Language Course 2 – Week 9 & 10

Week 9
The time to cram had returned! We were at the end of another semester, staring down the barrel of a test to prove we know what we’ve been taught. I feel like I have a long way to go to prove myself too!

We settled in to chapter seven of the textbook, which revolves around a Doctors visit. We learnt the names for various body parts, and the difference in questioning depending on whether or not the problem relates to an internal or external woe. This segued into a conversation about character traits, and we spent some time going over and over discussing what traits we had more or less of.

I’m fairly sure at the end of the class when the teacher asked if we’d done our homework, and all of us pretty much admitted that we either hadn’t, or had half done it … She was understandably unimpressed. But we moved on and had it done for the next lesson! Which began with …

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Language Course 2 – Week 6

The astute in the audience will notice that I missed reporting on a couple of weeks in there. I was at Week 4 for the first lesson, but not the second when my back gave out, and it remained out for Week 5. Briefly, that one lesson I was at in Week 4 involved when you put an “e” at the end of verbs. The short version is that it depends on where it’s placed in the sentence (before or after the noun), whether “een” is used in prefix, and whether it is a “de” or het” word.

We moved on to listening to a grocery shopping scenario. More and more we’ve been listening to audio to acclimatise us to how fast people speak. It’s tough when you can’t ask a recording to slow down! But you’d be surprised how much you can pick up too! The goal is apparently to catch 60% of a conversation. This should be enough to respond to. So we did some “fill-in-the-blanks”, and then repeated the scripts in groups.

Then we moved on to playing “grocery shopping” under the auspices of needing to put on a dinner party for ten people. Half the class were shopping, and the other half being the shop assistants. It was fun, and loud! My partner and I were shopping for paella ingredients!

There was some work on responses, and a hand out which we went through in pairs where we were informed that “starting your response with “Dat …” creates cohesion with your conversation partner, making your Dutch sound very natural.” Something else I need to work on, obviously! Would you like to know more?

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 …?