Opportunity 3: Just say ‘nee’


Oh, my. After 24 hours, a rather frank discussion with my very cute physiotherapist, and a deep search in my head for a box marked ‘my age’, I found no real answer. In fact, in that boxed marked ‘my age’ there’s just a slip of paper with two words on it: I am. A statement of being rather than a reflection of my march through time. I thought on my youth, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the company of older people. Why should the reverse now bother me so much? The answer is it shouldn’t, so I’m setting aside my heebie-jeebies over the entire issue and hope it doesn’t raise its head again before my 70th birthday.

Onto bigger and badder things.

I have had four new ‘language cafés’, as they call them here, pointed out to me. A language café is just a time and place for people to get together and talk in whatever language they’re trying to learn. One morning, one afternoon, and two evenings have been, shall we say, rather strongly suggested to me. On top of classes, reading, the television, the papers, the adverts, the EVERYTHING. So I HAD to pick that picture on top of the page, because yes, that’s how my brain feels: washed out, fried, a little dirty around the edges, and cooked for too long.

Dear Goddess!

…And I don’t know if my reaction is normal or not. Seems to be an awful lot of people who CAN do it all 24/7 and not lose it. I don’t count myself among them. And I’m a little afraid to point that fact out to these people who push me so much! Met a woman last night who speaks 10 languages fluently. 10! And she knows someone who speaks 35.

I’m feeling overwhelmed.

There’s still so many words I don’t know yet. Today was my one on one lesson, which really WAS one on one because the other student was sick, and my teacher and I talked for two hours. There were rather large gaps of time when she was talking and talking and I could barely understand the general gist of the conversation. Other times, I understood quite well.

It’s a matter of vocabulary. Mine is still quite small. And I’ve found the best way for me to learn new words is from the computer. My online lessons show the written word. They have a person clearly say the word. There’s a button right there I can hit over and over again to listen and try to imitate it perfectly. Then they move onto short sentences that include the words you just learned. THAT’S how I’m picking up more words. You can mouth syllables at me FOREVER and I just won’t get it. It’s that hardcore repetition that’s giving me the words I need to make the move from a child-like speech pattern to a more grown up one.

And if I’m forced (or strongly encouraged) to spend so much time talking or reading or listening, well, frankly, I get bloody tired. I don’t want to do the damned computer lessons after a certain point. I’m fried.

More will just confuse me.

*sigh* But I guess I gotta take into consideration what these people might see in me. Whether or not they’d be shocked by my real age, they don’t see a dummy. They don’t hear someone who can’t speak the language. Just the opposite; plenty of people tell me I speak very clearly. Great. Those are the vocabulary words I KNOW. I’ve seen them. Said them. Heard them. Repeated them and repeated them. I need new words. New adages and sayings. But not so fast I get confused. That’s why the computer is so great. I never annoy it when I ask it to repeat what it’s saying twenty times.

On the other hand (because there’s always an ‘other hand’), I found today that my limited vocabulary got me through quite a bit. We talked about the news I’d watched, the stories I’d seen. Or that’s where we began. One of the news articles I saw is about a proposed change to the assisted suicide law. That brought up a lot. Ulla. My mother, then my father. Her mother. Death in general. Figures; even in DUTCH I try to talk about death! Then we moved onto other topics: the theatre group I found, University, her kids, careers and jobs in general. A rather wide range of topics to try to tackle after only one year of language lessons.

But then I never DO set the bar low. That can be very problematic. Perfectionism and the bald reality of never being able to live up to that ideal. Yet if you don’t try, if you don’t aim high, you’ll never hit that mark. So I try. And when I fail, as I inevitably do, I tell myself that I gave it my all, I could ask no more of myself, and I’ve done well. You did good, kid. Of course I always second guess myself. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Live too long in that neck of the woods and you’ll end up in Regretsville permanently. I should know; I’ve spent years there and I’m sure the ghosts in my head keep an empty apartment on the second floor for me.

There’s a fine line here I can safely walk. Heel to toe, all the way. I will not try them all out in the same week. I will not even consider that. Not with my regular classes, the theatre group meetings, and trying to wedge some exercise in there too. Too many times I’ve spread myself too thin. Too many times I’ve lost my balance and dropped all the balls.

I am completely unwilling to do that again.

Thank you, but I’m busy. Thank you, but I can’t. No, no, no. They say ‘no’ is one of those early words for babies. Why do I have such a hard time saying it? Maybe it’ll be easier in Dutch.

Nee, nee, nee.


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