Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hup Hup Holland!


If you don't follow football (and by football, I mean soccer), you might not much care about this post. I'm not a big fan of football, and never could get into club play, but I do like international competition, such as the World Cup and the FIFA Euro Cup.

Which is currently happening in Austria and Switzerland.

The Netherlands, which seems to accept the name "Holland" for international football tournaments, is in a pool with France, Italy, and Romania - which left most Dutch people rather pessimistic about their chances. I figured I would root for Holland, but if neither Holland nor the Czech Republic made it I would just as happily root for France or Italy.

And then, lo and behold, Holland comes out and beats World Champion Italy, 3-0. I watched the game in House 4, on a huge screen, with 20 or so other students - Alex Whitcomb from Zimbabwe and myself being the only non-Dutch people in the room. After the victory, we sang Dutch football songs, karaoke style.

Faith was restored, but next, Holland had to play France. For this match, on Friday night,
Dilyana and I went to Cafe Brooklyn, where televisions were set up outside, beers were 1,50, and waiters and customers alike were decked out in orange. (I was too!)

And Holland won, 4-1! We were at the back of the crowd and couldn't see very well, but of course
you can tell when a team scores by all of the jumping Dutch people shouting "Hoera!" And singing that "de overkant is stil" - the opponents are silent - in the direction of five or so French fans dressed in bleu.

Afterwards, of course, we had to go out and celebrate.

Language Learning

Since starting work, I have felt much more submerged in the Dutch language. All of the quirks of learning a language by submersion and contact - as opposed to classroom study - are beginning to come back to me.

You learn so much by just listening. It's strange, because it seems like such a passive way of learning, as opposed to active study: opening books, copying down words, memorizing verb conjugations.

Yet somehow, in my experience it has always worked better to be submerged.

I learned three or four words in as many days of work simply by listening. Zeker is one; my coworkers say it often. After a day or two, I thought it must mean something like "sure", and I was right. Nodig is another example of the same; it means something like "need" and I learned it just from listening.

I've found this submerged approach is especially beneficial with Dutch, due to the ambiguity of the language. (I remember my psycholinguistics teacher, Dr. Sergey Avrutin, saying that something like 90% of words in the Dutch language have ambiguous meaning.) A dictionary definition doesn't help much without the context. By listening, rather than studying, I will soon figure out when to use what words.

I realize now just how much Dutch I have learned - much more than I thought. There are often four or five people working at once, so I take part in and hear a lot of Dutch conversation. The first few days, I was amazed at how much I understood. I get the general gist of most conversations; it's as if the sentences are spoken just a little too quickly and there are just a few too many unknown words for me to understand it entirely.

I recognize this level from my experiences in France and the Dominican Republic and it's incredibly reassuring: it's the level just before understanding. A little more vocabulary and a little more listening, and I'll arrive soon.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Quick Update

Well, now that I have a nice, spanking, brand-new blog, I might as well use it, right?!

It's June, I'm in Middelburg, and things are going pretty well. The weather could be more cooperative, but I have a job that I love, friends in town for a while still, and I've been productive. I read Jane Eyre last week, I've been reading a couple of pages of Harry Potter in Dutch, and I've even been writing fiction - something I always say I like to do but never really... do. I think my problem is mostly that I have tons of story and novel ideas, and sometimes I start them, but soon I get distracted by other ideas.

Another good thing is that since I've started working, I have experienced the very pleasant realization that I actually understand a pretty good amount of Dutch! I'm sort of at that pre-understanding stage, where the sentences are just a little too fast, and my vocabulary is just not quite big enough, to understand. But I can follow conversations much more than I would have expected.

That's good, because right now I'm surrounded by Dutch, English, and a lot of German. I'm trying to remind myself that I speak three languages and that's pretty good, but I feel a little clueless right now since two of those three are pretty useless in my current situation! A little more quality time with Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen and I'm sure I'll be checking off another language by the end of summer.

The one thing I haven't been doing is research for my Independent Research Project. This is something that I really need to get started on, because I have to write 10,000 words on "The Blog and the Book" next semester and it's always good to get a head start. Also, I have the possibility of continuing work into fall, and if I can get a lot of research done before the semester begins, I'll have more time to work. And since I love working, it seems like a good idea.

Well, today I'm free - no work or anything, so I guess I'll spend it reading, writing, and just maybe doing some background IRP research. Or, at the very least, order the book I'll be studying, Petite Anglaise. Nothing unusual.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the inconvenience but I've switched blogs...

The new one is:

I've explained my motives for this on the new blog (if you're interested). Hopefully I'll be posting more often now. So please replace this url with the grace-on-the-go one!

See you over there.

6 June 2008

I hope that you have found my new weblog and are actually reading this, and that my words are not just hanging out there in cyberspace (which reminds me of the Simon & Garfunkel song "The Dangling Conversation"). I changed my blog, and my blog url, and everything, and for that I am sorry! It really doesn't work to change blogs all the time.

Here's the thing, though. The title of my other blog ("Ik Kom Uit Amerika") was made up quickly, on the spot, because I wanted to write and didn't want to worry about things like blog titles. As a result, I picked a title that I am sick of and don't really like. Besides, the coming-from-America part of me seems lesser every day. Not in a bad way, it's just that I don't define myself as "American" anymore - if anything, it's "Half-American, half Czech, lived in a lot of places in between".

Hopefully this blog title will be more lasting. I think "Grace on the Go" can work for a long time because I will probably be on the go for a long time, and even when I stop being on the go, really I will still be going places, if only on vacation - or even if you have to take it to the literal extreme and see me as going to the grocery store, etc.

Another reason for the change is that I use gmail now, but for some reason I haven't been able to switch my blog onto my gmail account, and have to log out of one every time I log into the other. I think I can save a lot of time by changing again - one last time!

So hope you found it. Sorry for the confusion, etc.