By Rebekah Villon @rvillon
Dutch is a notoriously difficult language to learn. And the Dutch people all speak English so well that, for better or worse, many people simply default to speaking English all the time, and never really get in the habit of speaking Dutch. However, greater proficiency in the language does help foster deeper connections in the community, and has a lot of other advantages as well:
For all these reasons, it is a good idea to practice your Dutch when you can. Here are some low-key ways to work more Dutch conversation into your life:
Encourage people to speak Dutch to you.
Many Dutch people will simply switch to English because it is faster and more efficient. When possible, ask them to be patient and keep speaking Dutch so that you can practice. Learn key phrases like “Please help me practice speaking Dutch” (“Zou je me alsjeblieft kunnen helpen mijn Nederlands te oefenen?” / “Ik zou graag Nederlands met je praten, om te oefenen”) and “Will you please repeat that more slowly?” (“Zou je dat iets langzamer kunnen herhalen?”). Of course, choose the right time and place; if someone is in a hurry, don’t try to coerce them into being your language tutor, but try to use every conversation you can as a chance to practice.
Go to a sit-down restaurant and ask questions.
Try to visit a sit-down restaurant during non-busy hours, and ask questions about the menu. “Is this fish fresh?” “May I have a side order of french fries?”, etc. The nice thing about this method is that, because you can anticipate the topics and scope of these conversations ahead of time, you can look up and practice relevant phrases from home, so you can feel prepared and confident. It’s much easier to practice this way than it is to launch into a random conversation with a stranger, where you need to be prepared for any topic.
Attend events for kids.
Go to story-telling events for children, or even watch Dutch children’s TV shows. When people are speaking to and for children, they tend to use shorter sentences and simpler words, making it easier to pick up the language.
Visit The Hub.
The Hub has regular Dutch language events where you can learn and practice with other expats, and build community and make friends while you gain language proficiency. Check out our event calendar for more information.