Happy Days of the Fading Summer

Eifel, Germany

The time I can spend with the books at the river, its buoys and ducks and docs has been drastically reduced. It apparently is something that frequently happens around September. I am talking about the starting school season of course.

And so, I have too, returned to school. I decided to take the advancing course in Dutch and it is going on since the start of this week. There I have been, sitting in a class room of 22 students, instead of spending my time getting pleasantly bored by the side of the Scheldt. I am not complaining. I get to see my friends every day, meet new people and so forth.

It has been an interesting start for the course. Well, technically, I am having two courses, one for verbal communication and hearing exercises and the other one for reading and writing. There are only some of the people from the spring left and quite some new faces. I am struggling a bit with my packaged arm since I haven’t yet learned to write with my left. Plus I am not allowed to drive, so by bus I go and notes are made on a tablet, that Waffle has so generously allowed me to use.

These courses is moving a lot slower that the previous ones, which is as it should be, I was on the extra intensive one during the spring, and this is just the normal paced one. I have a lot of time to get bored. The teacher has the habit of asking a lot of input from us students. She wants to know out interests and the thing that make us very happy. And now we have to hold a diary over happiness causing things. It feels like we a bunch of clinically depressed people in therapy, not so much learning a language.

The teacher has made us to first think of the dates for the happiest moments in our lives (a lot of childbirths, wedding days etc. then there is this one idiot who mentions the date of getting her first horse…), and now we have a task of keeping a geluksdagboek ( lovely word isn’t it) which translates to happiness diary. So we have to write down three things each day, that make us happy. Which actually is rather nice, I don’t feel at all like being clinically depressed person in treatment, I feel like I have to find a pair of rose colored glasses to put on my nose and start searching all those tiny details, that make me happy. For me, that does not cause much trouble. I am a very joyous idiot.

Now I also have a very very great thing to be actually extremely happy about. Remember the pain and sweat I went through while writing and application letter in Finnish? Well, all that has payed off! I have a new job now, starting from October / November. I could not be happier! Although I do have a stomach bug and it is trying hard to get my mood down…

So, the three happy things from today:

1 I have a new job.

2 Waffle is almost home and we can start the weekend!

3 The foam in my bubble bath was extra firm this time.

Which are your daily happy things for today?


The first leg of learning Dutch

GR trail, Sign post, Border

Yup, here we are, a little bit smarter. 80 hours of Dutch behind my back. Breakthrough module is now studied. I think I did good, well, the hell with it, I did great! I got 96% of the maximum score! Just some minor things to be corrected.

Plus I made new friends, which is always a massive plus on any record.

This time studying a language has been very much a different experience than any other time. Counting out the first years of studying English as a ten-year-old eager mind. Now the motivation has been truly innate. I have a huge will to learn which is a wonderful feeling and really helps me to learn. I want to be able to communicate with the locals and of course with Waffle and his family with their mother tongue.

I am getting closer to that goal. At least on a theoretical level. It seems, that everybody outside of the classroom is speaking a completely different language. The differences in dialects in Belgium are huge. We are thought to speak somewhat proper Dutch but in the real world, the dialects rule the game.

Even though Belgium is not a big country, there are loads of regional differences in culture, and definitely in language and dialects. The obvious is of course the division between Dutch, French and German speaking Belgians.

The Dutch spoken here differs a lot form the Dutch in the Netherlands. Belgian version is actually called Flemish which has more influences from French compared to the proper Dutch. And there are several different ways of speaking Flemish as well. Starting from the west, the dialect that needs subtitles in national TV, since no Belgian outside West Flanders can understand them. They have they own set of words and completely self made way of pronunciation.

In the east is Limburg, there the Flemish is rather clean, people speak slowly, and practically sing all the time. Lovely people, these ones even I can understand without too much painful effort and millions of “Wablief?”s.

Closer to my home is Antwerp. They are famous for their arrogance and the Aantwaarps dialect, with a lovely, lovely “A”. It sounds like they have a permanent hot potato in their mouth, poor people.  Also the whole Flanders seems to have an odd passion of swallowing the letter “I”, which will make many sentences completely incomprehensible. Now how am I supposed to make anything out of anything? I am lucky though, I think, since I live in one of the cleaner dialect areas. But still, I am more or less screwed everywhere outside Rupelmonde, since the next village is already adding its own twist to the language.

I already booked the course for the next level, which will begin on Monday. The teacher spooked us students by telling us that it is going to be more intense. In preparation for that, I’ll be abusing Waffle. We’ll be having an hour each day, only communicating in Dutch! I am horrified. But he is very capable of talking sloooowly and in proper Dutch so even a dumb person can understand. Maybe eventually we evolve into more normal style of conversation.

So here I am, on my way to learning a new language, one step further!




Nederlands leren

It finally happened. One day I walked into a small office of Huis van het Nederlands and signed up for an intensive course of Dutch. My first week on that course is now over. I go to school for 4 mornings a week for a few hours. That has been keeping me busy for a moment now.

It has been a while since I last studied anything, 3 years or so. And I must admit, I was a little bit nervous about going to sit in a class room again and learn. Also, in a Finnish fashion, the thing of meeting a bunch of new people was something to be vary about.

Last Monday was the start for a cold and rainy week. At nine in the morning I walked into a class room with 13 others. People from all over the globe, with very different backgrounds. There were Syrians, a girl from Venezuela, lady from Indonesia and another girl from Belarus. And a teacher, refusing to speak anything else but Dutch to the students. Which is wonderful. Since then, some have left our company, and some new people have emerged.

We have all been struggling with the wonders of the Dutch pronunciation of the letters g- and ch, long or short vowels and so forth.  For me the most difficult part of learning a new language, is that you have your adult brain, and your adult thinking, well more or less, but you still have the language skills of a 3 year old and the vocabulary of a parrot. With that kind of setting, it is challenging to switch your thinking into line with speaking in first person and the present tense.

Well, anyways, I have now mastered 9 question-answer pairs in total and can repeat them, again, bit like a parrot. And that has happened in a week. I am kinda little bit proud of myself. Waffle is soon going to face the horror of listening my terrifying Dutch accent. And maybe even open a first line of conversation with his dad, which is wonderful!

What do you guys think about learning languages? Is it a nice hobby? Necessary evil or something else?