* broodje halfom at Van Dobben
Yes, you – I’m talking to you, dear reader. If you’re reading this and you got this far, it means you’re either a 1) Dutch person who can read English, 2) person of another nationality who can read English, 3) a person with English as their native tongue. In any case, you’re reading, and you understand me.
I’ve been thinking about language a lot lately. For me, English is the language of food: I read English cookbooks and reference works, most of my Internet readings on food are in English, I write and email people about food in English. I know it’s weird, but I think about food in English. When I’m cooking, shopping, planning a meal, my thoughts are in English and on occasion you will hear me muttering to myself, while going up and down the aisles of a Dutch supermarket: 'flour – must not forget flour – and chocolate – and some parsley, too'.
Talking to yourself is weird enough, but talking to yourself in another language than your own.. is it all going downhill from there? In my kitchen, I form phrases in my head while I cook, to remember a recipe so I can post about it on my blog. But then, ofcourse, I have to translate it back into Dutch first.
I’m serious about food and I’m getting more serious. These days, people pay me for the words I write about food. They pay me for Dutch words and they pay me for English words. And while I love my language (and did I ever tell you that at University, I studied medieval Dutch literature? Lots of nice career opportunities there…) it would of course be foolish to ignore the fact that in the bigger scheme of things, there are a lot more people speaking /understanding English on this planet, than people understanding Dutch.
So there’s my dilemma. There are also a lot more English language foodblogs out there than Dutch ones. In the Dutch blogworld, I have my little space. Is there room for me in the English blogosphere? Or will I just be one of many many, drowning in that sea of most excellent, very special, beautiful and original blogs? Also – my English is pretty good, but not perfect, and lazy as I am, when it comes to words and language I don’t want to make mistakes. Well, not any more than the ones I make in Dutch, that is.
Reading and writing a language helps you to perfect your skills, but it also distracts from your other language skills. In my early twenties I lived in Germany for a while and my German was great. I spoke it every day, read German newspapers and novels, listened to the radio. I was comfortable and felt I could express myself the way I wanted to. Nowadays when some unexpected emergency requires me to speak German, I manage to squeeze out a couple of words in a perfect accent, but with the most horrible grammar mistakes and a vocabulary at pre-school level. So what I’m saying is, it’s all about practice… and I would not want to lose my Dutch writing skills just by writing English all the time.
I think I might experiment a bit for the next months.. write some posts in English, some in Dutch. See how it feels and how it affects blog traffic. Reader – what do you think?
* broodje halfom: I chose this picture for this post because last week I was talking about this particular sandwich to some Americans. 'Broodje halfom' became 'a sandwich with equal parts of larded pork liver and beef that resembles pastrami but isn't quite'. Too many words...