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!

Self-Care:

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!

Learning Dutch I: First Impressions

I have been learning Dutch for almost a month and here are my first impressions of the language, and Dutch culture.

My Learning Plan:

When you learn a new language, especially for moving to a new country, you HAVE to have a learning plan! Of course, plans are a work in progress, but here is my plan so far.

  1. Daily lessons on Duolingo. At the time of this writing, I am currently working through all the lessons on Level 1! I have reached mastery level on the very first lesson. I have to pass a challenge to reach Level 2, but I feel like I am almost there! IMHO Duolingo is the best for learning a new language. I introduced it to my Mum, and she loves it too! She and I are used to learning languages the old-fashioned way. Yes, when I learned Russian, I did it the old-fashioned way. Now, we both say, “Bring on new ways like Duolingo!”
  2. Listening to Dutch radio. My favourite news station is BNR Nieuwsradio. It mainly focuses on national news, but it’s also helpful to hear international news. Funny thing is, I understand international news better in another language because there are certain terms reporters use that are universal.
  3. Watching Dutch comedy. I watch De Avondshow met Arjen Lubach clips on YouTube. I watch clips with both English and Dutch subtitles for the sake of both listening and reading Dutch.
  4. Have a Dutch Immersion Day once a month. If I’m going learn Dutch to a level where I am prepared to move there, it’s important to know that I’m going to hear Dutch all the time. Plus, I will have to adapt accordingly. My first Dutch Immersion Day is going to be in late March, when I am, hopefully at Level 2 in Duolingo.

More About Learning Dutch:

I’m going a bit beyond my first impressions here. I have an ultimate goal in mind, and that is to be able to read The Girl with the Pearl Earring in Dutch. Here’s to hoping I can make good progress on that goal this year!

One thing I do when I listen to the radio is close my eyes. That way, I can let my ear adjust to the pace of the language. I know when I move, I am going to need to ask people to speak a bit slower. Hopefully, getting used to conversational Dutch from the radio and Arjen Lubach’s comedy show will help me adjust quicker. I’m grateful that these days, you can get lots of media in another language. It’s something I never had learning a language in a classroom. There is a large gap between the classroom and the real world in a new language, and I am hoping greater access to media is helping learners to bridge that gap quicker. The good news: I have been doing this for less than a month and I am already picking things up!

After I move, I will have times when I am overwhelmed with Dutch. It’s normal, and I have to learn what to do during those times. I can feel overwhelmed when I am tired, sick, or anything. That’s why I am going to do a Dutch Immersion Day once a month (at least to start). I am still at a basic level, but we’ll see what happens.

Dutch vs German vs English:

Here are two things people ask me. 1. Does it help to know some German before learning Dutch? and 2. How socially acceptable is it to speak English? Here’s what I have found from my research and experience.

I took a German class for a term in school and picked up a bit by osmosis because I lived in an EU country for over a decade. It does help a bit to know some German, but there are significant differences in pronunciation. Fortunately, pronunciation is a strength for me. Every language teacher I have ever had has told me I have perfect pronunciation and the penny drops when I tell them I was a bilingual child. However, I am careful to NOT slip into German pronunciation. The standard advice I have got is this. If I forget a Dutch word or Dutch pronunciation, say it in English! It’s more socially acceptable to say it in English than in German.

There is still significant tension between the Dutch and the Germans after the two world wars. I want to respect that as I am learning Dutch. If my Mum or I catch each other with German pronunciation, we correct it! I’m pretty sure I will pick up German by osmosis again, but I might also pick up Flemish. In any case, I am considering learning German once I have moved to the Netherlands and I have a good grasp of the language. We might be living near the German or Belgian border because it’s cheaper. So, I will get what I will get!

Have you learned Dutch, or moved to another country where you had to learn a new language? Let’s discuss this in the comments!

If you want to see how I am progressing on Dutch and moving to the Netherlands, feel free to go to my page Netherlands for my posts on that (it’s new at the moment lol).