I tried to learn Dutch, I really did. To learn a language beyond ordering coffee requires at least one of the following:
a) Academic capability
b) Total immersion
c) The money/sex incentive
I have none of these. I have been following Brenno de Winter’s language podcasts for some time, but things haven’t been the same since he split up with Laura.
I accepted defeat on my last trip to the Netherlands, when a waiter pretended not to understand my order of Uitsmijter. “Uitsmijter? Uitsmijter? Oh, you mean UITSMIJTER?” The difference in pronunciation was ‘Oots’ versus ‘Outs’. Pretty close, huh? But then, the Dutch are threatened by English people trying to speak their language. It’s their secret code.
So, I can order coffee in French, German & Dutch, and that’s about it. With every passing year it becomes less likely that I will ever yield a powerful command of an additional language. That is, of course, until Russian or Mandarin becomes mandatory when we’re all slaves to the machine.
I suppose it’s lucky that I love English. I love how it sounds and I love how it looks. I hate to see it abused, which is why when I hear someone say “It was quite nice, actually”, I want to rip the head off something. If you say something was “quite nice, actually” (or indeed “actually quite nice”) you are demonstrating that you have no imagination AT ALL. Faced with a choice of thousands of adjectives, some close synonyms, some uniquely expressive, you have opted for ‘nice’. But not even fully ‘nice’, only QUITE nice. QUITE NICE, ACTUALLY. Say it in front of me and prepare to die.