I learned a new word today. (Actually I learn new words every day, though how many I remember is another question.) I thought the two guys in my office, discussing corporate metrics in Dutch, were talking about someone named Annalise. In Dutch that would be pronounced AH-nah-LEE-sah, and I actually thought what a pretty name it was…. until I realized that word they kept using was actually Dutch for “analyze”. It would be a *facepalm* moment, except I have a feeling that someday I may actually get a training slide out of this. Something about how useless collecting data is unless you actually analyze it and act on the information, portrayed by a character called Annalisa. (Maybe that’s just too coy.)
The Dutch phrasebooks I’ve seen all have one major omission: they’re good about teaching numbers, but they leave out the alphabet, perhaps thinking adults really don’t use the names of letters much. Only problem is that we do, for instance in spelling out names. In most cases I can get by with the Spanish names for letters, which are remarkably (well, given history, not so remarkably) similar, even in the odder (=farther from English) cases. For example, ‘y’ is pronounced ‘ee-gree-ayga’ in Spanish, ‘ee-gree-ayk” in Dutch. However, this method isn’t infallible. For one thing I don’t actually remember all of my Spanish letters! In general, Dutch vowels are much more consistent and predictable than ENglish ones. Single vowels are about the same as Spanish, and there aren’t many silent vowels, hence my comfusion with Annalisa. However, there are also diphthongs. They are also predictable, but there are a lot of them. Two vowel sounds can be placed together without blending into each other (much); with the diphthongs, this means it’s not rare at all to have three vowels together in a word. I have a bit of trouble with some consonants too – for instance remembering that ‘n’ is usually dropped in words ending in -’en’. (So my city is usually pronounced “Eindhoveh”.) Mostly when I pronounce words wrong, I know better but am just sucuumbing to my English-language reflexes, which makes me feel a bit slow.
One interesting thing about this year’s Holiday Challenge is that since we can only really erg in the boathouse after work, Ted and I have been doing our pieces side by side. For comparable amounts of perceived effort, we calculate I take about 30% longer to do the same distance. It’s very frustrating for me. (I think I should get an extra pin at completion, or get a pin for a shorter distance, or something.) It’s a problem with a twofold cause: it’s not just that I’m slow, but also that he’s fast. Ted’s been trying to placate me by claiming that once we start our language lessons there will be a similar gap in reverse between the speed of my progress and of his. I’m not convinced; I don’t think he’s as bad at languages or I as good as that implies. Then again, it’s not like he gets that distance on the erg without lots of sweat and hard work, just that he gets there with sweating and working hard for less time.