Living in two languages

Sometimes I feel like I live in a different language.

I’m in Australia, dating a kiwi. My mother tongue is Dutch, but I also speak English fluently with a slight American/Canadian accent that changes every time I go somewhere else. At the moment it includes some Aussie slang and accents. During my life I learned some German, Latin, Greek and French and took a shot at learning Finnish. My heart loves language, but my head starts spinning sometimes.

Currently most of my thinking is in English, but every now and then a bit of Dutch slips into my brain and tries to infiltrate the English words that are coming out of my mouth. Some things are better expressed in Dutch and some are better expressed in English and I often find myself in the situation where I don’t know what to say anymore. This inspired me to share some Dutch expressions, translated into English. These are expressions that are common at home, but which I have no room for here in Australia. Such a shame!

I ate my tummy round – I ate so much good food I’m full now

He’s got coal shovels for hands – He’s got rather big hands

Only Joost can know that- Joost is a Dutch name for boys. This expression means as much as ‘who knows?’

He’s such a holy bean – A holy bean is a very good, honest person who wouldn’t hurt a fly and always listens

You’re a curious Aagje – Aagje is a name for girls. This saying is used to say someone is very inquisitive

Exchanging things causes crying – Often told to kids who want something someone else has. It means you can swap things (toys), but in the end you’ll most likely regret it.

Laugh as a farmer with a toothache – You laugh, but it’s not genuine. You laugh about something you don’t like

These are just a few of my favorite sayings translated into English. And trust me, they sound much better in Dutch. I haven’t even started about how to explain the Dutch word ‘gezelligheid’. I want to use this word all the time, but haven’t found an adequate solution in English. O well… that’s another discussion. Like when I had the discussion with my boyfriend about one leg of your pants. In Dutch we have the word ‘broekspijp’, meaning one leg of your trousers. When I asked my boyfriend if he has a word for it in English, he started laughing. “Why would you need a word for that?” he said, “You never talk about one side of your pants.” I guess us Dutch are just strange folk then.

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