At this point, I think almost every Dutch person I know has said one of two things to me, upon finding out that I’ve started back up with Dutch language lessons; either “Oh, then we have to speak Dutch to you so that you can practice,” or else “Oh, that is hard for you because everyone here speaks English to you.” Either way, usually the next thing is that they turn to the nearest Dutch person and begin a conversation in Dutch. (Come to think of it, that is a much less polite thing to do if you’ve just said the second response.)
Either way, I think it’s kind of funny, because it’s plain to me that Dutch people see how much English is spoken here – noticing the unexpected – and don’t realize that there’s still plenty more Dutch spoken, plenty of opportunities for foreigners to hear and try to understand the language.
Yesterday, my friend Lieke and I went out for dinner and somehow managed to give the server the impression that I speak Dutch and Lieke speaks only English. It was pretty funny; I think that by the end Lieke was on the verge of saying “No, really! I’m Dutch! I’m Dutch!”
Language lessons are fascinating from a ‘how the brain works’ perspective.At the moment I’m getting to the point where I can understand a fair bit if I concentrate, and I can say a fair bit if I think about how to frame a sentence – but I can’t do boh at once, so I’m always answering Dutch with English, or giving a Dutch answer to something spoken in English. Luckily no one seems to mind, especially if I explain. I’m much more interested in understanding than I am in speaking; if I can understand what someone has said to or around me, it’s very rare that I can’t make myself understood in English. The other thing I find is that in lessons, there’s a point where my brain is full and we have to stop for a break (Ted found the same, when we took lessons together last time).