By Jack Tomlin
It is always desirable to be proficient at one position in whatever sport it is you play. But isn’t it better not only to be competent at that one aspect of the game, but also to show talent in other areas? For a richer appreciation of music, would it not be prudent to go beyond your own instrument, your own genre?
This is surely the case, and it is on this principle, I mope in an anguished embarrassment. It seems to be the whole of the Common Wealth’s focused, almost determined ambition to prolong the dominance of its own appropriated tongue. English: a speech that owes its entire foundation to other languages!
Not a day goes by in the Internationally-European Maastricht, that three or four languages can’t be discerned from the recesses of a patisserie, ejaculated from the all-too-cramped Library tables or awkwardly muttered as the nice woman at Albert Hein asks “Uw kassabon?” “Ja prima alsjeblieft”… Moreover, as I endeavour to fulfil my duties as a student, that is, being social, attending parties, meeting new people, I’m dictated by limitations, frustrated for openers and on occasion, I must admit, have not-so-subtly tried to sulk away to laze in more familiar arms.
Furthermore, it seems that my conscious is dwelling so often on this facet of the everyday that, when one would think I would become more lingual, more loquacious and a generally more well-rounded person, in actuality, my English has worsened. I’m often picked up on a woefully inadequate understanding of basic words and apparently slip between ‘f’ and ‘th’ sounds as often as the bike ‘sellers’ frequent the Vrijthof.
But surely there is hope. If a five year-old Dutch kindergartener can be taught English alongside counting apples and learning that plates do indeed smash upon impact, why could I not pick up on the language of the country who teaches me and loans me money? Why could I not perfect my English whilst taking shameless advantage of my Venezuelan roommate? I’ve joined a journal committee, applied for Dutch lessons at the Gemeente (they’re free by the way) and sporadically attend a debate club. I’ll be writing this in Dutch in a year’s time. I will.
Cartoon courtesy of the Daily Telegraph