Language Course – Week 1

I am taking a beginners language course to whip my butt in gear and finally speak the language of the country I’m living in, and thought I would take the opportunity to regale you all my experiences. Aren’t you lucky?! It’s two classes a week for four months, and I went to my first lessons this week.

Despite having learnt some Dutch before landing in the country, and having little to no trouble with shopping and getting around once here (helped by the fact that everyone speaks at least some English), I was completely inundated. I hadn’t thought to ask what teaching method was employed.

It was my worst fear; full immersion. A teacher who refused to speak Engels, only Nederlands, and the first hour was tough. The second hour got a little easier, but we were all gesticulating wildly, and there was plenty of “Ik begrijp het niet!” (“I understand it not!”)

Because of the way my head works, I kept wanting to ask why things were done the way they were. I managed to stop myself each time when I reminded myself yet again how patently rude that question would be. I mean, after all, why is Engels spoken and structured the way it is? Because that is how it developed. That’s why.

I’m a creature of habit (aren’t we all?) and I missed the way my previous lessons had been structured where they’d tell you what the words were in English so the Dutch phrasings made sense to my English trained mind and I knew what was being said. But this is the course, it’s a well respected school, and I’m here to learn. I’m determined to learn.

I spent time the next day making good friends with Google Translate and translated everything we’d done in class so I’d know what we’d said and learn better how to structure my sentences. This was time consuming, but fruitful, and alleviated much of the confusion I’d had.

I’m vaguely bummed that we are learning informal language. When I brought up this point with the teacher, mentioning that I’d already been told off once by a shopkeeper for not using formal language to speak to someone I didn’t know, she said everyone was very casual these days, and the Dutch were a forgiving people. Personally I’d rather show the respect, and will endeavour to use more formal language in my daily dealing with people I don’t know. (Though having a certain Sister-In-Law weigh in here with local opinion might help! 😉 )

The second lesson was all about word and sentence structure. It went much more smoothly than the first lesson, and I was a bit more confident. We conjugated verbs and learned how to pronounce combinations of vowels correctly. No wonder the locals have such a problem with mijn achternaam! Then again, it was often hit and miss in Engels speaking countries as to whether or not it was pronounced correctly …

So I have homework, and a textbook, and I find myself watching Dutch Sesame Street on YouTube to get the hang of how to pronounce the alphabet and numbers. Have you ever thought about how attached you are to the voice you’re used to hearing (Jim Henson) coming out of Ernie’s mouth …?

12 thoughts on “Language Course – Week 1

  1. It was very informative to read about your perspective on the teaching approach the school is using. As I am a learner that does better with the immersion method than with others, it’s useful to see what the pros/cons/frustrations are for the system from a different perspective.

    I wonder if this choice was made by the educator for convenience’s sake or if the people really are that forgiving and understanding and unlikely to be insulted by the use of informal language? I prefer to use the more formal language than the less formal; I’m more comfortable waiting for someone to say that it is alright for me to use less formal language than to risk insulting someone.

    Good luck! I hope the class proves fruitful and will be looking forward to hearing about how things progress!

    1. I think the combination of approaches will work for me. I still have a couple of lesson of Pimsluer to go, so I’ll continue with that at the same time.

      I must admit, I’ve only been told off once, so it’s likely she was being a stickler 🙂 The instructor is right, everyone else is pretty relaxed.

      *hugs you* I’m going to make this post a regular feature while I’m learning, so you’lll know where I’m up to! 🙂

  2. The course sounds cool. I need to remember “ik begrijp get niet” for my own course, haha. You mentioned needing to get the hang of pronouncing the alphabet and numbers. Of course, I could recommend the tv show “Lingo” on uitzendinggemist, but I would be surprised if someone hadn’t already done so.

    But, I got the hang of the alphabet after listening to a sound file on this page:

    You want the A-B-C lied (song) as sung by six year old Robin. It’s much easier to memorize the alphabet if you do it in song form… I spent about an hour listening to it over and over (and over) again, and I don’t have many problems since. Some, yes. I usually forget how to say “w” unless I do it in song form, for whatever reason.

    I mentioned it before but I really recommend Dutch Dictionary Box app alongside Google translate:

    1. It works for single words, whereas Google translate is a sentence or more.
    2. I would remove the dictionaries you don’t need once it’s downloaded, like the English picture dictionary. 😛
    3. Plus: you get more definitions than Google Translation, which only shows you one. And with multiple dictionaries, one should work…
    4. Plus: as you type each letter, it fills the possible choices. Sometimes you only have to type half a word before you can click on it, versus Google Translate where you have to type the whole thing.
    5. It’s (slightly) less of a crutch – I find I get into the habit of using Google translate to translate whole phrases or sentences, when if I only translate one of the words, I can usually guess what the entire phrase or sentence says. Sometimes not, of course!

    Basically I use both apps at the same time and go back and forth between them.

    1. I spent a couple of hours on both the alphabet and numbers the other day, and when in class I got them all correct, so I’m hoping those are set now. Now I need to get the vowel combinations down pat too!

      I’ll look into that second app also! It looks remarkably handy! Thank you! 🙂

      Here’s hoping progress for both of us is speedy! 😀

  3. I have thought about the voice thing. Watching dubbed NCIS episodes in France is… jarring. They especially get MsGee’s voice all wrong. Good luck with the Dutch! — Janet

  4. Vowel combinations can be very evil… I still haven’t mastered them at all, to be honest. 🙂 So I am working on those as well. Have a good weekend!

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