My year of learning Dutch

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

…in which we make plans for the Great Escape

So at last it’s time to go to Europe.  Or at least plan to go to Europe.  We plan to drop down in Finland and thence by land and sea to Scotland.  I reckon that means we travel through Belgium, the land of beer.  Belgium had been the holy land ever since I’d had that Verboden Vrucht late one Saturday evening.  By the time I’d graduated to the unpronounceable Gueuze, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage some day

Back in the day, I had a Linguistics lecturer who was Belgian.  She was a forthright person.  One thing she made it plain that she didn’t like, and that was being mistaken for French.  I don’t know how she felt about being thought Dutch.  And one thing that Agatha Christie taught me was that Belgium is split (neatly?) between Flemish speakers and Francophones.  I’d punished French as a schoolboy, so that was no challenge, but Flemish was a new frontier.

My Belgian lecturer had had a friendly “duel” with a German native speaker, where they compared and contrasted syntactic structures.  It was fascinating but having little knowledge of either language made it a dizzying experience.  My interest was piqued.

So armed with nothing but a love of language, a desire to impress some unknown Belgian brewer with my ability to pronounce “gueuze”, and a no doubt imperfect understanding of the relationship between textbook Dutch and the Flemish of the Belgians (see later posts), I loaded up Duolingo, held my breath, and dived right in.


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