Monday, June 19, 2006

I'm Becoming Madonna

When you go to a foreign country, it seems only polite to learn a little bit of the native language. If you're there for less than 10 days, you can safely learn "please," "thank you," "sorry," and "I'm an American, get out of my way!" It's just the classy thing to do. But if you're there for three months, you should try a bit harder.

The Netherlands may be the only country where native people have absolutely zero interest in watching an American struggle with their language. They don't find it cute or charming in the least. One clumsy "Dag" and their voice says, "How can I help you?" and their eyes say, "Please shut up now."

You may have heard that Dutch is the closest language to English. This is a dirty lie. I can watch TV in German, French, Spanish, Romanian, whatever, and basically figure out what is being said. Dutch may as well have been invented by aliens. Unless they stick in English words, which they do all the time, just to torture me.

The problem is the difference between written Dutch and spoken Dutch. Written Dutch is a breeze. If you want to come up with the Dutch word, just think of the Olde Englishe equivalent, and then spell it in the most bizarre way possible. So if you need the pharmacy, you remember that the Olde Englishe peoples called them apothecaries, cut off the end, double up some vowels and pointlessly change the c to a k. Shazam! Apotheek.

Note: Don't forget to close your apotheek on weekends and holidays, and during the day, and after 5pm.

Written Dutch turns things like signage and the grocery store into a fun logic puzzle. Spoken Dutch turns things like listening into Dante's 4th Circle of Hell. The problem is the vowels -- there are 16 of them. So 5 of them are ones you've heard before, and 11 of them have only been heard from walruses and geese. Surround the vowels with the same six consonents, each pronounced four different ways, and you can make your own Dutch words. Fun!

But the most disturbing thing is how Holland is changing my English. We're really close to the UK, and thus the Dutch learn their English from the actual English. Elevator is lift, apartment is flat, etc. And their English comes with a vaguely pan-European accent. Thus I find myself saying things like, "Ja, I really wish my flat had a lift to save my baack." Except baack isn't even a word, but just some fake American/English/Dutch hybrid that everyone finds confusing. So I just mumble my words and affect an accent. Just like Madonna. Me and Madonna, we're likethis.

It's enough to make me feel spiritually bankrupt. I've been hearing about something called the Kaabbaaaleeh...


Post a Comment

<< Home