Learning any new language is intimidating, especially learning it as an adult. What I want to say in conversation is much more complicated than what my son chatters away to himself. Different tenses, sub-clauses, conditional etc are rarely part of his standard vocabulary and yet they are of mine. Combine that with the alien (to me) word ordering in Dutch and the fact that everyone speaks good English means there is a high barrier to overcome to talking in Dutch. I am good enough now that I can order food in a restaurant, or do the shopping in Dutch. Until the reply is something unexpected and I revert to the easy option of “Spreekt U Engels?” or a vacant stare.
I have been having lessons for the last year and am definitely making progress, though it’s slower than I’d like as I can’t focus much attention on it with two children to look after most of the time. Even for the classes my daughter comes along! Watching TV in Dutch is helpful – the children give me an excuse to watch things like Sesaamstraat and even the subtitles on CSI help me. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it.
I am starting to be able to have conversations in Dutch with the other mothers at the nursery, and the teachers at the school are good at forcing/encouraging me to use Dutch. Eventually I will have homework to help with, so I need to keep going to stay ahead of the children!
I do find though that if I don’t know a word in Dutch I use the Spanish or French word, as subconsciously I know I don’t want the English word. I’m sure this must really confuse people 🙂 Also, when we went on holiday to Spain earlier in the year I kept starting sentences in Spanish and end them in Dutch so it’s all a little confused in my brain right now :S
I am noticeably finding some of the children’s books we have in Dutch easier to read now. And last week I found I couldn’t remember what something was called in English, but knew it in Dutch (wattenstaafjes if anyone’s interested). Just keep going and I’m sure it will work itself out…
PS Photos from our holiday to Spain as they’re tangentially relevant 🙂
PPS I think my favourite Dutch word is geen – the negative of a, as in “I don’t have a car” is “Ik heb geen auto”.