Monday, October 08, 2012

What's up

In recent months, I have been practising my Dutch with a friend at the university. In fact, I give her English coaching, but part of that is the writing of a blog in English. She calls her blog 'What's up?', which I quite like as it's just a kind of daily diary - hence the name of this post. The point is that I decided to 'help' her along by writing my own blog in Dutch.

It's surprisingly (or maybe not) difficult. I mean I am so used to rambling on in my own language, aren't I? After all, writing is generally quite an easy process for me. It's like pressing a button and out it comes. I barely even have to think about what's going to come out next (it even surprises me sometimes), but in Dutch? No. It absolutely does not work that way.

In truth, it's a bit like being suddenly deprived of a physical capacity. You know. Like not being able to use a finger when you've injured it. Everything you do is suddenly ten times more difficult. Well for me, writing in Dutch is like having that injured finger. It's slower, in fact painfully slow. I don't have all my usual skills of expression at my disposal. I have to work my way round things until I manage to come out with something resembling what I wanted to say - just like you have do work arounds when you can't use that one finger you need.

Why does this surprise me, you might wonder? Well, I know quite a bit of Dutch these days, and I've got to the stage where I can't remember English words for things now and can only come up with the Dutch ones. In fact, I use Dutch a lot for business communication and for organising my life. But, that's different from real native speaker type fluency and skill. For social and creative communication, I'm still at the extremely conscious incompetence stage. In that respect, I'm still a beginner, a novice and a complete fumbler. Hence the injured finger analogy.

Still. I'll keep practising, and I hope I'll keep learning. Koos tells me I'm not 'fossilising' yet...nice, hey? Actually that's a real term used in linguistics when people get to a certain level and then get stuck. You can fossilise at a very early age. I love the image! Anyhow, I haven't got stuck in a lump of linguistic granite yet, and I am still making progress. I have to in fact. Why? Because next month I'm hoping to take the higher level state Dutch exam. Dus allemaal....ik ga nu slapen en ik wens jullie een goede week. Nighty night, tot ziens en slaap lekker! Tot volgende keer...


  1. well, I'd bet that you will be able to post in Dutch quite fluently in no time. I dont know how long it took to post your last lines, but it reads for me very fast...haha, sure don't know what it means though haha.
    It's quite understandable that I would think anyone's first language would be the easiest to flow. Until of course the second flows as easy. But in any case, the first I would imagine is always easy no matter the language. I 'll be using google translate here soon on one of your posts!

  2. Grace, I'll never ben really fluent in Dutch. I'm sure of that. I started learning too late and I don't have such a gift for language, but I manage! I can read fine and communicate all my normal requirements. It's just that creatively and socially, it's a heap more difficult! I'm always very quiet when in a group of cloggies - probably much to their relief :))

  3. What is very annoying though is the amount of Dutch people that can speak absolutely perfect English, better than many native speakers! Your Dutch sounds good to me, but then I can't speak a word .... Xxx

  4. Fran, the Dutch are generally good at all languages. It has to do with their history of international trade - that and being a small country with a language that no one else speaks!

  5. what a nice exchange, one language for another. English being so vast, I thought you were already fluent there (just so you know).

    I will pick up your book the Skipper's child except the children it is for will not be able to read it for some years yet. If necessary, I will list it in my will. :-)

  6. took me a minute.
    Oh, I don't think to their relief. I would think your charm would shine.
    I remember when I was in that part of the world, they much liked foreigners to be quiet. or maybe it was just the americans.

  7. Gina, thank you! That is really wonderful of you xx

    Grace, it's difficult to charm anyone when you don't know what they are saying to you - hence the quiet Val - my English speaking friends are always amazed. They didn't know I could be so lost for words :)

  8. I can't imagine anything more difficult. I guess a lot of it comes down to trying to express yourself in a language that is not yours. It's great that you are giving it a go. You are braver then me :p

  9. I know the feeling. I can´t really express myself copletely in Finnish or English either though I'm pretty good in speaking both. Something is always missing I feel. And s l o o w ...

  10. I have noticed that there are peculiar variables in the sound and speed of the spoken words. For instance when I first moved to Ireland I used the phrase 'So long' meaning farewell and because I was speaking fast. Irish ears were hearing me say Slan & so they would reply Slan Abhaile meaning safe home.

  11. I find Dutch quite difficult, tho as an Ango Saxon, as my mother in law refers to me, I do manage those deep throated nuances fairly well! (See also, I am a good faker!) The finger analogy is brilliant, especially relevant to me just now as I broke two a couple of months ago and they are still yet to fully heal! Dutch is also such an constantly fluid language it seems. Tony speaks "Old Dutch," his Opa's Dutch, and many of the terms and words are now archaic according to the more current language! Good luck dearest, I know you will get over the hump! xo

  12. I am fluent in pig-latin though.... with an excellent accent.

  13. Stu, the Dutch love you just the way you are and wouldn't want you to change :)

    Hans, if anyone is proficient in English, it's you and Ingela! You are both amazing given that you speak Swedish at home and Finnish elsewhere! You haven't heard my Dutch!

    Mel, yes, the spoken word is much more difficult for me too. I can stand in the lift at the university with a bunch of students and not understand a word they are saying. Other people, however, those who speak slowly and clearly, are no problem at all!

    Stevie, old Dutch is lovely. I wish people here still spoke with the same degree of care and subtlety! As for pig latin, I rather like the sound of that. Does it go down well in pubs and at parties :)))

  14. I can so relate to this, Val!
    The feelings of doing things with your left hand, when you are used to using your right.
    Being able to speak more than one language opens up all sorts of perspectives, as there are slight different nuances and words for different things that don't just come in "English".
    One of my favourite learned words is "schwung". It's a German word that we used to encapsulate the way a horse moves and uses his body and personality to arrive at their own certain presence.
    It's only one word, but there is no word in the English language that can perfectly identify this quality. I will often speak French if I am at a loss for (English) words, too.
    You are very lucky (not that I need to tell you...) to be immersed in such a culture and language! xo

  15. iay ootay eakspay igpay atinlay

  16. Thank you Dale, but I'm afraid pig latin is not among my languages...


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