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On Learning Dutch

August 10, 2011

Today would be a perfect day (weather-wise), if it were October. You know that feeling after a hot summer, when you step outside, take sniff and say, “yes, that is the smell of Autumn”. The air is brisk, you wear a scarf around your neck, and you are thankful you won’t have to think about humidity for another 9 months. Today was that day. But it isn’t October. There has been no hot and humid summer. It’s August and I want to sweat! Oh, how I miss the craving of an ice-cold anything. I will gladly trade a week, even two weeks of the US’s heat wave for the weather we are having here in Amsterdam. The good thing is that this weather isn’t normal for this type of year. So let’s blame it on climate change and hope the extreme changes in weather shift in the opposite direction next year. End rant.

On to better and happier and more exciting topics! Learning Dutch.

I’m about 3.5 weeks into my Dutch lessons and…I love learning Dutch. I don’t find Dutch to be the most beautiful language —  I find Russian to be immensely more melodic and lyrical — but I really enjoy learning the language. The small successes and experiences that come with learning a new language as an adult make it very rewarding.

Yes, practically everyone in (especially in) Amsterdam speaks English flawlessly, and it can be intimidating to attempt the language when you know how well the other person speaks your native tongue. It can also be frustrating to only be able to speak like a 3-year old (if that). But the smiles and patience that people show when they see you trying to speak really make it worthwhile.

I’m taking lessons at Dutch Courses Amsterdam, two nights per week, from 7pm-9pm. I like that they are twice a week, as it forces me to study, do homework, and reinforce what I am learning more often. The classes aren’t cheap, but a worthwhile investment. In the conversation part (there is also a grammar part) of the class, we just started reading Jip and Janneke, a famous children’s book in Holland. When I say reading, I mean looking up every 3rd word in the dictionary, but five months ago I would have been looking up every single word! It is a super cute book with adorable animation.

Another reason why I am happy learning Dutch is that I have made a few friends in class. Last Friday I was so pleased to receive text messages from people other than Bram (its really the small things in life!).

In general, the language shares a lot of vocabulary with English, so that is helpful. There are also some similarities to Russian, which I find interesting. I often find myself wanting to resort to Russian when my brain doesn’t know the vocab I am looking for.

Last night over dinner Bram and I had a very, very basic conversation primarily in Dutch. I don’t yet know how to speak in past tense, which makes general conversation about the day or past week a bit tricky, but I’m getting there.

That’s all for now!

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