Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pardon the Flem.

There were three reasons why I went to Belgium. 1) I had a commitment free weekend, 2) chocolate, and 3) my friend Annelies moved back to Belgium in April and I was dying to see her and her new baby boy.

I ended up spending all Saturday afternoon with Annelies, her husband, son, and parents, with whom they live while waiting to move into their own house. Now, Belgians speak what is known as Flemish - it is a softer version of Dutch in that they don't pronounce the harsh "G" sounds in their words. However, depending on the region of Belgium, the dialect can be all but indistinguishable - not only by the Dutch but by other Belgians as well.

That said, Annelies's parents spoke nothing but Flemish, with a West Flanders dialect. Having been surrounded by the Dutch language for 15 months now, although I don't speak it very well, I can understand many things and recognize most words. That wasn't the case when her parents were speaking. I was at a loss when they would ask me questions. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what it was they were saying. Annelies would then repeat the question in Flemish -- a recognizable Flemish -- to which I'd be able to respond in my highly choppy Dutch.
It's funny to think, having grown up in a country where you can understand everyone independent of which region you're from, that within the distance of a few kilometers you can't understand your fellow countryman -- who is, in fact, speaking the same language as you.

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