Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Four twenties, ten and nine

You might think that's a funny way of expressing the number 99. Well, that's because it is! In Belgium you're more likely to hear 'nonante' than 'quatre-vingt-dix' for 90, as well as a sensible option for 70 (septante) too. 80 can be said as huitante, but quatre-vingt seems more common.

I have a habit of totally missing numbers when somebody says them to me - my brain seems to register that the person has said a number, but as to what that number is, your guess is as good as mine. I have learned very quickly to keep a tally of what I want to buy in a shop so I can hand over the right sized note, and then hope that no one noticed that I didn't understand the precise total. However, numbers are significantly easier here rather than in France, and I would love to be able to understand numbers more immediately than I do now.

As a side note, if you're interested in the quirks of Belgian French, there is a blogpost on another website which explains the differences very accurately, and more eloquently that I am doing! You can find the link here.

In particular, of all the Belgianisms, my lack of understanding of 'savoir' seems to get me into a bit of bother. I learned to express ability using the verb pouvoir (to be able to), whereas people here seem infinitely more keen on savoir (to know):

Je ne peux pas le faire (I can't do it)
Je ne sais pas le faire (I don't know how to do it)

This leads to ambiguity that I don't know how to deal with. For example, the other night I was asked if I knew how to put one of the children to bed. I said yes, as I've been doing it for a few weeks. The response was then, 'Well, go on then!'. It seems I was supposed to interpret the question not as 'are you capable of' but rather 'will you?', the problem being of course that I don't know which meaning was the intended one.

It will take some getting used to!

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