A friend recommended I play a little language game – a day each of speaking French, German and English to see how I was received when using each language. My experience on the first day, addressing the locals in my best French, was that, as soon as anyone clocked anything that gave away my country of origin, such as the English heading on my train ticket, they instantly began speaking English. I made an effort to use French at various points along the way but in essence this was, sadly, a very short-lived game!
Whilst the guidebook steered me towards the best places for traditional Belgian treats, it was less helpful in my other mission. Buying a Winnie the Pooh book in the language of my holiday destination has become something of a tradition. (I now have a whole shelf of Winnie the Pooh stories in various languages!) Dutch is spoken alongside French in Belgium and is especially evident in Bruges. I always thought my being able to understand snippets of spoken Dutch stemmed from its similarity to German. It has been shown that Dutch is the easiest language for a British person to pick up – I intend to test this theory out on friends with less German knowledge than I have in the near future!
Dinner for One!
Spying a sliver of blue sky between the grey clouds overhead, I embarked one afternoon on the boat trip. For less than €8, you can follow the river past some of the most beautiful scenery with commentary from a knowledgeable guide in English, French and Dutch as required. We passed Fidel the dog, notorious for surveying the river from his window day in, day out, and even I had to duck as the boat passed under the lowest bridge in the city!
The Day Wigan Came to Town
Diamonds Are Meant To Be A Girl's Best Friend....
.... But Chocolate Is Mine!
Bursting The Bubble
Language students of any age should not be afraid to persist even in the face of temptation to revert to speaking English. Although I did not have the opportunity to use my languages as much, or as often, as I had hoped, did not detract from the enjoyment of exploring such a beautiful city. I have come home excited at the thought of planning another adventure - the only question is – where to?