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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Some tasty things I eat in the Netherlands

Caution: This list is totally and completely based on my personal taste and findings.

Elstar apples – with just the right crunchy bite and sourness (I am a fan of sour stuff) – at the moment not available at our Albert Heijn supermarket, so I am waiting for the new harvest and have to do with replacements like Jazz apples, which are of the right taste but too hard for my taste. The Elstar is a Dutch apple sort, by the way.

Calvé LIGHT Pindakaas = peanut butter (pindakaas is actually translated as peanut cheese) – with the light blue cap. I have had peanut butter for the first time in my life here in the Netherlands and this one is really good, I like it on a Wasa sesame cracker. The non light (regular) variant with the brown cap is not edible, I find, much too intense and fat.

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Tasty Tom tomatoes – I have mentioned them before, they are full of sweet tomato taste, I can eat them every day. And I almost do 🙂P1180688

Albert Heijn Feta – especially if you are Romanian and missing telemea cheese, like me 🙂 I was very happy with Dodoni Feta, a real Greek feta cheese, very telemea-like, because it missed the creamy character of most feta sorts. But about a year ago it disappeared. I have at that point made use for the first time of the Q&A section of the supermarket, leaving my question behind as to what is happening with my beloved feta.

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I checked several times and I think 1,5 week later the answer appeared: it is no longer available. The picture’s poor quality is due to my not daring to use the flash while taking it:
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Well at that point I was seriously disappointed, but in the mean time, having been on holiday in Greece this summer, I have seen Dodoni feta there with my own eyes, even in the airport store. So I question the answer the supermarket gave me. Meanwhile I had tested several feta qualities and found that the supermarket’s own brand, Albert Heijn, is also a good replacement of telemea. And here, I almost dare to bet, lies the right answer to my question: “We are not selling Dodoni anymore, since we have copied it and are selling it ourselves”… I eat it along with the Tasty Tom tomatoes and maybe a slice of salted buttered bread

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Bonne Maman raspberry jam – It might be that I am getting wiser as I am getting older, but I have recently decided to stop trying jams made of anything but raspberries. Every time it only makes me realise that my favourite is still raspberry jam. I am not completely hooked on Bonne Maman, although I find nothing wrong with it, but I might give another brand a chance, as long as it is raspberry. I am also not frequently eating jam, but for the few times when I do, it’ll only be raspberry, so you know! 🙂

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Posted by on 24 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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Cum am invatat (mai multa) olandeza

Inca nu terminasem primul curs de limba olandeza cand m-am angajat. Pe aceeasi pozitie in aceeasi firma ca in Romania. Cea mai importanta diferenta (pe langa faptul ca salariul era acelasi, dar pentru jumatate de norma) si motivul pentru care ma treceau transpiratiile de cate ori suna telefonul in primele luni la birou, era limba. Lucrez in departamentul de vanzari al unei firme germane si clientii nostri sunt din Benelux, deci majoritatea vorbitori de olandeza. La inceput, vorbeam numai in engleza cu colegii mei, pentru ca in continuare nu consideram ca pot vorbi olandeza, dar invatam, asa ca aveam sperante. Cand clientii sunau si incepeau sa vorbeasca in olandeza, mai ca lesinam de la efortul pe care il depuneam sa ii inteleg, pana si numele lor erau o adevarata provocare.

Asa ca era momentul potrivit sa frecventez un nou curs de limba, unul mai bun, mai scump, caci firma platea de data asta! 🙂 Am fost foarte fericita ca firma mi-a oferit un curs si pot sa spun ca mi-a schimbat viata in Olanda de atunci. Cursul a fost la ILC in localitatea Waalwijk unde am avut o profesoara numai pentru mine, ceea ce a fost exact ce imi trebuia. Am putut sa o intreb orice, toate nelamuririle mele si-au gasit raspuns, in timp ce exersam si limba olandeza de care aveam nevoie la birou. Lectiile erau o data pe saptamana, seara si au durat vreo 4 luni (30 de ore in total). Dupa cateva lectii m-am simtit suficient de sigura pe mine ca sa vorbesc si scriu in olandeza.

Acesta a fost al doilea si ultimul meu curs de olandeza pana acum. Nivelul meu este acum acceptabil, am avut parte de suficiente complimente pentru olandeza pe care o vorbesc si imi place mai ales sa descopar greselile pe care le fac olandezii in limba proprie 🙂

Mi-ar placea sa cunosc si sa folosesc mai multe expresii olandeze, acesta e inca un teritoriu care nu imi e familiar. Si mi-ar placea si sa am un vocabular activ mai bogat, inteleg majoritatea cuvintelor pe care le aud sau citesc, dar pe multe nu le folosesc pentru ca nu imi vin in minte cand am nevoie de ele. Asa ca mai am de invatat, asta e sigur.

SI ca sa inchei aventura limbii olandeze de care am avut parte, iata cateva reactii ale unor olandezi de pe cand inca nu vorbeam olandeza sau de acum, cand vorbesc olandeza:

– cand eram la inceputul vietii mele in Olanda, o persoana olandeza mi s-a adresat vorbind olandeza tare si raspicat, ceva de genul: “E FOAR-TE FRU-MOS A-FA-RA AZI.” Cumva, metoda asta i s-a parut buna de aplicat cand cineva nu vorbeste limba, dar incearca sa o invete.

– altii, care nu se simteau in largul lor ca sa vorbeasca engleza (ceea ce vorbeam eu pe atunci), ceea ce este de inteles, mi-au spus ca vorbesc cu mine in olandeza ca sa pot invata limba. Sigur, poate fi o metoda cand esti fortat sa vorbesti o limba straina, dar uneori m-am simtit izolata si exclusa din conversatii pe care nu le puteam intelege.

– acum, dupa vreo 6 ani de cand vorbesc zilnic olandez, am fost surprinsa de catre o persoana olandeza care nu vorbise cu mine inainte, doar stia ca nu sunt olandeza. A vorbit cu mine olandeza de parca EL ar fi fost un strain care nu vorbeste limba bine. Eu i-am raspuns in olandeza, sigur, nu sun ca o olandeza, se aude clar ca sunt straina, dar totusi, vorbesc corect, poate fac niste mici greseli, dar nimic prea grav. Ei bine, limba olandeza pe care a folosit-o cu mine suna ceva de genul: “Tu uiti si tu vezi copac.”

– probabil acelasi accent ii face pe multi dintre clientii care ma suna la birou (este un birou in Olanda, numarul de telefon este olandez) sa inceapa sa imi vorbeasca in engleza. Ceea ce jur ca nu faceau atunci cand incepusem sa lucrez aici! 🙂 Chiar si unii clienti cu care vorbesc la telefon mai des, carora le-am scris e-mail-uri in olandeza. Unii se complica foarte mult, pentru ca dintr-un anumit motiv nu incearca mai intai sa vorbeasca olandeza sau macar sa ma intrebe daca eu vorbesc olandeza, ci incep direct in engleza si multi se chinuie sa isi gaseasca cuvintele.

Ei bine, asta a fost tot, mult succes daca invatati olandeza!

 

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How I learned (some more) Dutch

While I was still busy with the first Dutch language course described last time, I started working. The same position in the same firm as in Romania. The most important difference (besides earning as much as in Romania but for half the time) and cause of sweating every time the phone rang in the first months, was the language. I work in the sales department of a German company and our customers are situated in the Benelux, so mainly Dutch speaking. In the beginning, I only spoke English with my colleagues, as  I still thought I couldn’t speak decent Dutch, but I was learning, so I had hopes. When customers called and started speaking Dutch, I was close to fainting every time from the effort it took me to understand them, even their names were quite a challenge.

So it was high time for another language course, a better one, a more expensive one, as now the firm would pay! 🙂 I was very happy that the firm offered me a course and I can say that it changed my life in the Netherlands since I attended it. It was at ILC in Waalwijk where I had a teacher all to myself, which was exactly what I needed. I could ask away, all my doubts and uncertainties found answers, while also practicing the Dutch language I needed at the office. The lessons were once a week, in the evening and took about 4 months (30 hours in total). After a few lessons I was confident enough to speak Dutch and use it also more in writing.

This was my second and last Dutch course so far, I am now at an acceptable level, I have had my share of compliments on the Dutch I speak and I particularly enjoy noticing the mistakes Dutch people make in their own language 🙂

I would like to know and use more Dutch expressions, this is still a pretty unfamiliar territory for me. And I would like a richer active vocabulary, I understand most of the words I hear or read, but I do not use many of them myself because they just don’t come to mind when needed. So there is still work to be done, for sure.

And to round up my Dutch language adventures, here are some reactions I have had from Dutch people while still not speaking Dutch or now, that I do speak Dutch:

– when I was at the beginning of my Dutch life, I was approached by a Dutch person who spoke Dutch in a loud voice and in a sort of slow motion, something like: “THE WEA-THER IS RE-ALLY NI-CE TO-DAY.” Somehow, this method seemed the best way to deal with someone who doesn’t speak your language but is trying to learn it.

– others, who were not comfortable to speak English (which I was communicating in at that time), which is understandable, told me they are only speaking Dutch to me so that I can learn the language, since I have to learn it anyway. Of course, it can be a method to be forced to speak a foreign language, but at times I felt isolated and left out of conversations I couldn’t follow.

– now, after about 6 years of speaking Dutch every day, I was recently amazed by a Dutch person who hadn’t spoken to me before, but knew that I was not Dutch. He spoke Dutch with me as if HE was a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language well. I spoke to him normally, I certainly don’t sound Dutch, it’s clear that I am a foreigner, but still, I speak correctly, making maybe small mistakes, but nothing major. Well, his Dutch towards me sounded like: “You looking and you seeing the tree.”

– probably the same accent I mentioned also makes many customers calling me at work (it is an office based in the Netherlands, the phone number is Dutch) start talking to me in English. Which I swear they didn’t do when I was just starting here! 🙂 Even some customers who I have on the phone regularly and whom I have even written e-mails in Dutch before. Some of them make it very complicated for themselves, because for some reason they don’t start in Dutch or at least ask me first if they can speak Dutch to me, they just start in English and have sometimes a hard time finding their words.

Well, that was it, good luck to everyone learning Dutch!

 
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Posted by on 21 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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Cum am invatat limba olandeza (in Olanda)

Am venit in Olanda cu cateva zile inainte ca Romania sa intre in UE, precum am scris in postarea anterioara. Singurele mele cunostinte de limba olandeza erau bazate pe ceea ce invatasem singura dintr-o carte si un CD.

Ana, o prietena din Romania (acum locuieste in New York – acesta ar fi momentul perfect pentru a va da un link catre blogul ei, doar ca nu are unul :), dar credeti-ma ca ar fi unul foarte interesant!) imi pomenise de o carte olandeza: “Cirkel in het gras”. Am cumparat-o la scurt timp dupa ce m-am mutat aici, gandindu-ma sa incerc sa o citesc, daca reusesc.

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Cum-necum, am fost in stare sa citesc cartea, pe fiecare pagina aveam cateve cuvinte pe care nu le recunosteam, asa ca le cautam in micul meu dictionar olandez-roman (un cadou de la prietena mea Lia, care locuieste in continuare in Bucuresti, nici ea nu are blog, dar ar fi foarte potrivita pentru unul:)). Restul textului l-am inteles prin asocieri, comparatii cu toate limbile pe care le cunosc mai bine sau mai vag si probabil din context. Recunoasterea cuvintelor in limba asta straina era o mica victorie de fiecare data.

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Era deja mare lucru ca puteam citi intr-o limba aproape necunoscuta, dar sa o vorbesc era cu totul altceva. In opinia mea, nu vorbeam olandeza. Eram singura cu aceasta opinie. Toti in jurul meu incercau sa ma convinga ca as putea vorbi olandeza, daca as indrazni. Dupa mine oamenii astia erau nebuni :). Nu puteam sa accept ca se asteptau de la mine sa vorbesc o limba dupa cateva lectii citite intr-o carte.

In schimb cred ca eram un fel de burete la vremea aceea si am invatat multe cuvinte olandeze ascultand cu atentie, uitandu-ma la televizor, citind subtitratile. De asemenea, intrebam ce inseamna cuvintele pe care nu le intelegeam.

Dupa mai putin de doua luni de la sosirea in Olanda am decis ca e momentul sa iau niste lectii de limba olandeza. Exista o scoala in apropiere care oferea asemenea cursuri, dar mai intai trebuiam testata pentru a se stabili de la ce nivel sa incep. Asta mi s-a parut putin ciudat, pentru ca eu eram convinsa ca eram incepatoare, nu aveam niciun dubiu in privinta asta. Am fost programata pentru 5 teste: intelegerea unui text scris si a unui text vorbit, scris si doua feluri de vorbire. Mi-am dat toata silinta. Mai tarziu ne-am prezentat la o profesoara care urma sa ne dea rezultatul si verdictul. S-a asezat si m-a intrebat:  “Pentru ce esti aici?”. Reactia mea: uimire. A continuat: “Rezultatele tale sunt asa de bune incat nu prea avem ce sa te invatam. De ce nu vorbesti pur si simplu olandeza?” Nu imi mai amintesc ce am raspuns, dar trebuie sa fi fost ceva de genul: “Nu pot vorbi o limba pe care nu am invatat-o!” Ea probabil ca si-a imaginat ca ceva nu e in regula cu mine. 

Am gasit acum rezultatele testelor si vad ca am avut 4 pentru ascultare, scris si citit si 2 pentru vorbit (din pacate nu stiu pe ce scala, dar 2 era sigur inferior fata de 4).

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Pana la urma am putut sa particip la lectii de limba olandeza care se tineau o data pe saptamana  cate 2,5 ore. M-am alaturat unei grupe de cursanti  dintre care majoritatea erau polonezi, iar restul din alte tari. Lectiile erau variate, dar nu erau ceea ce simteam eu ca mi-ar trebui. Eu imi doream sa invat sa scriu in olandeza, reguli de gramatica, cuvinte – materie grea, de la inceput. Probabil ca ceilalti cursanti avusesera deja parte de toate astea in lectiile precedente. Au fost foarte surprinsi cand au auzit ca eu incepteam sa invat olandeza impreuna cu ei, care deja urmasera mai multe cursuri, incepand la nivele inferioare. Si eu eram la fel de surprinsa. Am discutat texte ale unor melodii olandeze populare, am comentat pe baza unor fotografii, am pregatit un discurs pe o tema la alegere, am facut exercitii. Nu mi se parea ca asa se incepe invatarea unei limbi noi, dar nu acesta era scopul acestui curs, avand in vedere ca nu era menit pentru incepatori ca mine.

In final, dupa 4 luni, am terminat cursul. Nivelul la care am incheiat a fost “pe drum spre B2”, nivelele fiind A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 (ultimul fiind cel mai ridicat). 

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– va urma –

 

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How I learned Dutch (in the Netherlands)

I came to the Netherlands a few days before Romania joined the EU, as I was telling you in the previous postMy only knowledge of the Dutch language was, as I wrote there, only what I had learned by myself from a book and a CD.

Ana, a Romanian friend (now living in New York – this would be the moment to share her blog, except she doesn’t have one :), but believe me, it would be very interesting!) had told me about a Dutch book: “Cirkel in het gras” and I bought this book soon after I arrived here, thinking to give it a try and otherwise, read it later, after I would have learned Dutch.

P1180667pSomehow, reading this Dutch book was doable, I had several words on each page which I didn’t recognize and I would look them up in a small Dutch-Romanian dictionary (a gift from my friend Lia, still living in Bucharest, no blog either, but very suitable for one :)). The rest of the text I understood by association, comparisons with all the languages that I speak well or vaguely and probably by understanding the context. Recognizing words in this foreign language was every time a small victory.

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Being able to read in a language I hardly knew was quite cool, but speaking the same language was something else. In my opinion, I did not speak Dutch. I was the only one who thought so. Everyone around me was trying to convince me I could speak Dutch, if only I dared. I thought that these people must be crazy :). I just couldn’t accept that I was expected to speak a language after a few lessons read in a book.

But I do think that I was a sort of a sponge at the time and I was able to learn a lot of Dutch words by listening and watching television and reading the subtitles. I also asked the meaning of words I didn’t understand.

After less than two months in the Netherlands we considered it was time for me to get some Dutch lessons. There was a school nearby where I could do this but first they had to test me in order to determine the level I should start from. This was a bit strange for me, I was convinced that I was a beginner, no doubt about it. I was scheduled for a total of 5 tests: listening comprehension, writing, reading comprehension and two kinds of speaking. I did my best. Later we had a meeting with one of the teachers who was going to give us the results. She sat down and asked me:  “What are you here for?”. I was puzzled. She went on: “Your scores are so high that there is not much we could teach you. Why don’t you just speak Dutch?” I don’t recall what I answered exactly but it must have been something like: “I cannot speak a language I haven’t learnt!” She probably thought something was very wrong with me. 

I have found the results of that test and see that I had a 4 for listening, writing and reading and a 2 for speaking (unfortunately I don’t know which scale was used, but 2 was the lowest score of the four).

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In the end I was able to attend lessons once a week for 2,5 hours each. There was a group of students I joined, most of them were Polish, the others were all from different countries. The lessons were diverse, but not what I felt I needed. I wanted to learn how to write in Dutch, grammar rules, words – the heavy stuff, from the beginning. Maybe the other students had already had all that in previous lessons. It came as a big surprise to them  when they heard that I was beginning my study of the Dutch language together with them, who had already attended several courses, starting at lower levels. I was just as surprised. We discussed lyrics of popular Dutch songs, we were commenting pictures, we had to prepare a speech on a subject of our own choice, we exercised. I didn’t quite feel this is the right way to start learning a language, but this wasn’t the aim of the course either, as it was not meant for beginners like me.

In the end, 4 months later, I finished the course. My exit level was “on the way to B2”, the levels being A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 (this last one is the highest). 

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– to be continued –

 
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Posted by on 15 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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Cum am inceput sa invat limba olandeza

Am venit in Olanda dupa ce am incercat cateva luni sa invat limba olandeza singura, acasa, cu ajutorul numai al unei carti si al unui CD (pentru cunoscatori: Het Groene Boek).

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Stiam ca olandeza este o limba germanica, asa ca ma asteptam sa aiba multe in comun cu germana si engleza, limbi pe care le invatasem ani de zile. Dar cuvintele ciudate si mai ales sunetele emise de CD erau totusi altfel. Prima lectie din carte era mai de introducere si continea, pe langa alte lucruri, intrebarea: “Hoe heet jij?”, insemnand: “Cum te cheama?”. Seamana cu aceeasi intrebare in germana: “Wie heißt du?”, dar numai daca stii cum sa privesti cuvintele 🙂 Dar aceeasi intrebare pe CD nu suna deloc germanica, daca semana cu ceva, atunci in mod clar cu chineza. Suna ceva de genul (cititi literele ca si cand ar fi romaneste): “hu heit ceai?”. Imitati un accent chinezesc in timp ce cititi intrebarea asta si veti intelege ce vreau sa spun 🙂

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Cu toate astea, nu am disperat, ci am continuat cu lectiile din carte, incercand sa invat cuvinte, putinele reguli gramaticale din carte care nu erau explicate decat cu ajutorul exemplelor si, ceea ce a fost mai greu, incercand sa invat sa pronunt cuvintele olandeze. Imi amintesc ca ascultam unele cuvinte de multe ori si tot fara sa inteleg un anumit sunet. Precum marsavul (daca nu este in mod oficial marsav, ar trebui sa fie!) sunet “ui”, as vrea sa va explic cum se pronunta, dar imi este imposibil. Daca m-as afla in fata voastra tot nu as putea sa il pronunt asa cum fac olandezii. In prezenta altor litere, precum in cuvantul “huis” (=casa) cred ca pot imita un sunet care sa fie acceptabil. Dar cand sunetul este de unul singur, in cuvantul “ui” (=ceapa), nu mai am unde sa ma ascund si devine evident cat de marsav poate fi sunetul asta 🙂

Motivul pentru care incercam sa invat olandeza era ca Romania, unde locuiam atunci, nu era inca membra a UE, iar ca sa fiu primita sa locuiesc in Olanda trebuia sa dau in prealabil un test de de limba. Parcursesem mai bine de jumatate din carte si nu eram deloc optimista in legatura cu testul. Dar exista posibilitatea de a suna un anumit numar si de a da telefonic un test pentru a capata o idee despre nivelul la care ma aflam. Nu imi mai amintesc cat a durat acel test, dar a parut sa dureze o vesnicie. Nu am fost in stare sa raspund la majoritatea intrebarilor. Cuprinsa de panica deja imi imaginam ca nu voi fi primita niciodata in Olanda. Rezultatul testului (aflat a doua zi) a fost ca nu fusesem rea deloc, daca imi amintesc bine raspunsesem bine in proportie de circa 60%. Ceea ce nu poate insemna decat un lucru: ca asteptarile nu erau ridicate, pentru ca majoritatea raspunsurilor mele au fost: “Nu stiu” 🙂

Cateva saptamani mai tarziu am fost salvata de UE cand s-a anuntat ca Romania va adera de la 1 ianuarie 2007, ceea ce pentru mine insemna ca nu mai era necesar sa dau testul de limba.

 

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How I began to learn Dutch

I came to the Netherlands after trying for a few months to learn Dutch by myself, at home, helped by a book and a CD (for the connaisseurs: Het Groene Boek).

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I knew that Dutch is a Germanic language, so I expected it to have a lot in common with German and English, languages I had learned for many years. But the strange words and certainly sounds that came out of the CD were quite different. The first lesson in the book was of a more general nature and contained among other things the question: “Hoe heet jij?”, meaning: “What are you called?”. It does resemble the German question: “Wie heißt du?”, but only if you know how to look at the words 🙂  But the same question on the CD didn’t sound Germanic at all, if anything, it was definitely Chinese. It sounds something like: “who hate chai?”. Fake a Chinese accent while reading this and you’ll understand what I mean 🙂

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Still, I did not despair. I went on with the lessons in the book and tried to learn words, the few grammar rules in the book that were not really explained further than by examples and, what was more difficult, I tried to learn how to pronounce the Dutch words. I recall listening to some words over and over again and still not understanding a certain sound. Like the infamous (if it isn’t officially infamous, it should be!) “ui” sound, I would like to explain it to you, but it is impossible. If I spoke to you in person I would still not be able to pronounce it like Dutch people do. And in the context of more letters, like “huis” (=house) I think I can mimic a sound which is acceptable, but when the sound is completely naked, in the word “ui” (=onion) I have no place to hide and it becomes obvious how infamous a sound it is 🙂

The reason I was learning the language was that Romania, where I was living, was not a member of the EU at that time and in order to be accepted to live in the Netherlands I was supposed to pass a language test. I had read more than half of the book and I was not really optimistic about passing the test. But I could call a certain number and have a test on the phone in order to get an idea of my level. I don’t remember exactly how long the test was, but it seemed to take forever. I was unable to answer most of the questions. Panic struck as I already thought I will never be permitted to live in the Netherlands. The result of the test revealed however (the following day) that I hadn’t done so badly, if I remember well it was something like 60% OK. Which could only mean that the expectations weren’t high at all, as most of my answers were “I don’t know” 🙂

A few weeks later I was finally saved by the EU, when the announcement came that Romania would join it on January 1st 2007, meaning for me that a language test was no longer necessary.

 
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Posted by on 14 August 2013 in ENGLISH POST

 

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