More on a multi-lingual house


More on a multi-lingual house.png

In a previous post I talked about language learning, specifically learning Dutch. About juggling a home language and a community language. But the reality is that there’s always some cross-over.

English is so prevalent, and the Dutch generally so proficient at it, that words and phrases in English are everywhere. For example I haven’t managed to find clothes with slogans on in Dutch. Adverts often include English. And there’s many English words that are commonly used in conversation.

Conversely there are Dutch words that have infiltrated our every day language. Lekker (meaning tasty) is one. Generally accompanied with a hand wave by your ear. Jammer (shame) and echt (really) also come easily to mind, rather than the English equivalent. I also find myself using the direct translation of Dutch words, rather than the correct English. So ice bear not polar bear. And powder sugar not icing sugar. And stick bread not baguette.

And then there’s the mash-ups, like knutseling. Knutselen means to do craft, it’s an activity that the children love to do. And as this is a word that they use at school it’s come home too. And then we automatically apply English grammar which creates the word knutseling, for example “the children are knutseling” (all the damn time!).

Watching starry girl learn to talk in both English and Dutch at the same time has meant that she has been using both. She is now learning to better separate the two languages, but both her and rocket boy have occasions when they only know a word in the wrong language. So they use it and we carry on the conversation, with a brief detour to teach them what the translation is (as long as we know what it is!).

They are now starting to talk Dutch to each other, mainly thanks to their endless repetition of St Maarten, Sinterklaas and Christmas songs in Dutch. Starry girl starting at school has helped as well, as now they see each other in a Dutch only environment without me. Now we just have to keep up as their Dutch continues to develop and improve. My husband has started Dutch lessons again, and the children help him – especially with pronunciation.

I’m not sure we will ever have our family conversations completely in Dutch. We are after all an English family. At least for now, though exactly what happens with Brexit may mean we re-consider that.

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