Thoughts on Learning Dutch

I am taking the Beginner Dutch class at UCR this semester.  When I told my academic advisor that I wanted to take Dutch, she was kind of surprised – apparently not many exchange students want to learn Dutch.  It’s been a while since I’ve learned a language from scratch, 11 years to be specific.  I started learning French at age 9, and even then, I had been exposed to the French language before learning in the formal classroom setting.

During the summer I learned my first Dutch words, “Kan sporen bevatten van noten en pinda’s” – May contain traces of nuts and peanuts; a phrase that is essential to my survival as I have a severe (pea)nut allergy (#datepipenlife).  During first semester I picked up a few words here and there with the help of my friends, and by reading the signs at the grocery store.

My actual learning started at the end of January when the new semester started.  We started from the absolute beginning – learning how to introduce ourselves.  Ik ben Asha.  Ik kom uit Canada.  Ik studeer Internationale Studies.  There are about 200 words of vocabulary that we learn per chapter, and the grammar is starting to get more elaborate. By learning Dutch, we are also learning about Dutch culture.  The second chapter in our book was all about celebrations and holidays in Holland.  Holidays such as Christmas, and Easter are the same as Canada, but there are some uniquely Dutch holidays such as Sinterklaas, and Koningsdag (King’s Day).

Each week we get grammar exercises from our textbook, and often we get writing exercises for extra practice.  I do my best to read the instructions, and review my notes from class to answer the exercises correctly, and produce coherent writing.  Whenever I get stuck, I have a number of amazing friends who will explain what I don’t understand.  Matthijs is my go to Dutchie; he usually checks my writing assignments, explains what I have done incorrectly, and shows me how to fix it.  My friends are very patient with me, and for that I am very grateful.  I try to cheat sometimes by using French words when I don’t know the Dutch word, but my friends always catch me.  The evenings spent doing Dutch homework are always gezellig; they have been some of my favourite evenings this semester.

My friends when I speak French instead of Dutch

Sometimes I feel lost because my thoughts are more advanced than my actual ability to speak Dutch.  I’ve found that I can make short simple sentences, but when I want to use transition words, I get stuck.  Also, it’s very difficult when the French word pops into my brain and I can’t, for the life of me, think of the Dutch word.  It’s especially bad with the word “question” – I know the word in Dutch – vraag – but I my brain has a hard time remembering it.  There was also a day when I was trying to speak to my teacher in Dutch but only French was coming out – that was great…

If you follow me on Instagram, you might also know that I was ambitious in my learning by purchasing a copy of Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen from the bookstore.  While I can’t say that I know exactly what the words mean, I have read the first book so many times that I know what’s happening 😉

How do you feel about learning a new language? Will English or French be your second language at Glendon? Are you planning to take other language courses? Let me know about your experiences learning a new language in the comments.

Song of the Week: You get an English, French and Dutch song because I’m feeling super generous 😉

Rewind – Paolo Nutini

Tous Les Mêmes – Stromae

Het Regent Zonnestralen – Acda & De Munnik


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