Dutch, English, French, and German.
I learned English grammar in High School in the Netherlands, but became familiar with the language itself by watching the Animals, the Beatles, the Monkeys and the like in teen programs on Dutch television (we couldn't receive BBC directly at that time). American English came to me initially through television series such as Bonanza, I-Spy, the Lucy Show, and thanks to all the old movies I watched with my dad. In High School I transcribed the lyrics of American singer/ songwriters for my musician friends.
In Los Angeles (age 18 to 21) I devoured books on cooking, pop psychology as well as American literature (I learned to enjoy Paris through the eyes of Henry Miller). Later, while working in Dutch multicultural theater as a designer, my understanding of American English became apparent when I saved an acquaintance from translating playwright David Henry Wang's "a duck in heat" (in The Dance and the Railroad) with "stewed duck".
Around the same time that the directors of Taller Amsterdam had me wear all kinds of different hats, among which those of costume-designer, grant writer, P.R. person and publicist, my dear old friend and mentor Werner Löwenhardt (1919-2006) commissioned me to take care of his English correspondence.
'The Blacks' poster
A fan of author Theo Thijssen, I translated literary and promotional material, from Dutch to English, for the Theo Thijssen Museum in Amsterdam.
My father was born in Belgium and spoke Flemish as well as French, and my maternal grandmother worked as a French Governess before marrying my grandfather. I like to think there's a gene for conversational French, so it must have been in my blood to translate Les Negres (The Blacks) by Jean Genet, from French to Dutch, and create a contemporary stage dialogue in collaboration with fellow theater makers Henk Tjon and Maarten van Hinte.
My mother tongue may be Dutch,
I can wrap my mind around subjects
in a few other languages, such as
English, French and German.