Monday, December 31, 2007

Double dutch

The other day I decided to update my facebook status with the news that I was travelling to Holland.

And I thought, for a laugh, that I'd do it in dutch.

Now there are two pieces of information you need to know.

The first is that my dutch is not good.

It used to be. I was brought up bilingual from birth and went to a dutch school for most of my life up until the age of ten. At ten, we left Germany (where the Dutch school was - don't ask) and returned to the UK. I was thrown into a school speaking the language that I was less confident in (English) and gradually started to assimilate into English culture, and I never really got the chance to 'do the Dutch thing' again, bar the odd visit to relatives.

So when I was ten I felt much more Dutch than English. Now I feel much more English as I haven't really spoken Dutch properly since then. So my grip on the language is very, very rusty. But I knew enough to come up with a simple status update:

Anne-Marie gaat vandaag naar Holland.

Or, Anne-Marie is going to Holland today.

The second bit of information you need to know is that my brother and I have always been fiercely competitive. And he also went through the whole being fluent in Dutch thing before having to switch allegiances and become English overnight. But the competitiveness means that when we are together in a Dutch environment, he sometimes tries to 'out-Dutch' me.

So when I posted a status update in Dutch, he responded with a message on my 'wall' in Dutch.

En waarom gaat jij naar Holland vandaag...?

And why are you going to Holland today?

All perfectly making sense so far. So I answered him.

Want wij willen Oma opzoeken, en ook een vriend van Rich's die in Utrecht leeft. Hoe is het in Whistler?

I replied saying that we wanted to visit my Grandmother, and also a friend of R's who lives in Utrecht. He's in Whistler right now so I also asked him how it was going there. Now, I had to struggle to put this together in my head but got there myself (however I'm not sure it's even 100% right anyway). But I'd clearly thrown down the gauntlet because suddenly I get a far more complex reply and I'm stumped. I don't understand half of it.

Then I read again, more slowly, and realise what's happened. It's a little complex to spell it all out but I have one reader who will appreciate this (Judith...?).

De sneeuw was verbazend - de toevlucht moet de eerste minister in de wereld zijn! Maar 6 uren op de sneeuw waren genoeg niettemin voor me. Zeg hallo aan Oma en Holland van me en horloge uit voor haar het snelle drijven!! Zo snel!!! Txx Oh en ook hallo aan jouw en Rich van mij en Courtney!!

Translating it, chunk by chunk, reveals quite why my brother is suddenly able to produce a chunk of complex, descriptive Dutch text, and the revelation made me laugh. A lot.

The snow was amazing - this refuge must be the prime minister of the world! But six hours on the snow was enough even for me. Say hello to Oma and Holland from me and wristwatch out for her fast driving! So fast! Oh, and also hello to you and and Rich from me and Courtney.

So brother of mine, you're busted. Stop using Babelfish!

"Horloge" means watch as in "wristwatch", not watch as in "watch out". And by "toevlucht" I think he must have meant "resort", as in tourist resort (not resort as in a refuge, or last resort). And prime minister? I think he must have meant "premiere" as in best, not as in a leading political role...

Well, it made me giggle.


Dr Jude said...

Very funny. It made me giggle (after a briefly confused "huh?" I realized what he'd done).

I also left Dutch schools when I was just ten. Luckily my Dutch is much better than my brother's so we just speak english. Much to my mom's irritation and dismay.

Anonymous said...

This made me laugh also. I've lived in England for 33 years and forgotten a lot of my Dutch, so people snigger whenever I go back to the Netherlands or Belgium and try to speak in my native language.

Irene Henning

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

I used to have a teacher called Mnr Henning.

He was my teacher at the Dutch primary school in Germany and was an inspiration when it came to art and being creative. Instead of sticking bits of dried pasta on a bit of card (which seems to be the height of the UK art curriculum for the under 10s) he had us doing wild stuff like glass-blowing and plaster casts.

Weird to think of all us dislocated Dutchies...

Anonymous said...

Our teachers in the Dutch expat school in Antwerp had us sticking bits of macaroni and plastic straws on paper!!! Your Mr Henning must have been mind blowingly advanced.

Something else we have in common, apart from being educated in expat schools, is that we've also both had the dreaded BC - my diagnosis was in October 2005. I liked your image of your life being hijacked, I felt that way about losing control over my diary with all those hospital appointments.

Irene Henning