When I first moved to Holland I was not sure how much of a language barrier there would be. I knew very little about the country or it language. I started reading a phrase book before I arrived but I later found out I was pronouncing everything from it horribly. Luckily for me it turned out the language barrier is only small, almost unmeasurable. There is a lot of English language culture here from TV to books. One of my Dutch friends even learnt to speak English from watching the A-Team as a child. However I have yet to hear him, “Pitty the fool.”
I have only met a handful of people that could not speak English. My first encounter with a Dutch person who could not (or maybe chose not to) was a girl at the bar in a night club. She turned to me and said something I did not understand. When I told her so in English she said something else and walked away. I will never know if she was saying “You’re really cute” or “You’re standing on my foot.”
Since then I have made attempts to learn the language. I first learnt to count in Dutch from late night television and my Dutch co-workers quickly taught me swear words and chat up lines which would most likely lead to me getting slapped. However, we also had lessons which were arranged by the company. Our first Dutch teacher seemed to be a bit of an old pervert however. This was largely due to the fact that whenever he got us to translate a story he had written himself it was always about watching young girls in bars. Somehow I got the impression they were written from personal experiences. I’ll never forget the rather creepy context and way he explained the Dutch translations for ‘Slender Back’. Luckily we never had to translate, “It puts the lotion on its skin.”
For a long time, “Ik heb geen idee wat u zegt,” was a phrase I seemed to be using a lot but I have gotten better over time and can now have some basic conversations. However, after five years I still feel my Dutch language skills are lacking. The trouble is I never really get the chance to practice. I know this is poor excuse and I should make more of an effort but when ever things get awkward or difficult I slip back into English.
I will continue trying to learn the language and speak it. Who knows… maybe the next time a cute girl turns to me and says something in her sexy Dutch voice I’ll be able to understand her… and get off her foot.