I’m restarting my Dutch evening classes, even though I’m unlikely to return to a Dutch speaking country. I’d completed a year and a little in Belgium before I left for the Republic. I don’t like leaving the learning half done.
I’d studied at the CSO, the equivalent of the local FE, at a relatively gentle pace, in a course for all foreigners at all levels of linguistic ability. I’m now attending the only Dutch evening class in Dublin, which happens to be at Trinity. Trinity’s in the global university top 50. This course is ahead of me. I’ve got work to do. I believe I can do it. I need to retune my ears, too; Dutch Dutch with an Irish edge sounds quite different to Mechelse Flemish.
My motivation is unusual. Most of the people on the course are learning the language because they’re living with a native speaker.
My weak knowledge doesn’t stop me using the language in my poetry. It’s strange, but sometimes a poem wants to be written in another language. Europe only works in Flemish. With the latest, lege land, I was tuning myself to the course when the poem knocked.
These poems must sound pretty dreadful to native speaker ears. But I sometimes intentionally commit a similar abuse of English. I like the effect of a language made strange. It helps freshen familiar words, give them back a little newness. Of course, in English, I can judge the effect, as much as a poet can judge the ears of a listener.