Sunday, July 22, 2007

When you can say "amoeba," you really know the language.

After over two weeks in Amsterdam, I can finally say ONE FULL SENTENCE.

Ik wil graag een koffie verkeerd met twee suiker, alstublieft

Pronounced: Ik veal khraakh ayn coffee ver(rymes with air)keerd (very soft r's) met tvay zue-ker, alstuwbleeft.

Meaning: I would like a "coffee the wrong way" (a cafe latte) with two sugar, please.

At this rate, I'll actually be able to hold a conversation in Dutch in a few years. In addition to the sentence above, I do know several dutch words by now. However, I only know them at the stage where I can recognize them when written, or remember a word or two at a time. Unfortunately, most of what I've done that even requires that I learn some words is grocery shopping. So, most of my vocabulary is related to food, including:

(Word - Pronunciation = Meaning)
Salade - unknown = salad
Zalm - zaalm = salmon
Dank u wel - dangk uw vel = thank you
Pardon - parDON = excuse me
Room - room = cream
Kaas - kaas = cheese
Roomkaas - roomkaas - cream cheese
Nee - nay - no
Goedemorgen - khooderMORkhern - good morning
Sorry - SOrree = sorry
Meneer - merNAYR - mister
Mevrouw - merFROW- ma'am
Coffeeshop - coffeeshop - marijuana cafe
Cafe / bruin cafe - cafay / broon cafay = coffeeshop / brown coffeeshop
Jong - yong - young
Tafel - tafel - table
Voor - foar - for
Paprikas - unknown - red peppers
Patat frites - patat freets - french fries
Thee - tay = tea
Broodje - unknown - a sandwich (I think typically on a roll)
Tosti - toasti - toasted sandwich
Tosti kaas - toasti kaas - grilled cheese sandwich
Tosti ham en kaas - toasti ham eyn kaas - grilled ham and cheese sandwich
Kipfillet - unknown - chicken breast
Melk - melk = milk
Boter - boater - butter
Honing - hoaning - honey
I can recognize a few more, like the days of the week on shop signs, etc.

Part of the impediment to learning Dutch in Amsterdam is that everyone (except some of the very elderly) knows English. I mean EVERYONE. There is a Bulgarian girl from Sofia in our program. I went to ask her a few Dutch words, because she has lived here for a year, and she told me that she doesn't know enough Dutch to hold a conversation. Her group of friends all speak English. Today, I was in a shop getting a pedicure - there were 3 young ladies from China working in the shop. When Dutch women came in for their appointments, they spoke English to converse with the Chinese girls. One of the Chinese girls, who has only been here a short time, made a joke and said that she spoke, "Chinglish." She still spoke English better than I speak Dutch.

Not only do the Dutch know English, but they know it at a very high level. For example, when Frank and I were at dinner friday night, we were discussing animal rights. Frank actually used the word "amoeba." I kid you not. I consider myself a fairly fluent French speaker (with a bad accent) and I certainly don't know the word for amoeba. I mentioned it to him how extraordinary it was to me that he would know such a word. He told me that he learned it when he was ten years old while watching an episode of the Muppet Show. I'm ashamed to confess that I had to look it up on to make sure that I was spelling it correctly for this blog.

No comments: