Feeling better about Dutch prospects? Or worse about Chinese efforts?

weesfietsen 被遗弃的自行车 _ expatlingo.com

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 actual notice.

The actual notice.

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.

16 responses to “Feeling better about Dutch prospects? Or worse about Chinese efforts?

  1. Part German, Part English, part something else. Dutch is a great language. I like that I can pick up a lot with knowledge of the two. How is the cheeeeese? nom nom.

  2. Full marks! English and Dutch are both ‘lie German’ languages. Hence there is much overlap. When you start to master pronunciation you’ll also find that inspite of spelling differences many words sound familiar too. Huis is house and sounds like house even though you’d imaging it shou be who

  3. My phone stopped me correcting my typos! Grr
    Low German languages. Huis looks like it will rhyme with who.
    A wees fiets is an orphan bike. Abandoned bikes will eventually be labeled with a ‘to be taken away’ notice.

  4. It must be so nice to be in a place that uses letter instead of symbols again. I found it a lot easier traveling in Europe because of that.
    Oh and congrats on the Mandarin proficiency. When I lived in Taiwan, I was only profiecient in inebriated in a taxi, speaking to the driver conversations. 🙂

  5. Yeah. Chinese can be like that. (Harder to learn than a language which shares more cognates and perhaps also a character set with your native language, that is.) I would go ahead and continue to feel smug.

    But ok, box bike – like one of those ones with a big box on the front, right?

    • The lack of conjugation in Chinese is so marvelous though!

      Yes, the bike with the big box on the front. I now haul the kids (and stuff) everywhere with it.

      • Someone has one near us. It travelled from the Netherlands to Shanghai with some expats, who sold it in Shanghai to some other expats, who moved to Singapore.

        So I know exactly what you are talking about because I was discussing one at length at our local coffee shop the other day. And actually prior to the other day I would have had very little idea.

        It’s like the universe is conspiring to let me understand your blog posts. (Not sure it’s the first thing I’d ask the universe to do with its time – no offence – but we’ll take what we can get.)

  6. Good luck with the Dutch! I’ve been hearing Mandarin and Cantonese for almost 20 years now, but my college French still trumps it. Frustrating!

    • Something about the way Hong Kong works makes trying to learn any Chinese vexing! (I had much more luck on the Mainland.) So far grocery shopping has taught me the names of quite a few Dutch nouns. Pronunciation is another matter entirely …

  7. Can you imagine? If such stickers were put on bikes in China? They’d pretty much have to haul all of the bikes away.

    Hope you’re enjoying your time in Utrecht! Pictures of you in tulip adorned clogs and big frilly cotton smocks resembling those of your Utah ancestors, please.

    • Think of all the kudos and extra public funds some enterprising Chinese official could get for implementing such a scheme and then re-selling all the bikes?

      Can I modernize my Dutch look?

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