Thursday 3 August 2006

Mind that language

Doing the Double Dutch
Not that I can say much about my command of languages, having been in the Netherlands for 6 years and find that I cannot string together one sentence without looking like a clown on Sesame Street. Back to classes for me.
The Dutch are generally known to be polyglots, the notion is that that can speak a number of languages at levels of proficiency that rate better than average.
I can agree to some extent if the purpose is basic communication, however, when it comes to serious conversation in the adopted language, the cracks and the holes begin to show.
Friendly and tolerant Dutch colleagues
In my case, I cannot hold it against any of the speakers, their attempts are a lot better than my attempts at Dutch and I am very appreciative of every attempt they make to me feel welcome and comfortable in their environments, despite the aberrant nationalistic inclinations of their populist politicians.
However, some university research now shows that the basic command of Dutch itself amongst the young Dutch is poor; this presents a problem because if one does not have a firm grasp of ones mother tongue it is difficult to formally learn another language from the grammar/usage perspective.
I perceive you know less
The research goes on to assess user perception of language knowledge to actual knowledge and understanding of the language. It appears managers believe they have a good command of English when in reality the standard is very poor.
That perception is an aspiration in some cases, I like to think I understand a lot more Dutch than I do, and I remember when someone commended me for my African dress and that the clothes make a man, which I did understand, then she said maybe I do not understand her – and that, I did not understand. Funny, the way Dutch just pays you up.
Et tu?
The twist in this research is the finding that other Europeans are less confident of their command of other languages, but they are a lot better than they think they are, the Dutch however are the opposite.
Sometimes, generalisations are not the best source of useful knowledge.

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