Language Confusion


Being from the Netherlands, I speak four languages. Or at least, I did. Dutch was my mother tongue. English, French and German were taught from seventh grade onward. I lived in Australia from age 4 to 10, so I was excused from English class. I only had to take the exams each year.

So I spoke Dutch and English fluently, and still do. Of the other two, I had the highest grades for German, but I never had the need to speak it much, because I never went to Germany on vacation. As a teenager I spent a few vacations at my best friend’s second house in the north of France, and during that time I had a French boyfriend, a local heart throb son of a farmer. Between vacations we corresponded in French.

Learning French was relatively easy since I already knew English. Learning German was relatively easy since it’s related to Dutch. And then I emigrated to South Texas. So I felt I should learn Spanish. And that just wreaked havoc on my French! Now, when I speak Spanish, I’m always throwing in French, and the last time I was in France (14 years ago), I was saying “muy bien” instead of “tres bien” and things like that. It drove me nuts. I wonder how the Indians do it, speaking some 7 languages. Because for me 4 was clearly the limit. Now I speak Dutch, English, my German is rusty, and I feel like I lost half of my French and Spanish is still a mess.

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