When H and I met almost some five decades ago we had no language in common. Of course mere words are superfluous when love is there and the eyes have it all. H had studied German and Swedish at the Finnish university in Jyväskylä but not English, while I had studied nothing. In those early (and many if not most following) days, engaging with just few words was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Ever since we got hooked, we kept in close contact. 😉
Language is a strange beast. I was fifteen when leaving Holland and yet, my dreams are still in Dutch. I also still cannot follow the English way of spelling. Spell me a word phonetically and I get it immediately. Spell a word in the non-phonetics of the Anglo world and I am totally bewildered and lost. The same with adding and subtraction. I have to do it in the Dutch numbers language still. Is there any hope of losing my skeleton of Dutch language? Cutting the umbilical cord of mother’s tongue seems to take a long time. Even though writing or talking in English by mentally translating Dutch ceased a very long time ago, I have yet to feel that I have successfully migrated to the other side of now owning the English lingo.
There are many sayings that I cannot translate back in Dutch as well. English sayings such as; ‘let’s do lunch,’ ‘give us a call,’ ‘see you later, he/she is such a lovely person,’ are sayings that are not used in the Dutch language. Of course approximate words can and will suffice.
This brings into focus what I feel like. Do I feel Australian or am I still feeling very much Dutch burger? Sorry for this exercise in navel gazing but it does sometimes well up on what one’s cultural ties actually mean or pen out to. In my dreams, mainly nightmares, which probably are tied to bladder urgency, I always am in a muddy bombed out scene but can see Amsterdam clearly in the distance. No matter how I struggle, I can never really get close to it. The mud is treacherous and opens up at each step. Yet I can see Amsterdam’s ‘Westertoren’ in the distance. I am always almost there but never reach the city.
The dilemma is also in the use of thought words. When they float by on the rivers of languages, they are sometimes in Dutch or English and often both. Even Finnish, German words float by. Is it part of knowing words away from one’s only known mother tongue? Most people are born with and take on just one language. It is enough to get by with.
Strange that the city is always Amsterdam. I know the city well but have only lived there for a short while. I was hoping that the nightmares would by now have morphed into Sydney or Bowral.
What does one have to do to obtain those?