‘Oh shit, things are a little different here’
The ‘second language’ English is perhaps the most difficult things to come to terms with. Not with regards to day to day life, but within the University itself. There is a common conception that everyone in the Netherlands speaks phenomenal English. Largely, they do, but it does differ from time to time, and make life a little problematic. Sitting in my tutorials, I frequently have to look past grammatical errors which misconstrue meanings, tenses which convey an entirely different meaning and so on, which ultimately affects my ability to learn and actually, understand what is going on. Adjectives and conjunctives in interesting places require much more concentration than I previously appreciated.
Without meaning any disrespect to my colleagues, it makes learning an extremely challenging experience. However, this is the way of life, the way of the world and the way of business. I must be more open minded. I for instance, speak no second language. For some of my counterparts, English isn’t their second language, but third or fourth. It’s an amazing achievement, to be undertaking a degree in a language other than their own. It just so happens, that English is an extremely popular second language and the language of international business – 70% of Germans speak English as a second language, which equates to two thirds of the whole population of Great Britain. I wish to reiterate, I need to be more open minded.
This does not make up for how difficult it can be. Without the natural fluency one possesses from being a native, even Great British sarcasm doesn’t fair too well, neither does speaking quickly, or colloquially. You observe this in every country when speaking a non-native language. But coming from a university and a country which all too often takes for granted its ease in communications, possessing a native language which dominates the world stage, it has been difficult to adapt.
Though, having said that, I’ve begun to understand how important the English language is, ironically, for completing one of the main premises of the European Union – social integration. Europe is a phenomenal concept, something which I increasingly love, being able to hop from one country to another, only using the local bus services. The dynamism is held together by the English language. I feel therefore, somewhat disappointed in myself that I expect full fluency and for them to make themselves easier to understand for my own benefit. My conscious reflection, continually looking at the ways I perceive things as a result of this year is something which I will take from my international experience, if anything. Increasing open-minded-ness, however difficult it has been to start with.