Saturday, March 18, 2006

Nederlands and the Naughty New Zealander

Gert and I have this ongoing discussion about whether I should become fluent in Nederlands ...

You see, back in New Zealand I sometimes imagined how it might be to live in a culture where I could only observe, silenced by my lack of a language. Sometimes it held a certain appeal ...

Needless to say he would like me fluent but I've tried to point out the benefits. How can I be a terrible part-time stepmother if I can't speak the language, and even better, the children will be fluent in English long before they reach Engels lessons at 13 in school.

Then there are the gatherings of extended family but I've learned an impressive amount just by watching and oddly enough he's discovering most of his family speak English, just not with each other. It cuts out the smalltalk about weather and groceries and there have been magical moments, like the look on Gert's face when he discovered his father could speak fluent English.

When I was a child we were often warned by our parents that it was risky to pull angry faces... in fact we were told that if the wind changed our faces would stay like that forever. I have news for my parents, it's not the wind it's a mid-life language change, most particularly one that involves rrrr rolling, a disconcerting number of consonants per word, reallocating vowel sounds and learning new words often splattered with 'i's' and 'e's' ... oh yes, a New Zealander's speaking dream.

It has become apparent that the way I pronounce my 'a' is a Dutch 'r', my 'e' is an 'i' and my 'i' is apparently a Dutch 'e' ... stunning when you realise that Gert doesn't consider these my worst pronunciation problems ... he offered up 'schuim' and 'huichelachtig' and was laughing when he said, 'See' as I tried to repeat them.

It's an ongoing discussion; a debate that heats up on occasions and cools right down to the point where I am a malleable student of Nederlands. I'm not sure if I wrote of it but I did pass my Nederlands 1.2 examination ... a low grade for the speaking but I have until September to immerse myself in conversation at home (or convince Gert about the merits of me remaining blissfully ignorant) ;)


Silvana said...

It only takes six months to be fluent. It is worth the trouble. You will find a language full of fun. Try to learn real Dutch first and then the local dialect. You do not neet to write it.
Buy children comic books and watch children show on TV in the afternoon. Some of them are delightful.

I learned. You can do it too. Good luck!!!

woman wandering said...

Oh Silvana, you must be Belgian to say 6 months to fluency ... :)

I was only really exposed to Engels back in New Zealand and I think my road to fluency might be long and stoney. I've been learning real Dutch and have passed 1.1 and 1.2 but still I have Gert almost tearing his hair out trying to teach me the correct sounds, and Diede forbade me to speak it after spending some time with me.

language-police said...

how can you say that the dutch are to blame for reallocating vowel sounds. did you ever listen very well to your new zealands accent?
how can you even think that you're native speaking english!!!!!

woman wandering said...

Dear Mr Language Policeman,
how do I dare speak ... :)
but it makes me distinctive and the accent is kind of cute really.