As an international student wanting to fit into a Dutch world, Kaavya Raveendran's first obvious step was learning the language.
© Sven Menschel
I have seen enough in the ‘one year plus a few months’ of my residence in the Netherlands to know that, even though Dutch people are very warm and welcoming towards international students, you really need to nail Dutch as your spoken language to make one of them your best buds. And so, my attempt began when I joined the Dutch lessons offered by the university.
And believe me, Dutch is pretty intriguing as a language. It’s a joyful experience to learn it. But (because there is always a but), and take it from an Asian who already speaks five languages: its grammar is all messed up. It really takes a lot of time for me to figure out when the verbum (verb) comes before the subject and when it doesn’t. And by the time I figure this out, I actually forget what I wanted to ask.
Also what is with the ’De’ and ‘Het’? Why can’t boek (book) be De Boek and not Het Boek; or the bus be Het Bus, not De Bus? This was something not even the Docent (teacher) could answer. Now you tell me, if an Indian like me, who is looking for a pattern to understand and hence configure the logic beneath, is exposed to such a twisted reality, what will happen to her brain?
Like that wasn’t enough, ever since I have joined these lessons, it has become my life’s goal to properly pronounce ‘G’ as khayyyy, and ‘R’ as errrrr. Trust me when I say this, I am seriously thinking of ways to train my epiglottis to be able to say khayyy and my vocal chords to be able to say errrr the way they are actually supposed to be said.
But apart from these hurdles, Dutch is fascinating to learn. The first time I asked a Dutch person ‘Hoe laat is het?’ or answered the girl at the supermarket’s question ‘Bonnetje?’ with ‘Nee, dank je’, I felt so darn empowered. I guess this is how new parents feel when they hear their baby’s first words. It is truly satisfying. A few lessons down the line, I still can only pick up a few words from people’s conversations, but they are simply too fast for me to actually comprehend it.
You may ask why I want to fit in so badly. To this, my friend, let me tell you. It is always nice to wake up and want to go to work, work hard but at the same time have a good time doing so. And this you cannot achieve just by loving your job or even the monetary benefit. You really should be able to contribute to the nice working atmosphere that is around you. And here, one month down my internship, I want to fit in and make my contribution to people’s laughs around me. Maybe one day, I will finally talk Dutch fast enough to make it hard for others to pick up my conversations. Too ambitious? We will see.