Good Comms

Overcoming the Dutch challenge

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives. ~Clay P. Bedford

Some Holland promotion with typical dutch shots

One of the biggest challenges that a highly-educated professional may face when moving to the Netherlands is the fact that Dutch is the language used in this country. Of course, that is not the case if the professional is coming from the northern part of Belgium where Dutch is widely spoken, like English to Filipinos.

I received my Dutch as a 2nd Language diploma after two years of living here. That even when I did not attend formal Dutch education or inburgeringscursus (integration course). Some people attribute it to smart genes passed on by my parents (ahem, I hope they are reading this). Others say I have a feeling for language, like other people have feeling for numbers or reading the stars and what-have-you. A company owner to whom I applied for a job before said I have a chip in my brain (droid?!).

I am grateful for the nice words but I don’t believe them (save for the smart genes remark, hehe…). I think that adult education has more to do with discipline and motivation more than intelligence. If an adult acts like the adult that he or she is, then, he or she will be able to claim victory in this challenge.

Believe me, this dragon can be annihilated. Without proper education, smart genes or chip in your brain. You only need 4 P’s. No, I am not talking about the Charmed sisters but these P’s also work like a charm.

1. Purpose. There should be a purpose behind everything we do. Learning the language of the country where you live also has a purpose. It will make you feel more at home because you can express yourself more effectively. You can express your feelings and not just say “sad” if you are “more than sad”. Picking the right words will make you a more effective communicator. Being able to say it right also enhances relationships, not only with your partner but also with the family and friends of your partner and your new-found family and friends. And if you are a parent, being good in Dutch will also make your children better in languages. Did you know that children only have a window age of 0-4 to be adept in languages? And if your children only learned bad Dutch from you during these ages, they’re language skills are doomed? Ask the experts! So find your purpose in learning the language, from there, you will also find your motivation.

2. Perseverance. Your purpose will fire your perseverance. If you already singled-out your purpose in learning Dutch, you will be determined and dedicated to learn it, by hook or by crook. Because you have to learn it to get that job you have been longing for, to be able to tell your neighbour that he sucks (in Dutch), to be able to raise children without language backlog. You have a purpose. You have a dream. Go, focus and get your dream!

3. Passion. Can’t find your purpose? Or too lazy to get your dream? Think about the one thing you are passionate about. Chances are, if you’re not dead, you will have that one thing where you are passionate about. Whether it is cooking or gardening or watching people and making fun of them (okaaaay, I’m not saying that’s right, just an example). Will you not feel better if you will finally understand what mengen, sudderen en bakken in the Dutch cookbook you’re holding right now means? Will you not feel more comfortable gardening if you knew what the names of the flowers are exactly? Then you are also sure that you don’t put the poor kamerplant in the sun? That also goes for cooking. Knowing the Dutch names of the ingredients help a lot. At least you’re sure you’re not putting poisonous stuff in the food. Is that not motivating enough?

This is a portrait of a study group at work wi...

4. Partner. The last of the 4 P’s but definitely not the least. I always tell my husband that if it were not for his support, I will not be able to learn as much Dutch this soon. Yes, I was focused and persevering, I knew my purpose and I did not rebel about the fact that learning the language is an important part of my new life here. That helped a lot, but if I did not have a partner, my hardwork will just go to waste. Just imagine if nobody was patient enough to correct my Dutch, I will be making the same mistakes over and again. Just imagine if no one was patient enough to talk to me in Dutch, even when my grammar was like spaghetti with sauce, I would probably be talking to myself and land in a mental institution.

Of all the 4 P’s, this is the most important. From my first day in the Netherlands, my husband and I already allotted time in speaking Dutch and Dutch ONLY. We used to do it only during dinner. Before we knew it, we were already speaking Dutch and Dutch ONLY the whole day. Having a Dutch partner living in the Netherlands is an advantage in learning Dutch. Use that advantage.

Do it together. You must allow your partner to correct your Dutch. It does not even matter where you are. When I was new here, other people even thought that it was my husband pushing me to learn Dutch (like I don’t have a brain) that’s why he corrects me. The truth is, I get angry if we get home and he ends up correcting me there! That only means I have been using wrong sentences in public.

Of course, I am also writing for those who do not have Dutch partners. If you’re interested to have speaking partners to practice your Dutch, you can contact volunteers who do this, like Gilde Samenspraak.

Speaking the language helps not only your pronunciation but your confidence in the language. Afterwards, you will be confident in using it wherever you are and with whomever you are. And the more that other people see how hard you try, the more that they are willing to help you. Forget the pride. You are learning. You have the license to make mistakes. Pride starts with another P but it is not included in the 4 P’s that will help you in this challenge. Pride will not teach you anything. Pride, even if I admit in having it myself, is not something to be proud about.

If you will notice, I did not include “Patience” here. I think that the more impatient you are, the more that you want to learn everything in a flash, the more motivated you will be.

I am not giving you a map in learning the language. I only speak from experience and in believing that highly-educated adults must be able to discipline themselves if this is something they have to do. While motivation comes from two sources, internal and external, we all are responsible for our own actions.

So, those are my 4 P’s, what are yours? Enjoy learning! 🙂

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