Language Course 2 – Week 2

I can happily report for this week that no information has oozed out of my brain yet for two distinct reasons; First, because we’re still focusing on revision from course one. Second, because it was a short week and therefore we only had one lesson.

I’m really enjoying the longer lesson time with this second course! I feel like I’m getting so much more out of every lesson! I guess too though, it’s because we’re able to go at a faster speed through topics we’ve already covered and therefore just have to dredge the grey matter to retrieve the basics before adding new information to it.

Would you like to know more?

Language Course – Week 3

We were straight into learning new information with our fifth lesson. I love that you are there because you want to learn, so there’s a real drive and determination to everyone who is still with the class. (We appear to have stabilised with about half of the students who attended on the first night.)

We began with having a quick test to see if we could hear the difference between words as they were being said without the spellings in front of us to guide our judgement as to whether they were long (lang) or short (kort) vowel sounds. We were paired up to check over our answers and I didn’t do too badly.

Next we moved on to how the Dutch tell the time where I discovered that not only do the Dutch have five and ten, past and to the hour, but they also have five and ten, past and to the half hour. Also, it’s not half past the hour, it’s half to the next hour. This should be all sorts of fun to get my poor noggin around!

We then moved on to infinitives. This was made even more fun as, I’m fairly sure that when I was in school no one actually classified for me what an infinitive is. I’m sure it would have been easier if I had any memory of getting up to these in the bits and pieces of the other languages I did learn in school, but what with my age when I learnt Italian, and my absences from High School for French, German and Japanese … well, you get the idea. Just one more hurdle I need to overcome.

Lesson six began well enough, with all of us trying very hard to make it all the way through ordering at a café. The pilsje (beer), bitterballen (food), wijn (wine), and koffie (coffee) should make for a goed (good) feast if it ever arrives!

I’m fairly sure that in the future, so long as the waiter talks slowly and repeats themselves multiple times, I may get through it. Wait. What do you mean this won’t be an open book test?!?

We then moved back to grammar and structure, focusing tonight on syntax. Again, I have no recollection of lessons on how to correctly structure a sentence. But here I was, unlearning what I hadn’t learnt, and relearning the Dutch way. This one I’ll have to practice a little harder. It’s a good thing I have sheets and sheets of homework to do this weekend!

Speaking of languages, Kia Ora, and Happy Waitangi Day to all the Kiwis for last Wednesday!

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 …?