Learning Dutch (Or: Making it all work)

I actually pondered posting this type of post for a while, but was too embarrassed. But when it comes to learning Dutch, there’s nothing more embarrassing than trying to pronounce the hard “g” (pronounced kh). Which I can do semi decently now, after a year of practicing. Of course, semi decently for a buitenlander (foreigner).

But I’ve had my share of embarrassment learning Dutch…

It is also worth noting to state that I did take 7 years of Spanish — 4 in high school, and 3 in college. But none of my high school teachers seemed to force speaking Spanish on us, and I was sorely out of place when I tested into intermediate Spanish classes in college. Beyond the grammar classes, and right into the history classes. I survived until junior year, when I had to give an oral presentation in Spanish and then listen to the professor berate me afterwards, in Spanish, in front of the class. I dropped the class the next day and didn’t look back.

Mind you, for most of the time I was trying to learn Dutch, it was just to connect more with Marco and his culture, and understand what the heck Marco and Roger were saving when they’d slip back into that language in front of me. But now that I am moving there, it is full steam ahead, all systems go.

One of the first things that Marco gave me was a Dikkie Dik picture book, a few years back, and we read it together. We’d spend a few hours in Bibliotheek Den Haag, the public library by his apartment, reading picture books in the children’s section . Yes, the little kid across the room was doing way better than me, why do you ask?

The problem is that certain times of the year are busier than others for me. And fall happens to me once of those busier periods, as I am teaching a lot of classes and holding a lot of workshops at the college library. For a while there I was doing pretty well, last summer. I had advanced to the intermediate version of a Dutch grammar workbook from Routledge. But once I stopped doing it every day, it was hard to get back into it this month. Especially since you spend half your time deciphering the vocabulary of the exercises just to understand how to answer it.

So, back to the basics for me. I went back to the spelling and pronunciation section of dutchgrammar.com. Yes, I re-learned the Dutch alphabet a few nights ago. “A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z, wie doet er mee? Dit zijn de letters van het alfabet. Wie zingt er mee van a tot z?”

The problem with learning Spanish was that I didn’t really have any outside motivation for learning it. Originally I took it because my best friend was taking it. You can bet I didn’t look at the basics like spelling or pronunciation anymore, and it showed. (Fun fact: a, b, c, d, and e are pronounced the same in Spanish and Dutch, so I never had any issue remembering that).

And learning Dutch will be a lot easier once I can push most of the Spanish out of my head. The Dutch een (a) is pronounced somewhat similarly to the Spanish un (a) – but not really.

It’ll be an interesting 2012, that’s for sure.

Lights at the public library in the Hague, Jan 2012

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