Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Learning Dutch (5): Dutch Letters

As you know, we moved to our first house in Almere, in December 2007. As you also may remember we brought everything from Portugal and the flat needed to be cleaned and painted.
Besides this huge work and the fact we were experiencing the coldest winter we remembered (until then, of course! ;-), we received many and long letters that we couldn't understand...
I felt like an illiterate person...

Very embarassed, I knocked on my Dutch neighbours door (or should I say on the heaven's door ;-).
"In spite of my seven years at University, the 1500 books I have at home in four different languages and my travels in Europe...here am I, knocking at Esther's door, asking her to read and explain this letter to me." I thought.

Esther and Bas were amazing and during the following months they helped me a lot! They knew almost everything about my private life by reading the letters: taxes, insurances, etc... Their friendly and supportive attitude helped me to deal with this awkward situation: exposing my privacy to people I had just met.

I remember to say to my husband: "I used to read letters to illiterate old people in Portugal who never went to school because they had a poor childhood.". My mother always told me to be gentle with people in need.
"I never thought to be in the same situation:knocking at someone's door asking for this kind of help." Again, I remembered my mother who always told me that life can be very twisty and we must be helpful, humble and polite with people. "We never know where we will be tomorrow." So true...

Let me share with you what I've learned then...

Usually a brief [letter/carta] begins with a Geachte heer/mevrouw [ Dear Sir/Dear Lady or Caro Senhor/ Cara Senhora ] and indicates the onderwerp [subject/assunto], generally something belangrijk [important/importante] or nodig [necessary/necessário] like:

an informatie [information/informação];

a toelichting [clarification/esclarecimento];

an aanmaning [notification/notificação];

a verrekening [payment/ liquidação];

an inschatting [evaluation/ avaliação];

Generally they ask you to...

doorgeven [to transmit/transmitir];

wijzigen [to change/alterar];

invullen [to fill/preencher];

machtigen [to autorize/autorizar];

betalen [to pay/pagar];

onderteken [to sign/assinar]

...something.

Finally, they will say they are bereikbaar [available/disponíveis] for more information, they will thank your medewerking [colaboration/colaboração] with a Bedankt and end the letter with a Met vriendelijke groet [Best Regards/Saudações cordiais].

Sometimes you will terugvinden [to find/encontrar] an envelop [envelop/envelope] that doesn't need postzegels [stamps/selos] to sturen [to send/enviar] to their kantoor [office/escritório]. After that, it's possible to ontvangen [to receive/receber] another letter with a "Graag ontvangen wij... " [We have gladly received.../Recebemos com agrado...].

Now, the song that always was in my mind each time I was knocking Esther and Bas door...;-))

10 comments:

Aledys Ver said...

That must have been very tough for you, Sandra! Luckily, you found two amazing people that were willing to help - that was incredible and very nice of them!
When I first came to NL I had of course, the help of my husband. But I would always try to decipher on my own first, what the letters said. I learnt a lot by doing that. I am happy to say that nowadays I am the one that does all the paper work, payments, dealings, etc. in this household and I do it in Dutch.
I know what you mean about feeling almost like an illiterate person because you could not understand the language. I felt exactly the same and I still do when I am, for example, in Germany and I can't understand what is being said or can't communicate my needs in the local language. It is an unknown feeling for me...

Presépio no Canal said...

Yes, it was, Aledys! Very tough! I'm used to solve my problems by my own.
This time it was huge to me... no previous basic knowledge of the language, living here about a month and receiving so many and loooong letters...
About Germany... I noticed something funny...after learning some Dutch, I could recognize some similar words in the streets. That was nice! :-) But, generally I go there only for one or two days and my husband knows a bit of German. However, I noticed that in Bavaria they seemed not have difficulties to speak English ...

Margarida Elias said...

De facto deve ter sido uma sensação muito estranha. Ainda bem que correu bem!
E realmente a tua mãe tem razão, nunca sabemos o dia de amanhã.
Bj!

Presépio no Canal said...

Margarida, foi das coisas que mais me custou. Sentir-me uma iletrada, estar tao dependente, estar a expor a minha vida e a incomodar as pessoas, praticamente sem conhece-las de lado algum. Num pequeno acto, estavam ali muitos sentimentos a mistura. Cada vez que batia a porta para perguntar se me podiam ler uma carta, custava-me imenso. Claro que eu so pedia a ideia principal. Depois de saber do que se tratava e ficar mais descansada, la ia eu com o meu amigo dicionario tentar traduzir alguma coisa, muitas das quais nao podia, por desconhecer, por exemplo, que se tratava de um verbo conjugado...

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning dearest! Anita

Presépio no Canal said...

Good morning, Anita! :-))

Sara said...

Este teu post traz uma mensagem de generosidade e justiça. É verdade: apesar de tudo, o mundo (ou melhor, as pessoas que nele encontramos) podem ser extaordinárias nos seus gestos e atitudes. E é sempre reconfortante quando batemos à porta de alguém e essa pessoa não só a abre, como nos oferece um "chazinho com bolinhos" :))))

Beijinhos!

Presépio no Canal said...

Sara, podes dize-lo ;-)) eles foram uns amores ;-)
muitos convites para um cafe e uma bolachinha ao serao-como e costume por estas bandas- na casa deles ou na nossa...claro, sempre com marcacao, que estamos na Holanda ;-)).. flores a porta...cuidaram do gato quando fomos de ferias... eu sei la, e nunca deixei de ter uma resposta rapida do Bas, sempre que aparecia de surpresa com uma nova carta ...e se eles aqui escrevem, oh, se escrevem... Bjs! :-)

ana said...

Sandra,
Julgo que os seus novos amigos foram para lá da generosidade, compreenderam a sua angústia e foram muito acolhedores o que leva à amizade. A sua privacidade foi mantida, de forma que o gesto foi de grande humanidade.
Adorei os Guns and Roses e esta sua rubrica é deliciosa!
Beijinhos. :))

Presépio no Canal said...

Ana ;-)) Tenho andado muito aos poucos de volta dos dossiers, a ver o que posso deitar fora (eles aqui escrevem muitas e longas cartas) e aproveitado para rever, para ver o que consigo comprender agora, revisitar momentos e sistematizar o vocabulario...
e sim, a Esther e o Bas foram fantasticos! :-)
Bjs!! e ha tanto ainda para contar...