Learning Dutch

Last week I found out that I passed my re-take of the Dutch NT2-2 exam. So I have now completed the qualification. My First New Year’s Resolution completed for 2017! Doing the exam the second time around I knew what to expect and I used the time better. The longer questions have thinking time before you speak and I made sure to write down, word for word, what I wanted to say (as much as I could in the time). This meant that when I was speaking it flowed better and I could double-check as I went that verbs matched etc.

Following my exam success I thought I would list a few things that helped me to learn Dutch. Four years ago I didn’t know any Dutch – in fact I didn’t even know then that we would be moving here – and now I have professional level language skills. So I have a piece of paper I can wave at potential future employers.

Things that helped me learn dutch:

  • Trying to talk first in Dutch as far as I could
  • Getting involved in things (class parent, orchestra etc) so I was around people talking Dutch to each other. I am now participating more, but in the beginning I was often quiet just listening and working out what people were saying.
  • Children’s Tv – though I found the clarity of diction did vary. For example Sesaamstraat I struggled with, though Nijntje and
  • Subtitles on American tv shows. That’s my story for watching so many anyway!
  • Reading children’s books – luckily we had the perfect excuse to stock up on these!
  • Reading everything I walk past – billboards, adverts, the sides of trucks, headlines in newspapers, shop window displays
  • Getting books from the library – they have a collection of simple books for people learning Dutch, as well as the children’s collections. My reading level has now worked up to about that of young adult books!
  • Look at the local papers that get pushed through the door.
  • Join local organisations so you get magazines or email newsletters to read on things you’re interested in.
  • Writing emails in Dutch where possible. Most people are aware that I’m not Dutch and appreciate the effort more than having problems with any mistakes you make.(A big apology to the orchestra secretary who got the worst mangled message a while ago when half of it was auto-corrected by my phone to English and I didn’t realise. I’m incredibly impressed she understood any of it!)
  • After a year or so here I started working to translate my internal monologue. Everyone thinks to themselves, but I now try to work out how to say those things in Dutch. Generally I get stuck in the would have/could have/should haves, but it’s useful practice. Also makes me much more aware of what I’m thinking.

I can now handle in Dutch pretty much every situation that occurs regularly, as long as the other person doesn’t say something completely random that I’m not expecting! That takes me a bit longer to process and so stalls any conversation. I still tend to talk English in most medical situations, although a few are transitioning to half Dutch, mainly so I can be confident that I don’t miss important things.

Now I need to go back to studying Spanish and French and see if I can untangle then from Dutch in my head. I used to be able to speak both, but now they change to Dutch mid-way through a sentence. Going to France and coming out with sentences like “Est-ce que vous avez een tafel voor twee?” just confuses everyone!

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