I can’t pronounce my neighborhood

February 5, 2014 · 10 comments

in Belgium, daily life

Gentbrugge.

rowhouses

Gent + Brugge. Brugge is the Flemish spelling for Bruges, which I pronounce like “bruise” with a “zh” at the end instead of just a “z”. Therefore, Gent+Bruges=Gentbrugge. Right?

Wrong.

One of my first Flemish lessons occurred in Kyrgyzstan without me really knowing it. The last names of one of our Belgian friends has a “G” stuck in the middle. It’s a long, scary-looking last name; begins with a vowel, lots of letters, a random “y” stuck in there, etc. When Farrell or I tried to say his last name, we usually did so with an overemphasized and confused tone. One day he corrected our main error: the Flemish “G” is not like the English hard “G” (like “go”), but sort of closer to the Arabic “غ” (“gh”). Hence why the English spelling of Ghent has the “h” thrown in there, because it’s actually pronounced somewhere between “Gent” and “Hent”.

So, there’s my first problem. I’m incredibly awkward at trying to strike that balance and get the Flemish “G” right. Usually I say “Gent” with my American accent and just move on.

graffitibirdseventually. I think about walking around Bishkek whispering zdrastvoyte under my breath so I could actually say “hello” like a normal person, or asking my Russian-speaking friend to slowly repeat my street name over and over (too-rooz-BEK-oh-va) so I could actually tell taxi drivers where I lived. Isn’t that the theme of my life lately? Right now, this is hard. But it will get easier. Memory of Kyrgyzstan. The end!

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And this is the part where you guys share your language troubles in the comments section so I can feel like we’re all giving each other internet-hugs!

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