Joanna’s benefits of learning Dutch online
The past few months, Joanna is having weekly online Dutch group lessons. She has learned the very basics of Dutch conversation and grammar, and most importantly, correct pronunciation, so that the Dutch – who suffer of a small language tolerance – will understand her when she speaks Dutch. At Flowently, we inspire our students to take every opportunity to get exposed to the new language and ‘just do it’ in simple daily life situations. In times of Covid-19, it is a bit more challenging to practice what you have learned in real life, as cafes and shops are closed. However, there are still enough opportunities to test your skills!
First time on skates?
Starting to speak a new language in public is a bit like getting on a skates as an adult, for the very first time in your life. Just imagine, how unsure you feel, anxious to fall, trying to keep your balance, while everyone watching you, starting with small steps, while others, even young kids, are passing by on their skates elegantly. First thing you are looking for, is a little safe corner where you can find the courage to start training your skate muscles. Translating this to speaking Dutch, leave the safety of your screen and step into the real world!
Create your safe place
Joanna found her safe place in the street market. I went ‘naar de markt’ (to the street market) on Saturday, ready to use all practical phrases I had learned in my Dutch online classes. My first shot was the bakery! The blond blue-eyed Dutch stared at me asking ‘Zeg het maar?’, which I could interpret as ‘How can I help you?’ And I started with ‘Ik wil graag een brood’ (I would like to have a loaf of bread) and pointed to the bread that I was interested in. He asked in Dutch how many of them he should prepare. I was very proud of myself, since he didn’t use English right away. I said that I just needed one. He also asked me if he should cut the bread (also in Dutch, ‘gesneden’), which was a bit difficult for me at that time, since he understood everything I answered and started to cut it! Once done, he turned back to me asking ‘Do you want to pay by card or cash’, unfortunately this time in English, which was a bit disappointing for me, as I thought we were able to finish this conversation all in Dutch. It was a bit demotivating for me, but next time I’ll definitely reply in Dutch ‘Pinnen, graag!’ (by card please).
This really is a good start, but how to proceed? What can be your next step without being overwhelmed by an avalanche of Dutch and feeling completely lost? First of all, try to find someone that you can meet on a regular basis. It can be the blond bakery vendor that is at the market every Saturday? Secondly, ask yourself whether you can manage to visit him each week to purchase his products and start a friendly customer-vendor relation. Are you experiencing difficulties to find a subject for conversation? The Dutch love to discuss the weather. ‘Koud vandaag, he?’ (It’s cold, isn’t it?), ‘Wat een regen!’ (What a rain!), ‘Lekker weertje!’ (Nice weather!), ‘Hoe gaat het?’ (How are you doing?). Furthermore, praising products always works; ‘Dat brood was erg lekker!’ (The bread was really good!), don’t be surprised when he replies ‘Wil je misschien een stroopwafel proberen?’ (Would you like to try a ‘stroopwafel’?), Ja graag, lekker!
Let’s ask Joanna
So, Joanna, how do you think you could improve your small conversations?
‘I would say… try no matter what! Sometimes when I start a conversation I first say that I’m learning Dutch and really would like to have the conversation in this language. It is important to me that I don’t feel stressed about making mistakes or misunderstandings. It is no problem to repeat the same thing and to ask people to speak slowly, ‘een beetje langzamer alsjeblieft’. After the first few interactions in Dutch, I noticed it was getting more and more easier to communicate. I would also recommend listening to some YouTube videos about daily situations, since it helped me to grasp the Dutch language.’
How does being able to have these small conversations in Dutch influence you?
‘The effect is that I’m feeling more connected to those people and it’s like being part of the society, instead of feeling like an expat all the time. At least I can do my shopping and have my coffee in Dutch!’ Above all, it’s real fun to meet and stay connected with my colleagues at work, while we are all working from home now. It’s inspiring and an excellent way to socialise.
Thank you Joanna, for sharing your tips and experience with us. Even Covid-19 cannot stop you!
We are proud of you and your perseverance!