Since I came to the Netherlands, I wanted to learn Dutch to use the Dutch language in everyday life. Of course, you think. But really, knowing Dutch, does not imply directly speaking Dutch.
After three years of Dutch courses, in which I dared to speak only in the class, I finally started using Dutch. How did it happen then? Here I share 7 tips to make it happen.
- Make clear what you want. It may sound strange, but in most cases it works. I noticed that at the “I am not a tourist” Expat Fair in Eindhoven back in 2016. At that time, I had officially a B2 level (according to the advanced course I followed at TU/e) and could have almost any kind of conversation. However, people would simply switch to English.
At the Expat Fair I got the beautiful pin in the picture, and the magic happened: I was proudly wearing that, and e-very-body would approach me in Dutch. Nowadays I am not wearing it to go to work, but I try to send that message clearly (although it has never been as efficient).
- Keep it up. Don’t get frustrated if the person you are talking with switches to English, or if you use an English word because you don’t know that word you need. Get back quickly on track.
- Don’t focus on these people. Don’t focus on those people who really do not want to speak Dutch. Imagine you have been brave, implementing tips 1. and 2. a couple of times. But still, this person prefers the well-trusted English. In my opinion, it is then time to give up. In the end you are living in the Netherlands, it shouldn’t be too hard to find another Dutch
- Keep learning. The more you learn, the better you speak, the more topics you can talk about, the less you and people will switch. As easy as it is.
- Creates opportunities. Be active, combine your hobbies with the language and try to speak as much as possible. It can be a sport club, a voluntary service or a sewing course. I started doing voluntary work (though I don’t find work is the proper definition). We realized during the last course advanced plus that we needed more than four courses because we all couldn’t use the language. A course-mate organized the all thing with a Dutch friend and a nursery house in Eindhoven. We sent a description of ourselves, and based on that each of us was paired with a guest. Since November 2016, I meet regularly with that guest on Saturday morning. It is so gezellig that actually I keep going although it is not strictly necessary for the language.
- Pair up with people with similar goals. With another course-mate, we prepared the Staatsexamen NT2. It all started with sharing the same view and dream during the very last Dutch lessons: we wanted to succeed in that exam, no matter what. And actually her hint of not taking it directly after the end of the course, was the best we could do. We kept practicing one year longer, and we grew up a friendship which I hope will last despite the distance . We were meeting pretty regularly, with the goal of reviewing the grammar or doing some exercise, but we would always end up chatting the whole time. Of course, strictly in Dutch.
- Don’t wait for perfection. I totally agree that you need a sufficient level to speak a new language. But on the other hand, how can you become better at something, if you don’t practice that? Dare to speak Dutch, even if you don’t know it perfectly. People will appreciate that and help you. And you’re gonna grow, with the language and the relationship.
In general, I was really really lucky because I met a lot of people very patient and supportive with me in the process of learning. Starting from the secretaries of our department, who got me motivated again when I wanted to give up, to the strict teachers of the Dutch courses, to the colleagues in the department always ready to teach me something new.
I really think it is matter of creating opportunities. With Dutchgram, I want to create a big network of people committed to learn/help to learn Dutch, ready to help each other. Contact me if you want to come in action!