In a similar vein to my previous post, I’d like to share my experience in the Netherlands a few months ago.
I had a problem with my car in a small town close to the German border (not in Amsterdam). I called my insurance company in France and about 20 minutes later, I got a phone call from the tow truck driver, who was looking for me. I tried to read the name of the street, but… although I’m a linguist, I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to pronounce it in Dutch. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that there might be a language problem. I know the Dutch speak three or four languages, but as I answered, I realized he spoke perfect English, and I couldn’t speak a word of Dutch, not even tell the name of the street in a recognizable manner.
He found me in the end, despite my funny pronunciation, and fixed the car. Before leaving, he told me that he was learning French, but wasn’t quite up to speaking it yet. He had a girlfriend in France, so he wanted to speak the language.
So this is a guy who is a tow truck driver by profession, and speaks Dutch and English, is learning French, and since we were so close to Germany, I bet he knows some German too.
How’s that for multilingualism? I’ve still to find the French tow truck driver who speaks English, to begin with, let alone Dutch or Italian, or even German! Correct me if I’m wrong.