Dutch is quite a tricky language. When my parents emigrated to Australia, they were advised by the school teachers to ditch their native language and only use English at home. Being great Aussies, they did that. Unfortunately, that means that whilst my Dutch vocabulary is pretty schmick, my grammar leaves quite a lot to be desired.
When we moved here, I made a commitment to throw caution to the wind (as well as my pride) and do my best to give a burl, mostly out of respect for a country that has been so accommodating for us.
I can order a coffee, make an appointment, discuss basic things with Miss A’s teachers, have short conversations about weekend plans, talk to Miss A’s Dutch mates etc. The locals here think it’s hilarious and great fun when I try. I think they really get a kick out of it, and mostly they are patient and very generous with their time.
Phone calls fill me with fear. I practice what I want to say for a few days before hand.
Here’s an interesting observation:
Should I immediately launch into the phone conversation in English, the Dutch revert to English and couldn’t be nicer about it.
A few times now, I have it where I’ve tried really hard in Dutch (it’s pretty obvious once I start talking that it’s not my first language) and the person on the other side of the phone has become so frustrated, they’ve bordered on rude. Today I was making an appointment for an MRI, I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying, I asked her to speak slowly and to repeat the question – she huffed and puffed and then started yelling it at me, like that would make it clearer?
It’s kind of de-motivating and somewhat deflating. (When I say ‘kind of’, I really mean ‘absolutely’)
I certainly have a new found understanding of what it must be like to live in Australia and not speak English. It must be so isolating. I know if the day comes when I move home to Australia, I’ll be more patient should I encounter someone who is trying.
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