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A thank you letter I wrote to my Dutch friend

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Just thought I'd share this here in case it's an encouragement to anyone else. :)

-- Arende,

I know, I'm writing this in English. But I don't trust my Dutch dictionary (did I mention I found one of those while I was in Washington? Well, I did...and it's nice because it's Dutch to English but has the definitions in English) and my word order/grammar skills enough for this email. ;)

I just wanted to say thank you. 'Hartelijk dank,' I guess I should say. "But what for?" you might ask (or at least, most people seem to ask that)...

Thank you for helping me with that story, over two years ago. For being so eager at the forefront, and for continuing to read and make suggestions through every draft. Without you, I don't know that the story would be finished today.

Thank you for taking me seriously when I joked that I should learn Dutch to help with your stories. We didn't know exactly what we were doing, then, but you tried to teach me anyway, and started teaching me about your country as well.

Thank you for sticking with me through the Dutch course I took. For putting up with all of my moaning about how confusing certain things were, and my pesky questions about grammar and all those ways to say "to be." For correcting my poorly-phrased Dutch emails and early attempts at pronunciation, and yet letting me have a conversation at other times without worrying too much about word order. For translating bits of my writing and even reading it out loud. For dealing with my sometimes stereotypical American blunders. And for that one day in August when we spent an hour laughing at accents and my pathetic attempts at forming sentences out loud.

In short, thank you for the start of this "journey" and for sticking with me this far. Maybe there's no real "reason" for me to learn your language, since you're certainly doing quite fine with English. But I guess I always considered it a form of respect.

You know, a lot of people both within America and without tend to get caught in thinking English is the only language worth learning since it's used all over the world. And a lot of people think of the United States as the ultimate achievement, or as the best place to end up, or something like that. But I believe neither of those are true. I believe every language, every nation, every people, and every individual has something worth learning and knowing, if you're willing to look for it. And therefore all of these are worthy of honor and respect. And maybe some of those people and places and languages will make their way into your heart and, in some way, change you. Change something about how you think, or introduce a new favorite activity or food, or change how you see the world. We take on a bit of the personality of every culture we come in contact with, I think. But maybe one of them becomes special to you, for one reason or another. Maybe you don't even know all the reasons.

Maybe a language, a people, a country takes a piece of your heart. Maybe you belong to it, somewhat--with the color orange being one of your new favorites, with certain objects that have now irrevocably received a different name in your head, with a few jokes about things no one around you would get. Maybe it becomes a little bit like home in a place you've never been.

And to think, it all started with one person. One simple little email with the first phrase I had ever seen in Dutch.

And so, thank you.

I don't know what the future holds for me and the Dutch I've learned so far and the pieces of your country I've learned, too. But I'm going to keep learning all I can. And maybe someday I'll get to meet your beautiful land. (And you!) Maybe someday I'll even live there. Wouldn't that be something?

Thank you for all your enthusiasm and patience. It's been more appreciated than I could ever say.


Thanks also to everyone here who's helped me along the journey! Couldn't have done it without you!

2 years ago