The Taj Mahal wasn’t build in one day…

Mixing cultures = accumulating wisdom.

A golden oldie… By coincidence I talked to two people who asked me if I had something to do with ‘De Taalcampagne’ (The Language Campaign) from 2007. Indeed I did. And I am so glad (and a little proud) that it is still so appreciated :-). I haven’t published it here earlier, because it is VERY Dutch… But decided I will make an effort to explain and translate it.

I was asked to think about a way to get people with another first language enthusiastic about practising Dutch. Due to some unfortunate circumstances I had only two weeks to come up with a plan.

Language is important, not only to understand what happens around you, but also to explain (about) yourself. Share your culture and your wisdom. So I choose to work with proverbs; a symbol and great source of cultural and universal wisdom everybody is familiar with and can relate to, educated or not.

The Taj Mahal wasn’t build in a day… (Like Rome…)

After the monsoon (tropical rain season) the sun will shine…

That’s like comparing burkhas (a Muslim robe covering the complete female body) and chadors (a headscarf)… Apples and pears in the original Dutch proverb, apples and oranges in the English version.

I combined 7 Dutch proverbs with 7 words from the 7 most common cultures here in Rotterdam and shaped them like the Delfts Blue tiles, we Dutchies are famous for. (They traditionally hang in the smallest room in the house, filled with some wise words to ponder while…, never mind…)

On the bottom of the poster I explained the proverb for the non-native speaker and the strange word for the Dutch readers, bringing them together. It was a huge success; the posters got stolen a lot and the rapport, in the shape of a little tile, still pops up here and there.

It says: Asking someone the koto of their body. The original Dutch saying is; Asking someone the clothes of their body; asking a lot and not just material things, it is used for being too inquisitive, too curious… A koto is a traditional dress from Suriname. What makes it extra interesting is the fact that in the folding of the headdress of the koto (secret) message can be passed on.

It says: You can’t let them eat the uierboord from your sandwich… There is no English version, but it means something like: You can’t give them all the nice bits and  stay behind with just dry bread… Cheese is the word that got replaced by uierboord an old fashion ‘delicacy’ from Rotterdam. It’s sliced cow tit… Which most people find a revolting idea, giving the proverb an interesting twist.

It says: Finding the dog in the tagine (a Moroccan slow cooker)… The dog in the original proverb is found in a pot. It means your to late for the feast; everything is gone. The dog in Islamic culture is not a house pet and is regarded as a dirty animal, increasing the impact of the find…

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