The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. Most Dutch speak incredible English. They tend to be quite proud of their English proficiency.
There are around 500 000 internationals living in the Netherlands, which goes from the long-term expat to the one semester exchange student. Added on top of the amount of migrant workers who moved here in the 60’s mostly from Turkey and Morocco. That does make a lot of people and among them who do not speak (proper)Dutch. Other than that the Dutch language is facing strong competition from, English in the internet, television and social media, music and university education. The increasingly English language-orientated education is putting our population at a risk of losing part of the Dutch vocabulary. By thinking and writing exclusively in English we will lose part of our Dutch vocabulary and with it the ability to think in that language. Did you know that more people in Amsterdam speak English than in Los Angeles.
Language is always changing, evolving and adapting to the needs of it’s users. In the early days changes were so slow that from year to year we hardly noticed it. With the advent of new technologies our language changes fast. Due to these influences, a language always embraces new words and expressions as people come across new words and phrases in their day-to-day lives and integrate them into their own speech. Many of the changes that occur in language begin with the language of youngsters.
I am totally aware of the fact that language isn’t set in stone. Language changes over time, new words and expressions are added to the dictionary while others fall into disuse and disappear. It is unavoidable. I regret that so many great expressions and terms will be forgotten over time. As a language dies out, so too does a wealth of knowledge particularly in the field of culture and history. For example due to the historically large number of Jews in Amsterdam, Yiddish has certainly found its way into the local language. So does the 17th century cant language called Bargoens used by criminals, tramps and traveling salesmen as a secret code. Like the local language, Bargoens has many Yiddish loanwords. Up to a few decades ago it was part of the colloquial language for the inhabitants of Amsterdam. Nowadays it’s in danger of dying out.
It’s hard to imagine a language with 23 million native speakers being in danger of dying out if we do not put a stop to it. Not only would this mean the demise of our precious language but also of the country’s culture. -by Bregje
According to some of my native speaking American friends my written skills has improved since I started my blog last year. I can not judge myself on my written skills, but I do notice that my verbal skills have improved over the last three years. Especially my vocabulary has enlarged. For me the active forms of a language, speaking and writing, are easier than the more passive forms, listening and reading. When it comes to writing I have to admit that I use the spellings control on my smartphone and if I have do not have a clue on how to spell a word I use my dictaphone. To ensure that I will not get a RSI thumb, by writing all my blogs on my phone with only my thumb, I sometimes use my dictaphone as well. The problem with that is my pronunciation. There are many words that sound equal to me or I do hear the difference in pronunciation but can’t pronounce it the right way myself. For example ‘Dough’ and ‘dog’ or ‘goat’ and ‘coat’. There’s only a slight difference in the way it should be pronounced. Like most people I find it harder to grasps and make sense on what I hear than to speak. As in reading English or even Dutch, reading has never been my strongest suit. Despite the fact that my English has improved a lot over time my English vocabulary is by far smaller than my Dutch vocabulary, what really annoys me from time to time.
I just can’t identify with people who do not have the urge to speak the national language. Like the other day I spoke to this Armenian guy who lives most of his life in NY, 27 years, but did not speak proper English. In my job as a teacher it really bothers me that I have to bend over backwards to make myself clear to third generation immigrants because they speak poor Dutch. To me integration is adjusting to the national culture while maintaining your own culture. A great part of integration is being able to communicate in the national language. If it would be up to me you should not be given legal residency or citizenship without speaking the language of the country. – by Bregje
Why this topic. I am invited to a dinner party. I asked around what to bring. First I went into the flower shop but ran back out when I heard the price on a tiny bunch of French lavender. Sweet baby Jesus they charge twenty dollar! Wine it would be, even though the prices on alcohol are outraged as well. Curios and exited what to expect I arrive with a bottle of wine at seven. According to the doormen the dinner party is on the roof. Luckily I changed into my little black dress, still being underdressed. There aren’t many people yet. I introduce myself to the hostess. I am quite surprised that Nathalie herself is not trowing the party but one of her neighbors. Since Nathalie is not there yet I excuse my self and go down to Nathalie’s. Guess what! I went to the wrong party! Nathalie is having a dinner get together with friends and I am invited.
Apparently I interpret the word ‘diner party’ differently. Luckily I did not give my precious wine to the wrong hostess.
For me speaking a foreign language like English is easier than listing to a foreign language. When I speak I use words, phrases and expressions I know. Reading is the hardest part for me.
Not all peoples have the same experience. The other day I spoke to a woman who finds reading so much easier.
I write most of my reports on my IPhone. Luckily I can switch my phone to English. This makes writing so much easier. Although it will not correct words sounding similar but with different meanings like ‘allowed’ and ‘aloud’.
I just realized that when I first arrived in New York, and also last year when I visited San Fransisco, I am surprised how easily words and phrases pop out of my mouth. After a week or so I start feeling ashamed and get more and more frustrated of not being able to express my self the way I can express myself in my native language ‘Dutch’.
Trying to find the right words, even in my sleep, can be really tiring.
Diner is nice. Nathalie’s friend is from Bagdad and is also not a native speaker. He chares his embracing moment. Growing up he learned English by watching American movies like the Tarantino’s. Back in Irak he once referred to an Afro American soldier as a ‘nigger’. Not knowing the impact of his word choice. He did not know he would be insulting the man. He liked this man!
I remember being seventeen and getting into the ‘Taco Tico’ a Mexican restaurant with some friends. Obvious they had been cleaning, the whole place smelt like ammonia. Instead of saying it smelled like ammonia I said: It’s smells like a maniac’. -Bregje-