What brought me to Amsterdam was a festival of learning called Limmud, or, in Dutch, Limmoed. I had already greatly enjoyed attending the longer Limmud U.K., so I was eager to experience this Dutch spin-off.
Like its British counterpart, Limmoed NL was wonderful, marked by deep learning, passionate attendees, and a joyous ambiance. (I had the good fortune to meet the exceptional volunteer organizers, and it’s clear that the model for joy and exuberance was set by them.)
The conference began Sunday afternoon, and that’s when I offered my first session, on “Four Exiles and Four Spiritual Revolutions.” Then on Monday I gave lectures on the history of Hebrew and on Bible translation. The conference languages were Dutch and English. Almost everyone in Holland understands English, and that’s the language I used for my presentations.
Even so, talking specifically about translation to an audience of non-native English speakers was a unique challenge. Normally (as in And God Said), I use English examples to illustrate my theoretical points, because I’ve found that people are best able to appreciate the nature of translation in their native language. But this time, most people’s native language was Dutch, with French coming in next, followed in last place by English. Even though the Dutch generally have excellent English, I didn’t know how readily they’d be able to appreciate fine nuances in English (like the potential danger of a “drive-through window” or the double entendre of a “strip mall”).
So I had spent the previous days pestering Dutch speakers, gathering examples to augment my English ones. I learned that peanut butter in Dutch is called “peanut cheese” (pindakaas); in Holland they don’t have drive-though windows but they do have “drive-in” houses; door means “through” and lopen means “walk,” but doorlopen means to “walk faster” or “get going”; the sneltrain (“fast train”) is slower than the “InterCity train”; and so forth.
I only made one mistake. I made notes about all of the words I needed, but I wrote them down in Dutch. Not knowing how to read Dutch aloud, though, I butchered all of the pronunciations during my presentation.
Still, the audience seemed receptive, and I received excellent questions.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and I hope I have the opportunity to return.