Anthony Geary Goes Dutch

Here, Geary talks tongues — speaking in them, that is. Splitting his time between Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and the U.S. has afforded him the unique opportunity of learning Dutch. “I speak well. I can get along fairly well in most conversations,” he says — in English. “The interesting thing is, where I live, most people speak English anyways. They hear my accent, they switch — so then you have to be very sly to keep the Dutch speaking Dutch to you.”

It’s all Greek to us, but this daytime vet knows the value of being truly comfortable in his second home. “They’re all bilingual or trilingual, and Dutch is a difficult language. It’s also a boutique language,” he explains. “It’s only spoken by about 15 million people in the whole world, and they only speak it in Holland and a version of it in South Africa. Afrikaans is part-Dutch, part-English, part-African. People say ‘Why would you learn Dutch? Nobody speaks it. Why not French?’ Even the Dutch say that to me! I say because I want to live here, I think it’s only common courtesy that I speak the language.”

And how did Geary become so competent in this unique boutique speak? “Well, I have a lot of Dutch friends who have been patient enough to speak it with me but I did take courses and I still do,” he reveals. “I went to a school in Amsterdam, and every time I would go there for more than 10 weeks, I would take a 10-week course.” And he’s been there quite often, “so, I’ve been going back and forth now for 10 years.” But more important than classes is the practical application and he stresses, “I’ve picked it up and then I speak it. Whenever I go into the city or out into the countryside, I try to speak Dutch as long as the people will let me.”

And that tends to be the key problem. “As soon as they hear the accent, they switch. They prefer to speak English with you because they think it’s fun to speak English,” he points out, “and I’m looking for a chance to practice my Dutch.”

So, how does Geary get around that? Why, in true Luke Spencer fashion, of course. A “sly” teacher of Geary’s gave him this piece of advice: “You must tell people you come from Finland. Nobody speaks Finnish and they won’t expect you to speak English.”