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.
- 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!”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).