Learning Dutch

Groningen Market
Groningen Market

As someone who loves languages, I was really excited to spend time learning a bit of Dutch.  I consider myself to be fairly good at learning languages so I wasn’t really that worried about it.  I’m embarrassed to admit that my efforts to learn Dutch have not been particularly successful.  Shortly after arriving here, I signed up for a beginning Dutch class through the language center at University of Groningen. Because I needed to have days available to visit local schools, I enrolled in the class that meets once per week for 2 hours.  I knew that it wasn’t likely to be enough for me to make enormous strides, but I thought I’d make decent progress.  The sounds of Dutch language are difficult for me to produce. While some words resemble English, many do not and I continue to struggle even with the basics.  I find myself anxious and reluctant to try using Dutch because there’s a pretty good chance I’ll get it wrong.  I have definitely made some progress, but perhaps not as much as I imagined I would.    You might wonder how I know that I’ve made progress.  My gauge is the weekly market.  During my first weeks in Groningen, in order to buy vegetables at the market, I would politely ask the vendors if they spoke English, then ask for what I wanted and pay.  After a couple of weeks, I started to offer a greeting in Dutch, then switch to English, then say “thanks” and “goodbye” in Dutch.  The next step in the progression was learning the numbers in Dutch and the names of the fruits and veggies that I like.  Now, I am able to use the numbers and names of veggies in a simple sentences beginning with “I would like…”.  So, I have made progress, it’s just very slow compared to the quick progress I made with Italian a few years ago.  Nonetheless, I’m grateful for this experience of struggling with a language.  It’s been a while since I’ve been a complete beginner.  My experience in these first months of learning Dutch reminds me of the challenges that my students face when they sit down in my classes and, more importantly, how they feel facing those challenges.

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