Archive for July, 2010

learning the language

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

At this point, I think almost every Dutch person I know has said one of two things to me, upon finding out that I’ve started back up with Dutch language lessons; either “Oh, then we have to speak Dutch to you so that you can practice,” or else “Oh, that is hard for you because everyone here speaks English to you.” Either way, usually the next thing is that they turn to the nearest Dutch person and begin a conversation in Dutch. (Come to think of it, that is a much less polite thing to do if you’ve just said the second response.)

Either way, I think it’s kind of funny, because it’s plain to me that Dutch people see how much English is spoken here – noticing the unexpected – and don’t realize that there’s still plenty more Dutch spoken, plenty of opportunities for foreigners to hear and try to understand the language.

Yesterday, my friend Lieke and I went out for dinner and somehow managed to give the server the impression that I speak Dutch and Lieke speaks only English. It was pretty funny; I think that by the end Lieke was on the verge of saying “No, really! I’m Dutch! I’m Dutch!”

Language lessons are fascinating from a ‘how the brain works’ perspective.At the moment I’m getting to the point where I can understand a fair bit if I concentrate, and I can say a fair bit if I think about how to frame a sentence – but I can’t do boh at once, so I’m always answering Dutch with English, or giving a Dutch answer to something spoken in English. Luckily no one seems to mind, especially if I explain. I’m much more interested in understanding than I am in speaking; if I can understand what someone has said to or around me, it’s very rare that I can’t make myself understood in English. The other thing I find is that in lessons, there’s a point where my brain is full and we have to stop for a break (Ted found the same, when we took lessons together last time).

cruising along the Rhine

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Gisteren heb ik gegaan met seven andere Amerikaners op de Rijn…. no, sorry to my Dutcreaders, but though I may have started my language lessons again but I don’t think Im quite up to blogging in Dutch any time soon!

Yesterday I went with several other Americans for a cruise on the Rhine. These are guys who are here for a couple of months for training or two build a machine that will then be installed back home at a customer site. One is a trainer who’s been coming here for extended periods for years, and he and his Dutch friend Jerry (Geri?) like to arrange this excursion a couple of times per summer. We met early in the morning in Eindhoven and drove to Koblenz, where we parked by the river nad then walked across town to the train station. We got our train tickets (with a group discount); the guys bought beer and I got soft pretzels. (Paula’s travel rule #137: When in Germany, buy soft pretzels.)

We took the train to Bingen on the Rhine, where I tried unsuccessfully to figure out why that town name had such a familiar ring. (Google helped later: I’m fairly sure that it was due to this old poem.) Normally they get on the boat at Rudesheim, but there was some work being done on the tracks. When we got off at Bingen, we had a bit of a hike from the station to the boat dock, but then there was still some time to kill, so we repaired to a nearby biergarten for beer and wine (the guys had already gone through the beer they’d bought, on the train ride). This all took a lot longer to do than to tell; we caught the boat around two, having left EIndhoven around 7:30AM.

The train ride was scenic, but I didn’t bother taking any pictures through the dirty windows. From the boat we had a much better view, castle after castle as the Rhine rolled under us. It’s a World Heritage site: Koblenz is 2000 years old, first built by the Romans, while Bingen is even older. The castles we saw date back as far as the 1200s. Some still look lived in, or have been turned into hotels. You can see how things worked, just looking at them from the river: there will be a town lining the bank, with a castle looming high above, with fortified walls, arrow slits and crenellated look-out towers. The lords of the castle collects tolls from all commerce passing down the river – I’d guess the message was something like “pay our toll and we’ll let you through – and we’ll make sure no one else attacks you along this part.” The towns are not all that far apart; while riding on the train, we saw very distinct towns, separated by fields, close enough that you could walk from one to another in an hour or two. Along the river, I’m sure it was easier to go by boat.

I elected to come back that night, because I’d had a busy week and expect to have another, and there’s a lot I need to do. Most of the rest of the group stayed in Koblenz and were going to go walk around the old town of Kochem, on the Moselle River, this morning. I’ll definitely do this again when Ted is here; maybe we’ll stay over that time.

Click images to make them bigger.

Crowley spoke Dutch??

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Half the fun of learning Dutch, for me at least, is hearing the echoes of an older English. (I’m pretty sure that Kind Alfred and his compatriots would have found the Zeelanders of their time intelligible, or nearly so.) On my way home from my second Dutch lesson tonight, I realized that Aleister Crowley, in trying to sound archaic, was very nearly speaking Dutch. “An ye will, so mote it be” translates to “Als je wil, zo moet het zijn” (I think – not sure about that weird case of ‘to be’ and if it would really take the infinitive form). I knew about “will” in the older English sense of “want”, as in “as you will”, but hadn’t realized the moet-mote connection before.

That last word is closer than it looks, too, because the Dutch for “to be” is almost as irregular as the English:
I am -> ik ben we are -> wij zijn
you are -> je bent you (pl) are -> julllie zijn
he is -> hij is they are -> zij zijn
Note that ‘hij’ and ‘zij’ are pronounced respectively as ‘hay’ and ‘zay’ (well, nearly) and the connections are closer still. Looking at it, I’d guess that the Dutch, like the English, evolved from the mashing up of two or three roots that meant slightly different flavors of “to be” – which gets even more likely when you reflect that Spanish still has two words for it, “ser” and “estar”

Of course Spanish is Romance while English and Dutch are Germanic, but they’re all Indo-European. Anyway, English has a strong Romance influence from the centuries when it was ruled by Normans (not that they ever lost power, just that they integrated) and Spain ruled the Netherlands for a while, plus there’s a lot of borrowing from French due to proximity.

Anyway, I thought it was cool. Dutch is easy for an English speaker with a good ear to pick up anyway – my mom was nearly reading menus after a w

Spanish goal

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Oh, hell

Well, I was hoping it wouldn’t end this way. Work tomorrow may not be much fun.

But someone told me Friday, “We’re good at switching very fast to ‘Oh well, at least we go second!’ ” I hope so.

red card!

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

I know everyone does it, but I have to say I feel a little silly gasping or cheering out loud, when I’m sitting here alone in the room. But I can’t help it – scoreless definitely doesn’t mean boring!

Wow – another gasp – that goal just barely missed for Spain.

They took a few minutes out, so nothing much happening – here they go again.

Oh no – red card! So they’re down a player.

Sorry about all the notifications, by the way – I forgot about those. WIll try to remember to turn them off for this and all following World Cup posts.

a brief digression on T-shirt slogans

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Less than 10 minutes to go and still no score – there almost was a Dutch goal a second ago, but there was a flag on the play.

I forgot to mention earlier that a lot of people in the centrum are wearing shirts that were obviously bought in case Germany beat Spain. I saw one that said “If you h*te f*cking Germany, clap your hands” and another that said “I support two teams: Holland and anyone playing Germany”. I was actually kind of glad Spain won because I was a little worried about things getting ugly, though someone told me that really only happens for local teams, not national ones. Makes sense – there is no one here rooting against Holland right now – at least, if there is they’re staying home and not going out in public. Smart move.

By the way, the live commentary says this is only the third scoreless World Cup in history. Into overtime!! (At least, I think that’s what they mean: “We’re heading to extra time just as in 2006 after the second scoreless final in World Cup history following Brazil-Italy in 1994. “

still scoreless

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Wow, 76 minutes in and still no score. I believe that what happens is that if it’s still scoreless (or tied) at 90 minutes (plus a couple more they add to compensate for any delays) they play two more 15-minute periods, and if it’s still tied they go to sudden death.

It doesn’t take much football expertise to see that the Spanish players are astonishingly agile – they keep doing this sort of pirouette around and over the ball.

Uh-oh, I think a Dutch player just got pulled out. They don’t seem to be short a player so I think it was just a substitution.

I don’t really understand offsides. It’s been explained to me, I just keep forgetting. So don’t bother – I should just go look it up, except I don’t know the Dutch word for it anyway so I wouldn’t know when it happened.

Things have definitely heated up after the slow start – I’ll actually be surprised if they do get to 90 minutes without a score.

By the way, there is commentary on the game from people who actually understand it here. I’m finding it helpful, since it’s actually in English and the broadcast I’m watching is Dutch.


Sunday, July 11th, 2010

So close!

And, two minutes later: Damn. I really thought that one was going in. (So did the player.)


Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Yikes, *another* yellow card. (If a player gets two, he’s pulled from the game and his team is down one person.)

halftime or whatever it’s called (I think it actually is called halftime)

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Evidence suggests that World Cup finals commercials are the Europe equivalent of Super Bowl commercials – there was just an amazing Coke commericals featuring CGI-animated insects stealing a sleeping picnicker’s Coke. Also, one quick one with a deodorant can playing football that’s very reminiscent of the Bud Bowl. Albert Heijn’s singing Muppets (giant Beesies, see previous photo) could use an advertising consultant, however.

Also, you’d think the Dutch announcers of hte game could afford better haircuts!