learning the language

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).

One Response to “learning the language”

  1. Grada Says:

    Yup, brain does funny things with languages. I think language is basically meant for communcation… and so the brain shifts up adn down to communicate in what ever language serves for the moment.
    Now those moments might not be accordign to waht the “brain” thinks at teh moment.
    I remeber a horse ridign holiday in Poland, about 30 years ago.
    I have NO Polish; the other members of the group were Polish students (with rare permiossion to take this sort of holiday) adn some of them spoke French, some German, as their second language because of being students at University. The directors only spoke English
    I got rather fluent in specific Polish horsejargon; and often I spoke in French to a Polish shopkeeper or German/French to a Polish campmate… or English to anybody happening to be nearby. At the end of the two weeks of the camp, it turned out the persons I havd been most in cotnact with adn who had been most in contact with me, got an amalgam in which we understood each other rather OK..
    and no one else did. grin.
    And Dutch being unpolite adn not realising this, err, I confess that the Dutch often happen to do that… totally unconscious of doing so. We don’t mean to be uncouth… It just happens.
    Sorry!

    Grada giving a rathre late reaction… but this messag must have slipped me by about a year ago… Sorry again!

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