Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Language difficulties

Yesterday when Theo got in from work, I sprung a surprise shopping trip on him.  I find the element of surprise always works, as if I try to ask or plan it with him beforehand, he'll try to wriggle out of it in fear of it turning into a shoe shopping trip!  This time was justified though, so he didn't put up a fight.  We needed a new curtain pole for the lounge window.  Our window is huge, so not many places actually sell them wide enough.  It is also a half bay window as our balcony door is concealed in one side of it.  So we needed a corner pole too, but not a proper bay one as they have two corners.  Most Dutchies don't even use curtains or blinds, and if they do, they're for decoration only.  Very few actually consider privacy a must!  Now with the dark evenings drawing in, I'm craving my privacy.  I don't walk about naked or anything, sorry to disappoint, but sometimes I like to have a shower and throw on my pj's on a cold dark evening, and just chill.  Not with a huge window and lights on for any Dutchie walking past to get a good look though!  The few Dutchies that do have curtains tend to use those awful rails that most people stopped using in England about 20 years ago! After the curtains getting stuck on those rails, or simply coming off the rail, I took them down.  That is what we had up when we moved in.  Most Dutchies consider placing a small jungle of pot plants (not that kind!) on their window sill to be sufficient privacy.  Although I love a few plants, I'm not green fingured, and I just like a few to look pretty, not an entire jungle! During the summer months, it was light until 10 or 11pm, so the curtains really weren't needed anyway.  But now they are.  We've searched high and low for a pole that would fit, and I finally found one (despite the language difficulties in googling it) on Ikea site!  So a trip to Ikea was secretly planned yesterday!  No shoe shops involved, so Theo happily obliged!

We got to Ikea, and as I'm now finally starting to understand more Dutch, although I can't speak it, I enjoy just stringing the odd Dutch word into conversation, as his little face lights up like a Dutchie with a free ice cream!  Dutchies just can't get enough 'ijsje' and they absolutely love anything free, so anytime Theo looks remotely happy, has a smile on his face, I call him 'Dutchie with a free ice cream'- it's a bit of a private joke, as he once got an ice cream for free and you would have though he was five years old from the look on his face!  The ice cream was pretty awful (hence why it was free) but he didn't care as he hadn't had to pay for it!  Anyway, there we were last night going up into the multi story at the new Ikea in Utrecht.  It's not new, but recently been expanded so it's even bigger than before.  It's like a maze in there now and almost a half mile walk just to get from the car to the entrance.  There were 'ingang' signs everywhere, but you couldn't actually see where the entrance was to park close to it.  So I pointed and said 'ingang, that way' in what I knew was terrible pronunciation as I simply cannot pronounce that throat clearing Dutch 'g'.  There it was again, the Dutchie with a free ice cream look on his face.  He told me to say it again!  So I did.  His grin grew even bigger, no longer the free ice cream look, but something more sinister this time.  He muttered something in Dutch, followed by 'cute'.....so the interrogation started.  'I'm not cute, what do you mean?'  After much probing, out it came.  My accent was what he was referring to as 'cute'.  Now I know I didn't say it right, as I really cannot pronounce anything with the letter 'g' in without choking for real!  But I thought it was at least understandable.  To Theo, yes, but it seems after nearly two years here, it probably isn't understandable to most other Dutchies.  Then came the icing on the cake when he announced that when I call myself 'Engels' that how it comes out is not, in fact 'English' at all, but sounds like the Dutch work for 'ankles'.  It's taken him nearly two years to tell me that!  I was mortified. For two years, I've been trying my best in my very limited vocab to make myself understood, or apologise for not being able to communicate, and only now has it come to light.  Of course most times that I've said 'Engels' whoever I'm speaking too switches to English anyway, but with Dutchies that's their second lingo anyway, so if you clearly don't speak Dutch, they'll try English second, followed by German, and possibly French next.  If not French, Russian.  So, based on my lack of language skills, most Dutchies either think I'm German (I could never figure out why until now), or think I'm a bit 'special' - that part, I can truly understand now, but only since Theo explained and corrected me last night.  Even though I know the correct pronunciation now, I still can't say it right, and when you've spent two years trying to learn something, it's pretty hard trying to re-learn it.  So I'm back to square one with really having to think before I open my mouth!  I've learnt all the words to my favourite things.  'Schoenenwinkel', I'm told I can say perfectly.  Same with 'koffie' and 'Ijsje'- see, I've mastered the essentials, what else can a girl want or need?!  But even my other favourites such as 'stroopwaffel' 'proffertjes' are all wrong.  Theo understands me, but nobody else would.  Perhaps I am 'special' after all!  I can easily survive a food shopping trip now, without giving away the fact I'm not Dutch.  I've learnt how to smile and nod in the right places (usually, although sometimes I'm still caught out).  I understand 'would you like a receipt/bag?' and 'have you scanned it all?' (most Dutch supermarkets have hand scanners which you simply scan your own shopping as you go around, and they do spot checks at the checkout to make sure you have scanned it.  Those phrases I've mastered, but if they use slightly different wording to what I'm used to, or try to make conversation with me, the smiling and nodding act doesn't work, and backfires on me, as if they ask me a question and I'm stood there grinning at them, I look a bit daft!  (it happens sometimes!)  I prefer to do that, as I find if I say I'm English, the other person will automatically speak to me in English, and I'll never learn a thing.  So, it means I have to smile, nod and hope for the best.  If Theo is with me, I'll ask him afterwards what they said if I didn't understand.

what the Dutch lingo does to me!

I can understand quite a lot now.  Not every word, that's for sure, but can usually pick up the gist of the conversation.  Past/present/future tenses escape me though, so I don't know if somebody is talking about going to the cinema for example, has been or would like to go, I just know they're talking about the cinema.  Speaking it, however....well, I'm not so sure that will ever happen!  I was getting truly hopeful, thinking I was actually getting a small grasp on the lingo, but it seems I'm not at all!  Not bad for two years worth of progress, eh?!

EDIT:  Since writing this post, I've just been informed by the resident Dutchie, aka Theo,
that I spelt both 'stroopwafel' and 'poffertjes' wrong!  I also have to admit
I asked my friend (google translate!) how to spell 'ijsje'- but have
decided to leave the original spelling mistakes in to add to authenticity and show
my niaivity (daftness!)

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