Saturday, August 07, 2010

My Old Dutch

One of the problems with my Dutch is that it sounds better than it is.  I have a good accent, however I don't have the vocabulary to back it up. Consequently people speed on a dime a dozen assuming I'm fluent and leave me trailing behind trying to work out what a watjenoemhet is and whether not knowing it is important to everything else being said. I'm a long way from fluent. I do understand quite a bit, but people frequently throw words in that I can't fathom. Words like "doorgronden."

Example of mass Dutch communication (c) 2009 Peter More
What happens even more is that I'm speaking and I can't remember, or simply never knew, the Dutch word for something. I have, however, developed some tools to deal with this.
  1. Say the English word but pronounce it in a Dutch way.
    The rule of thumb with Dutch is that if a word looks the same as the English word, then it is pronounced completely differently. But knowing a few simple pronunciation guidelines will allow you to remanglify the word into Dutch.
    (There is a corollary rule that states that if an English word and Dutch word sound the same, then, when written, they bare almost no resemblance to each other, for example: "fluent" and "vloeiend.")

    1. Say the English word in an English way.
    Most Dutch people speak English at a level I will never attain in Dutch. Plus when Dutch borrows words from English, it pronounces them almost the same for a few years before it remanglifies them. So the second method is to simply say the word the English way, and I usually revert to my native accent. It's remarkable how well this also works.

    1. Wordfabricationism
    The preferred method the Dutch use for getting a new word into their language is to make one up out of existing words. Thus ziekenhouse is hospital (literally, sick house), and wapenstilstandsonderhandelingen (supposedly the longest word in the standard dictionary) is cease-fire negotiations (literally, weapon standstill under-handling). So the third, and most fun, method to guess the Dutch word is to consolidate shorter words that describe the thing in the hope that it is correct or conveys enough of the meaning to work as a substitue word. Thus if you don't know the word for envy, you could try translating "stuff-want-ness" or "ox-covet-ism." You'll probably be wrong, but you'll amuse the listener and, if you're lucky, they might even think you're Belgian.

    1 comment:

    Ilona said...

    Oh Peter you're awesome!!! I'll give these lessons to our incompany Dutch teacher, to be part of the lessonplan!! Though it might not work without you're excellence in pronunciation...