Friday, 10 September 2010
My Dutch is perfect... My Dutch is non-existent
If you read my posts regularly.... or occasionally, you will know that I have a special interest in languages. As I've said before there probably isn't a European language I haven't at one stage or other studied, started to learn, or at least examined the structure of. It's an obsession, I can't help it!
One language, however, I've never studied is Dutch. I have a funny relationship with that language that many people assume is so close to both German and English (my 2 "perfect" languages) - but which really is full of faux amis, and quite a treacherous little number.
A funny relationship because on the one hand I'm ultra-perfect in it: My pronunciation is pitch-perfect and I defy anyone to conclude that wasn't born and bred in Haarlem when I read out a piece of text. Or speak it. Albeit the latter with an enormously restricted vocabulary, and preferably revolving round ball games, dolls, and "mens-erger-je-niet".
Why? Because I grew up in Holland, learnt the language solely by picking it up orally from our neighbours, especially their two daughters who were my best friends.
Other than that, my Dutch is non-existent. I cannot hold a normal adult conversation. I cannot spell at all in Dutch, I've never written a single sentence. It is a mystery to me how even the most ordinary greeting would be spelt (goej morgen? goeje avond? goed middag?.. something like that, but don't quote me on it!)
It always struck me as a bit unusual that you can feel utterly familiar with a language, and yet totally not know it.