Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Lazy Summer

I am on page 96 of Marion Bloem's Vaders van betekenis.  For whatever reason, I have not been disciplined in reading it.   Still, every time I read it, it's faster than the last time.  Last night, I spent a long time reading 2 1/2 pages.  Reading a language you're not yet good at is difficult.

The season began with a transcription exercise.  Working with a Dutch friend, I transcribed the first minute of one of the Queen's Christmas speeches.  It mimics an exercise I have my students do in English. I did it myself to answer the question every teacher wonders about, "Are they sandbagging?"

Most of the summer was passive listening.  I started with BNR, but listened mainly to Radio 1 in Hilversum. It really does help, though I could understand them only occasionally.

Watching TV was hit or miss.  I saw a number of episodes of Flikken Maastricht, a cop show.  Like many shows, it's basically the same episode every time.  If you watch directly from the broadcaster, as opposed to YouTube, you can click on the instellingen (settings) and put on the captioning.  I just clicked on them to check the word, but the site I use is having trouble.

Dutch TV ratings are as unreliable as American movie ratings.  The ratings tell you what the producers wanted for marketing purposes, as opposed to what might be in the content.  Anything other than programming for young children should be watched first before showing it to anyone else.

I just finished a section in Bloem's book composed of letters from the US.  Again, she has an incredible understanding of this country and what it is like to live here. Now, I'm at a part where the main character is having a glass of tjendol. Reading about it was a great mini-triumph: I've had that at the Dutch festival!"

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Reading, or Where I've Been All This Time

At the 2011 Long Beach Holland Festival, Jan Krancher gave me a copy of Marion Bloem's Vaders van betekenis (Fathers of Meaning).  I had planned to attend in 2012, but my wedding happened around the same time, which meant that it was off the calendar.

Over a nearly two-year period, I made it through 60 pages of the book.  Reading Dutch was as difficult as ever.  I was plowing through it, wearing out another dictionary.  My job situation had improved immensely.  As I noticed another festival coming up, I made more of an effort.  I am now on p. 78.  I have also been listening again, mainly to Radio 1. BNR is also good, but it doesn't come through the computer as much. I have also watched some TV with closed captioning.

This year, I was invited again to help work the booth for the Indo Project. Of course, it was great.  I saw Jeff Keasbery on the way in, and I found Jan and his antique wall map of the Dutch East Indies on the side of the booth. This time, the emphasis was on books for sale.  Lots of people came to browse.

The two books that stood out weren't for sale.  I hope they are uploaded as ebooks soon.  The first one I looked at was a graphic narrative of camp life that was most likely done right after the war.  The colors and fairly precise drawings made those times look very recent.  Digitizing this work is urgent, because the paper is disintegrating, and the colors are starting to bleed.  While we were there, I spoke to a man who is restoring his wife's family photos with Photoshop.  Such a treatment would certainly be worthwhile.  Some of the drawings have shown up as illustrations for other books.  The other book that stood out was Jan's own immigration story in a small three ring binder.  It is largely a reverse diary, made up of translations of letters he sent to his mother, beginning in 1960. It is one of the rare translations that appears to have been written in the target language.  Usually, the source language comes through in one way or another.

While I was there, I heard some Dutch spoken, and some people spoke it to me.  In spite of my recent piling on of listening hours, I am disappointed to say that I understood very little.  When I spoke, my pronunciation was way off.   The linguistic bright spot was my surprising ability to sight translate.  I was quickly able to give English speakers a window into Dutch language material.  I was also able to reassure Dutch speakers that I was acquainted with their world.

I had not planned on posting anything, but my wife and I spoke to Priscilla Kluge McMullen on the way out.  She encouraged me to post more about the journey, which brings us back to the current book.

Marion Bloem's Vaders van betekenis should be translated by an American.  She writes in a very clear, yet freewheeling style. Although she has only been on a few short trips to the US, she writes about it like a native. This is my fourth book in Dutch, and it is the third in which I have read with the method of using the dictionary to look up every word I don't know.  I move the fastest through the parts with familiar material.  The wartime experiences are similar to what Geert Mak described.   Reading about the US was almost easy.  The beginning of the book, on the other hand, brings Miguel Asturias to mind.  She ties an incident with a kite to the surreal nature of life during wartime and ancient legends.  I found it as hard to follow as Asturias.

My posts about Dutch reading will be far from regular, but I will keep it up.  I plan to finish Marion Bloem's book.  After that, I would like to return to Geert "Big" Mak to read Reizen zonder John, his following of John Steinbeck's journey in Travels with Charly 50 years later.