I received a notice from Utrecht City through my letter slot with this title:
“Opruimactie weesfietsen wijk Noordoost”
Hmmm … something about bicycles in my district. I know “fiets” is “bike” in Dutch simply because in England I rode a “bakfiets,” or “box bike” (and now gleefully ride one again).
Scanning other headers I see:
“Verwijder het labels als u uw fiets gewoon gebruikt.”
Now I know the notice has something to do with bike labels. I also see some dates mentioned: “8 september” and “13 oktober.”
Do I need a label for my bike? Will they haul my bike away on a truck in the night if I don’t figure out how to get a city label for it by October 13th?
Shortly later, with light use of Google Translate, I clearly understand that if the city sticks a label on my bike, I merely remove it. On October 13th they will only cart away the rusty, forlorn, abandoned bikes that still have labels affixed.
The Language Studies Take-Away:
Without actually speaking a scrap of Dutch, I intuited the gist of the message from a few English cognates and a bit of photographic context.
This is good, this is very good from an handling basic, everyday life in the Netherlands perspective.
This is very bad, however, from a feeling smug about my Chinese perspective.
I just passed the HSK III Mandarin proficiency test and yet if that exact same notice in Chinese had been put through my door, I still would have only understood the gist of it.
While this has put me in a sullen mood about my Chinese, it has put me in a rather bright mood about the Dutch language class I’ve just registered for.