If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably aware that I’m from the Netherlands. I grew up on Dutch children’s literature, which is awesome (Annie M.G. Schmidt, anyone? Thea Beckman?) although I also read a lot of translated English novels (Roald Dahl!). Either way, I read these books in Dutch, which is the main point here.
When I was about ten I started to learn English at school and became more and more interested in this fascinating language, eventually studying it at university. That is also when I stopped reading Dutch books altogether. I’m pretty sure that up until May last year I hadn’t read a Dutch novel for over two and a half years (apart from the one I was writing myself at the time).
But then I started to read and review books for a Dutch literary website (www.tzum.info), which meant reading Dutch books again. Dutch translations of novels written in other languages, to be more accurate. It took some getting used to to read novels in my native language again. It’s not as if I hadn’t read anything in Dutch for all that time (that would be kind of impossible), but a whole novel? That’d been a while.
Turns out, I definitely prefer English books.
There’s something about the Dutch language that makes me get bored with a novel much more quickly. To me, English feels like a vibrant language that is much better equipped to tell a good story and to express emotion than Dutch is. Why do you think I started blogging in English? I can express myself better in this language than in my own native tongue. I realised this again when I was writing a review in Dutch this weekend: sentences started to form themselves in my head in English, and when I tried to translate them into Dutch they just fell flat.
The same happens when I’m reading. It’s not that I don’t like a novel written in Dutch at all, it’s just that I’m pretty sure I would’ve liked it even better if it’d been written in English. English is a much more imaginative language than Dutch is; it’s much easier to be creative with it. It’s more flexible and has a much nicer flow to it.
Perhaps this makes it sound as if Dutch is an extremely dull, formal language, which is not necessarily the case. There are plenty of amazing Dutch novels which are beautifully written. However, given the choice, I will always choose an English translation of a foreign novel over a Dutch one.
Having said that, the Dutch language will always be special to me and is perfect in its own way.