Intercultural Marriages and Language

Today, I was browsing potential tools for our garden, as we never really owned our own. The last garden we tended for a few years was back in our apartment in Groningen, and most of the tools we had had been left to us by the previous owner of that garden (it was an allotment garden), and we didn’t feel right taking the tools with us when we left, so we handed it to the next owners, much as they were left to us. So, we’re starting back from scratch, and working out the investment needed to get our starting toolset.

When researching this, I ran into an odd situation that I’d heard discussed frequently but hadn’t experienced myself yet: actually forgetting parts of my native language. You see, Tracy and I speak English exclusively at home. My workplace is an international environment, so we mainly speak English with each other. Even the last week, I was in a meeting with a group of Dutch native speakers where we suddenly realized we’d been speaking English with each other for the past twenty minutes. Before that, my degrees were on English-language literature taught in English. So, even though I was born and raised in the Netherlands and have lived here all my life, over the past twenty-five years or so I’ve predominantly used English.

As a result of all of this, I know that my Dutch isn’t as good as my English. I have a more limited range of expression, and my grammar and pronunciation is off enough that I am frequently asked where I’m really from. Today, as I was looking for basic gardening tools, it was easy to look for spades and shovels, I had to think a bit about what the Dutch word for “trowel” was, but that didn’t phase me too much (it’s not a word I encounter particularly often), but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what the Dutch for “watering can” was. I literally had to go to a translation website to translate the English and find the Dutch word again.

I think I may need to use Dutch a little more again.