First Dutch Immersion Day

First Dutch Immersion Day

My Mum and I have learned over 500 words in Dutch and are now at 30 lessons in Duolingo! We decided to try our first Dutch Immersion Day after we reached 500 words. That took about six weeks, but I feel we are making good progress. How did our first time doing immersion go? Let’s find out!

Immersion Day Plan:

Failing to plan is planning to fail, so here’s what the rules for the day were:

  • If we don’t know the word(s) but we can say the sentence, look up the word.
  • Have a computer going all day for Google Translate and use my phone for it too.
  • Spend 1 hr labelling things around the house in Dutch. Note: it is a great thing to do, it’s just that even now, we still haven’t done it yet. LOL.
  • Keep the Dutch radio on (BNR Nieuwradio). Plus, watch Arjen Lubach. See my previous post on learning Dutch for why I use these sources.
  • Do a complete review. Note: English during Dutch lessons is okay for translation purposes.
  • Switch computer and cell phone to Dutch.

There were also things I wanted to accomplish that day, but then decided it was worth waiting to do them.

There’s a reason why I decided to wait on these things. Right now, here’s how my first Dutch Immersion Day went.

A Dutch Morning:

The morning started off relatively easy. I had covered a lot of words typically used in the morning that are related to breakfast and greeting others. The night before, I had switched my computer and cell phone over to Dutch. To be honest, it was easy to understand the names of apps, login information and whether someone is typing on WhatsApp. At first glance, you don’t think about it when you see that information in your dominant language, but it’s easier to translate than you might think.

It’s not easy to wake up and automatically immerse yourself in a foreign language while your brain is warming up. No, wearing a toque doesn’t help. Wearing a toque in Canada provides a lot of benefits, but this isn’t one of them. LOL.

While doing the Duolingo lessons and review, I started to get overwhelmed. One of the rules for the day said that English is okay for translation purposes on Duolingo, but I could tell I was getting overwhelmed because I was leaning on English more and more. By lunchtime, I couldn’t go any further with Dutch. I lasted about 3-4 hours with immersion. I didn’t feel like listening to the radio, watching Arjen Lubach, or labelling items around our living space.

Wakeup Call:

Okay, I am NOT ready to move to the Netherlands yet! Plus, 500 words is good enough for a bit of immersion, but not for a whole day. If I were to move to the Netherlands tomorrow, I would probably be crying within a few days. I have always respected people who can move to a country and learn the language from scratch. Now, that respect has increased TENFOLD! I do wonder how often tears happen with people who have to learn a language from scratch in a new country. It’s not something that’s ever talked about.

I wish I could remember what it was like to move from France at two years old and learn English at school. Although, in some ways, it’s better that I don’t remember it. From what my Mum said to me, my teachers weren’t exactly supportive of bilingual children. I have a theory that this is why I rebelled against speaking French for years! It certainly knocked my confidence in French, and even though I have tried to regain it, it just hasn’t happened.

There was a high point in the day. I tested my comprehension of Dutch by watching the video of the Netherlands welcoming Trump in his own words.

America First Netherlands Second

In the video, I don’t need to turn on the Dutch subtitles until “This is a message from the government of the Netherlands”. Then, I turn the Dutch subtitles on. To my surprise, I was able to understand over 90% of the video! It makes sense though because the way Trump talks is VERY basic and if you translate that into another language, it’s very basic too!


Even though I make a point of doing a bit of Dutch when I feel tired, I still understand that I need breaks sometimes. As my Mum said, you are kidding yourself if you think you aren’t going to encounter the language when you are stressed, tired, dealing with an emergency, or anything else that challenges your language ability. One thing I never really understood as a bilingual child is that sometimes you need a break from one of your languages. It wasn’t until I had a colleague who flipped out once because none of us spoke her language that I understood the importance of resting from a language. Okay, my colleague wasn’t exactly a nice person, but this time, I would say she had a point in flipping out.

I know when I can do Dutch and I know when I can’t, yet. I recently felt like crap physically after overdoing it on a workout and having a weird nap afterwards and I just could NOT do Dutch under those circumstances! One way I laugh about it is remembering this Jackie Chan blooper. He’s flubbing his lines and then he says, “I hate English!” Yep, I get that.

I did put some pressure on myself with this Dutch Immersion Day. I am good at learning languages thanks to being bilingual from birth. Sometimes, I have surprised myself with languages. There have been quite a few times that I have been on a bus in London (the perfect place for overhearing people’s conversations) and I am able to understand everything a person is saying in a certain language, even if I haven’t taken classes in it.

What Next?:

I wasn’t able to do everything on the list for my first Dutch Immersion Day. I will get to labelling items around the house and I will find a translation app that is suitable. Additionally, I will switch my computer and cell phone language to Dutch more often. I’m not ready to look up ebooks in Dutch yet.

The plan is to do another Immersion Day when I reach 1000 words. That might happen in May since it only took me six weeks to learn 500 words, and as of publishing this, it’s now 620 words. Heck, I laughed remembering when I had a hard time starting my Dutch diary of grammar and vocab words. It was like David Rose holding his crumpled tape measuring his cedar chest when Mutt asks him, “How far are you?” and David says, “I’m this far”.

So, that’s how well my first Dutch Immersion Day went! Feel free to share any stories you also have about language learning in the comments!

20 thoughts on “First Dutch Immersion Day

  1. I apologize that it took me so long to read your latest blog post. I am a big fan of Duolingo and find it very useful when trying to learn a new language. I really like that it includes both written and spoken language in the lessons. Often times, I find it hard just trying to pronounce words if I don’t know how the words are supposed to sound like, or maybe this is just me?

    I think it’s great that you and your mum did a Dutch Immersion Day to get the feel of what it’s like living in the Netherlands and speaking this language. Wow! 500 words is a lot of words, and a great start I think. Yes, I think 1000 words calls for another Immersion Day. That is another big milestone worth celebrating!

    1. It’s normal to have that with pronunciation. I also find it weird to mistake one word for another word lol. I do feel like this was a good start. We were thinking of doing another Dutch Immersion Day at 750 words, but I don’t think so. Duolingo is certainly a great language reseource for learning a new language, but I don’t feel it’s so good for a language I already know

      1. I’m not sure how many levels Duolingo has but it might not hurt to complete all of the levels, and celebrate after completing it. I heard that Rosetta Stone is also good but it’s very expensive. Don’t feel bad if you’re not ready for another Dutch Immersion Day yet. Learning any language takes time, practice, and patience.

      2. The levels depend on the language. Dutch has 6, but I heard French has 8. I also found out Rosetta Stone is free through the Calgary Library

  2. I’m happy to see you’re still taking breaks when you need them. Learning a new language can be really hard and sometimes you need a break to just relax. If you force yourself to learn even when you’re mentally exhausted you won’t end learning properly and you’ll start hating the language. Best of luck with learning more words and I look forward to the next Immersion Day!

    1. Thanks. It’s not something that’s often talked about, but it’s absolutely necessary. Thanks for your kind wishes and hoping the next Immersion Day goes well too!

  3. Hmm, what a wonderful immersion it is. How difficult is Dutch? Yes, the vocab is always a big issue with language learning. I mean compared with vocab, grammar is always the second. Actually sometimes I wonder why there are no speakers of Dutch in the NYC region which is said to be first founded by Dutch settlers. Also there were many Dutch settlers in Connecticut and Pennsylvania too. Well, I don’t know. maybe I will never know.

    1. I don’t find Dutch too difficult. It’s more about speaking and understanding. The Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch. I forget the history with that. You should be able to research it though. Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  4. It’s great that you’re pushing ahead with learning Dutch. When learning Portuguese in Brazil, I found watching Brazilian novellas an entertaining and easy way to put my vocabulary to use. I recall the day I jumped up for joy when I realized that I had understood 90 percent of the soap opera πŸ™‚ What’s great about this form of language learning is that you can connect dialog with actions.

    1. That’s a great idea to watch novellas and soap operas! I have a VPN so I should be able to find something. That must have been an incredible day to be able to understand 90% of a show. Although, understanding 90% of Donald Trump in Dutch is a good achievement for now lol. Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  5. 500 words is quite an accomplishment and I love your ambition to try to have a Dutch immersion day even if it wasn’t entirely successful. It’s clear that you’re putting in a lot of effort into this and that’s amazing. What might help is sampling some Dutch cuisine too πŸ™‚

  6. Another language gets harder to learn the older we get. It is good exercise for the brain. I started school French late in Grade 4 and by the end of the year, I was 2nd in the class, behind only a French girl. In 1984/85, we took Japanese lessons and watched all kinds of Japanese TV (not much on in those days) to prepare for our solo travels to Japan. I still know quite a few words and phrases. My son has been learning Dutch for about 4 years and likes to annoy us by answering our questions in Dutch. He watches a lot of Dutch shows on Netflix and sometimes watches English shows with Dutch soundtrack. Happy immersion. Allan

  7. I love that you trialed this and all of the ideas and rules you came up with. I think labelling everything is an awesome idea too! My kids went to a French Bilingual school for 5 years so I know the challenges of both the French and English speakers in that situation. Plus, the many families where French and English were third and fourth languages. This also reminded me of moving to London and sitting on a street corner and crying when absolutely everything went wrong in one single day that could. I speak English as a first language so it wasn’t even a language thing. It was being a new expat in a foreign country. Challenges present themselves that you aren’t expecting. I think you are preparing yourself in the best way. Good luck!

    1. That’s cool that your kids went to a bilingual school. We have all had days like that in a new country where nothing can go right and we just have to cry. Thanks for sharing your story and for commenting πŸ™‚

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