Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.
Strangely enough the fact that I speak two language rarely is something I consciously think about, but I thought it would make a fun topic for a Lola’s Ramblings post. Many people here in the Netherlands can speak english to a certain degree, so it’s pretty normal to encounter people who speak both dutch and english. Although it does vary from person to person. I thought it would be fun to talk about how it is being fluent in two languages at least for me and how it impacts my life.
Some random facts about how I experience being fluent in two languages
- I mostly use english. While dutch is my mother language I think in total I use english a higher percentage of the time. My work is in english, my blog is in english, I comment on other blogs in english, most of social media is in english, I read in english and if we watch movies they often are in english as well. So the only moments I use dutch is when talking to other people and I don’t do that as much. And when talking to my boyfriend we use a lot of english in between our speech as well. I can’t say how much of our language is english or dutch actually. Which brings me to the next point.
- I am not consciously aware which language I am speaking/ reading. This might sound weird, but in my head something is either a language I understand or a language I don’t understand. I am usually not consciously aware of which language I am reading or speaking at any given time. ofcourse if I think of it I know, but I am not aware of it. I know when I just started learning english I was very aware of it, but now english is as natural as dutch to me and I no longer am aware of what language I read or speak. I remember how for my university study we got almost all of your books for classes in english and for a new course I only realized halfway through the first chapter it was dutch. It was so weird to realize I no longer made that distinction. I am still grateful for my university study for teaching me english so well. If I had to name one thing I am use most nowadays that I learned during my study it would be english. My english sucked before then and it was only when I was forced to read all of my study books in english that I suddenly got english and also switched to reading english fiction books.
- I have to focus if I want to speak only dutch, but speaking/writing only english is not a problem. My mom doesn’t speak english as well, she knows some words and can hold a simple conversation, but if I speak with her I try my best to speak dutch only. And it’s hard. Sometimes I just don’t know the dutch word or I always use a word in english and have to consciously think of how to say it dutch. I happens quite regularly that I finish a sentence and then translate the english word I used in the middle of the sentence. I don’t think my mom minds though, usually the meaning is clear and else I explain. But it is a bit unhandy, I think this is something only I have trouble with as most people around me seem to deal better with this. Also writing and speaking in only english goes a lot better than only dutch, not sure why.
- I switch a lot between the two languages. When I am talking to someone who knows both languages our speech is a weird combination of english and dutch. Sometimes it’s a sentence in dutch with one english word thrown in. Other times I switch languages in the middle of a sentence or one sentence one language and the next in another. I am not even sure how I determine which language I speak, I just go for what’s easiest and which word pops into my mind first. I think this is because I am not consciously aware of which language I speak so I just go for the first word to pop in my mind.
- I suck at grammar in both languages. One thing were you might notice that I am not a native english speaker/ writer is my grammar and spelling. I suck at both. On the other hand this is nothing exclusive to english as I am just as bad with grammar and spelling in dutch. It just doesn’t make sense to me, I can remember the rules, but not apply them intuitively.
- I prefer reading in english. I can’t stand reading in dutch, unless it’s non-fictions, letters etc, but books nope. It sounds awkward and weird and even reading a blurb for a book in dutch has me cringing at how wrong it sounds. I actually did a whole post on this topic last year: Does it matter in which language you read a book?
- I have trouble with pronunciation in english. I mostly read and write english and rarely hear or speak english. My boyfriend and I have been watching Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek Deep Space 9 and now Star Trek Enterprise without subtitles and it did wonders for my ability to understand spoken english better, although I still have trouble with heavily accented english. But I almost never get the chance to speak english and am quite self conscious about how I sound. For many words I am not 100% how to pronounce them and ofcourse I think I have a horrible dutchie accent.
- I still have trouble with some words. There are some words which are still difficult for me, like dessert and desert. I know what they mean, but I have to consciously think of how to write or pronounce it. I just keep confusing the two as they look so similar. Same with chance and change, I know they mean something different, but the words look so similar I have to consciously think of which one to use. Or words like sent and send, I have to keep reminding myself that sent is for the past and send for the future or have send. It just never gets intuitive for me.
- Some words don’t exist in the other language. One thing that can be difficult about speaking two languages is that both languages are very different and some words in one language don’t exist in the other. For example the word “Gezellig” is a dutch word for which no good english alternative exist. It means something like being happy/ satisfied while spending time in the presence of others and having a good time. But there’s no word for it, I need sentences to explain the concept in english and even then it’s just wrong. Same goes for some english words that don’t have a good dutch variant or they have, but it feels different. Like the word anxiety which doesn’t have a good translation in dutch or not one that has the same feel. Sometimes you can translate a word, but it has a different connotation. Things like that can be really difficult sometimes if you’re unable to find a right word in the other language for something you do have a word for in one language.