Thursday, December 13, 2007

U Spreekt Nederlands?

Like most nationalities, the Dutch insist their language is a difficult one. It's also a funny language, as I've found out over the last few weeks in my Dutch for Beginners course.

Apparently the Dutch weren't exaggerating. There are sounds involved here which I didn’t know existed. The most difficult part is pronouncing the 'ch' and the guttural 'g'. The pages in my second-hand book were covered with spit stains, indicating that the previous owner had obviously practiced a lot. Probably had to drop the course when he ran out of throat medicine. After many failed attempts to pronounce the 'g', the teacher tried to explain that it's just like the sound one makes when one has a fly caught in their throat.

Umm, excuse me, but that doesn't really help. I've never had to swallow a fly before. And even if I did, I don’t think I would focus on the subtlety of the sounds emanating from my mouth, but rather, try to get the fly out of my throat. There has to be an easier way to learn this, right?
No there isn't. Certain sounds like 'ui' require you to contort your face into awkward configurations. So not only must you keep in mind the fly-caught-in-throat scenario, but also run through a host of facial expressions like wringing eyebrows, crinkling the nose and puckering your lips while delivering the sentence.

Of course, all this is of great hilarity to my Dutch friends. Watching me attempt to speak Dutch provides them with hours of amusement. Every now and then, they get me to pronounce 'Scheveningen' and then giggle away to glory.

It's a miracle my teacher manages to keep a straight face in class. Still, it won't be so funny if I don't pass this course. And I won't pass it if I can't speak it right.

I think I will go and catch some flies.

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