Yesterday I began a 10 day crash course in the dutch language with about 70 other international students. I’m learning you have to pronounce each and every part of a word – and with intention. The g’s trip me up big time, as well as this combination: jij, pronounced “aye.” In this language, it seems you have to move your whole mouth differently. And I’ve been told I mumble in english!
There is an urgency and an excitement, though, in learning a language in its country. It’s hard to replicate that in high school and university classrooms. But here, we’re learning and using dutch in real time. (it’s still complicated and moeilijk – difficult)
We’re also taught some basic Dutch history & culture, which lays a great foundation for understanding why the Dutch are known as such a tolerant and innovative people. Water has always been a source of that innovation… redirecting it to develop land that is below sea level, building miles of canals for trade and transportation, using the water for energy.
“The Netherlands” term itself is really only used by foreigners and encompasses all of the provinces/principalities in this area. Amsterdam is located in Noord Holland province, Leiden in Zuid Holland, with 12 provinces in all. Each has its own culture (Friesland even has its own language); plurality is a good theme.
And one can’t grasp Netherlands nationalism without knowing Prince William of Orange. He is the hero here, the man who died defending the Dutch against Spanish rule. Philip II of Spain intended to force Catholicism on the Dutch, but William believed each person should have a choice (he had chosen Calvinism himself). Every year on October 3, the ‘Relief of Leiden’ is celebrated as the day the Dutch rebel army drove Spain away – and it happened right here in Leiden.
There are street parades and canal parades and lots of free herring and beer on October 3. I can’t wait to be apart of the celebration this year!
Rain in the morning, but warm sunshine in the afternoon. Here are a few pictures from today.