesian also uses this style (adopted from Dutch). Over = lewat Voor = kurang Half = setengah Seis = enam Zeven = tujuh Twintig = dua puluh Uur = jam.
It is six twenty. 1. Jam enam (lewat) dua puluh. 2. Jam setengah tujuh kurang sepuluh (menit). This is really the same style as in Dutch.
Is anyone else having an issue during speaking exercises where none of time portion is accepted? I rarely get to the third try on speaking exercises, but I'm 0 for about 18 tries in this first time module so far. The rest of the sentence up to the time phrase I get perfectly...