Posted by: Corri van de Stege | August 29, 2007

Double Dutch

I’m waking up, don’t want to, there’s a cup of coffee on the
bedside table.  I hurt my toe in the middle of the night, confused
where I was, when trying to get up for some reason or other, hitting my toes against the bed post, muscles still aching from all the walking and the carrying
over the weekend and vaguely realising that I will really have  to
pick up all my e-mails, organise things, read papers and I simply
want to stay in my half sleep, vivid dreams that seem to
take me from country to country and engage me in conversations
in different tongues.
The doorbell rings, I shoot up, look at my husband who is
still there as well, thinking it must be the postman delivering a packet
or a letter that needs signing for.
Then I recall that  we are having a sofa delivered, ordered
months ago, but surely it’s too early?  I look at the alarm, just after
seven, cannot be a delivery.
I grab a dressing gown, open the front door, a man, with a piece of
paper that he pushes under my nose, I’m not wearing my glasses
so it doesn’t mean anything to me, just some grey lines on white.

Bezorgt u een bankstel? I ask Maar het is nog zo vroeg, we zouden toch
eerst bellen om acht uur en dan een tijd afspreken?
He looks at me, does not comprehend, I look at him, thinking it cannot
be the sofa, must be something else.  Wat is dit dan?

You’re speaking in Dutch !! I hear my husband shout from upstairs.
I look as bewildered as the man in front of me
Oh my god, I’m still asleep totally unaware of the language switch, still in Rotterdam
taking deliveries for my son, who had to go to work.
I apologise, I say sheepishly I really am sorry, I spoke to you in Dutch didn’t I.
He looks relieved Thank goodness, no matter luv, just wondered what you were
saying, didn’t understand a word!
It is the sofa and two chairs and he is hugely relieved that he
has found a native speaker after all, and happily removes the old
sofa to the garden, gets his mate and together they deliver the new
set up, place them for us and are full of good cheer.
Just as well we didn’t ring the bell at a quarter to seven luv, that really would
have been problems by the looks of it,
he says cheerfully, and gets me to sign
his delivery form. 

I am still bewildered, this has not happened to me for years!



  1. I understand you. I once did a tour of 4 countries in under 48 hours and there was a time when I didn’t know where I was and what language to speak. It was on business, of course and that circumstance added to the problem. Going from the Canary Islands to britain via Seville, then Britain to Ireland, then Ireland to Holland,Holland to France and back to Madrid and finally again in Tenerife.

    I had to reconstruct my thinking processes.

  2. Under the for of both jetlag and change of tongues, I found myself conscious but not fully capable of conducting any interpersonal activities when I hopped around from Japan to Hong Kong and then Indonesia. Just like Jose, except I was in a different continent.

    Do you dream in English or in Dutch?

  3. I know that feeling too Jose, as I used to do it quite regularly in the past. It caught me unawares this time though, partly I think because the few days spent in Holland were very intense and quite removed from my working life!
    Matt – I think that particular morning I must have been engaged in Dutch dreams as I continued speaking in Dutch! Usually I dream in English, even when abroad, say in France, Spain or wherever!

  4. A question: do really dreams have a language? I believe they do not. I believe the brains do not speak any language.

  5. Jose: I think I’ve always assumed that dreams have language, minimally they seem to have a particular cultural setting that invokes one language rather than another? I think I need to retrieve Noam Chomsky or another linguist from somewhere on my bookshelves!

  6. Babies dream. Dogs dream and I bet many other animals also do, and they have no language. It is the brain reflecting images. Some of those images may be accompanied by language.

    Well that’s my opinion anyway.

  7. Mmmm this sounds very convincing actually. You’re probably right Jose, but I think my dreams are accompanied by language, is that because I am a light sleeper?

  8. Or is it, seachanges, because you speak very much? LOL

  9. Jose: I cannot win, can I? 🙂

  10. Of course you can, seachanges, I was just joking, sorry.

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