Friday, May 05, 2006

Reality Check

A group from Zolder50 was invited to share a seminar at the Soul Survivor festival on Wednesday, on the topic of "Kerkstichten in een post-moderne tijd" ("Church planting in Post-modern Times"). Not that we're experts on the subject, by any means... But it was fun to share with other Christians from across the country and answer questions about our experiences in getting our church off the ground in Amsterdam over the last three and a half years.

The circumstances of the seminar were not so intimidating -- about 25 people under a canvas tent in the Overijssel countryside. I, however, was a bit nervous because I was going to try and share my portion of the seminar in 't Nederlands (in Dutch). Of course, after three years of learning and practicing the language, I've certainly developed a level of fluency that allows for effective interpersonal communication. But Dutch is still not my first language. And public speaking in one's second language feels quite different than personal conversation in one's second language... But after I introduced myself in Dutch, I asked the crowd for their opinion: "Willen jullie liever dat ik doorgaan in 't slechte Nederlands of in 't goede Engels met vertaling?" ("Would you prefer that I continue in bad Dutch or in good English with translation?"). And since the vote was fairly evenly split, I decided to press on in 't Nederlands (in Dutch).

As the seminar went on, I felt more and more confident with my language skills. I clearly understood the questions that were directed toward us. And (as far as I can tell) I was able to clearly articulate my answers. Afterwards, some Nederlanders even made a point to come up to me and say something to the effect of: "Je kunt het niet 'slechte Nederlands' langer noemen -- je spreekt echt goed Nederlands" ("You can't really describe yourself as speaking 'bad Dutch' anymore -- you really speak Dutch well")... So, I guess you could say that I was feeling pretty good about myself. I continued to converse with strangers and friends following the seminar -- practically glowing with confidence in my linguistic skills.

On the way back to Amsterdam from the conference, we stopped by a McDonald's for some dinner. And even though half of the McDonald's menu is basically English (i.e. even the native Dutch speakers order a "cheeseburger" and not some ridiculous transliteration like "broodje gehakt met kaas") -- I went ahead and ordered in 't Nederlands (in Dutch): "Quarter-pounder menu, zonder uien, alstublieft. Met Cola en twee pakjes ketchup erbij" ("Quarter-pounder value meal, without onions, please. With Cola and two packets of ketchup"). Still brimming with self-assurance in my language skills, following the adventures of the afternoon, I deftly managed the interaction with the cashier without any of the typical issues of having to ask for a question to be repeated or stupidly fumbling for my answers like a tourist... Heck -- for all the cashier could tell, I was just a regular old Johannes, no different from any of the other Nederlanders standing in line that evening.

The quarter-pounder would be a few minutes before it was ready, so I was given the rest of my order and instructed to take a seat in the dining area. Which I did -- expertly blending into the crowd like a native with my keen sense of European fashion and my linguistic prowess. I munched my french fries, sipped my cola, and chatted with my friends. And, well, I was feeling pretty good about myself and the bright, beautiful world that surrounded me.

I was so absorbed in my pride and satisfaction, that I failed to notice the McDonald's employee wandering through the dining area with my quarter-pounder in hand. Usually, I imagine they're just looking for a hungry person to make eye contact. But since I was caught up in my own world, she had to start calling out for someone to claim their burger:

"Man met een Engelse accent? Man met een Engelse accent?" ("Man with an English accent? Man with an English accent?"). All eyes in the room turned toward me, as I sheepishly raised my hand to claim my prize.

Uh, yeah... That would be me.

* * * * *

Hooghartigheid gaat vooraf aan ellende, hoogmoed komt voor de val (Spreuken 16:18).

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).


At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

too funny. thanks for the giggle. I am horrible at languages so I'll stick to english I think. :0) - michele

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Booyah, Eric. Well done! :)

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

Eric, I thought your duch was geweldig. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't :) Wanna be a translator at the next festival? Haha!

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric, Wat een eerlijk en heerlijk verhaal. Zo grappig geschreven.
Geweldig hoor!!!!

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous mom said...

Too cute, Eric! I could see myself doing something similar, except, of course, I took Latin in high school and no one speaks Latin anymore and I only remember part of the declension of "amo" (love). But still,...


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