Ah Khang

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just a lunch...

Well as you know Belgium is tri-lingual country with official languages of French, Dutch and German, it certainly adds spices to everyday conversation. Let’s take an example by looking at my experience:

Last week I had a lunch with my manager Pascal, colleagues Bram and Peter at the cafeteria just around the project site building.

Bram is a native Dutch speaker, but manages English very well, and French rather mediocre. So I always speak to him in English. Then Pascal joined us in the table. Pascal is native French speaking, but manages English and Dutch just fine. Naturally I would speak French to Pascal since I am good in French (well if you don’t know my profile, I can also speak good English, Malay and three Chinese languages, and basic-medium Dutch as I am currently attending Dutch night course in school).

Fine, but Pascal would speak in Dutch with Bram since they both speak good Dutch. I couldn’t catch everything they were talking about, since my Dutch is not that sophisticated yet. So in the end we all switched to talk in English. Sounds a better solution no?

Not until Peter joined us though. Like Bram, Peter is native Dutch speaking, but he speaks good English and OK French. Since Bram and Peter are Dutch speaking natively, it would be weird to talk in English, so they would converse in Dutch. As this went on, Pascal and I would then do it in French. Then I would talk to Peter and Bram in English, while Pascal in Dutch with them.

Right, so it was a lunch with three languages switching non-stop around the table. For god sake we were just 4 people. How funny it is this petite country of Belgium. Frankly I quite like its richness of language culture. However to the people here, it means a lot of annoyances. No wonder after 176 years of independence, there are still so many language-related disputes going on in the country!