Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

Dutch, Reloaded

What surprises many people visiting Amsterdam is the ubiquity of the English language. As you get get further away from large cities in the Netherlands, you'll find fewer and fewer people who speak English, but for Amsterdam, speaking English is the rule rather than the exception. Frankly, there simply aren't enough Dutch speakers in the world for them to try and fight this. In fact, many Dutch cinemas have films in English with Dutch subtitles — there's not a large enough market to dub the films.

As a result, when you get a job here, you're often told "you just need English". I work for a Dutch company, but our working language is English as we pull people in from all over the world. I'm told we even offer language assistance to help people learn English, but not Dutch. That's frustrating because while you may not need Dutch, it's still a huge advantage. Many smaller shopkeepers (particularly those further from the center) don't speak English. More and more I'm finding people answering spreekt u Engels with nee (no). In fact, even if it weren't for the handful of people here who don't speak English, you simply cannot appreciate a culture (or read your bank statements!) if you don't speak the native language. Thus, I've started to learn Dutch.

Having started with the Pimsleur Dutch program, all I can say is "yuck!". It does a great job of helping you with pronunciation and grammar, but it's almost exclusively spoken material. Thus, while I know that hoe gaat het met u?¹ means "how are you doing?", I wouldn't be able to read or write that with the Pimsleur method. Thus, on the advice of one of my colleagues, I've decided to try Dutch With Ease, based on Assimil's 80 year old system of teaching languages which my colleague claims can take one all the way to level B2 of Dutch proficiency:

Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

In theory I can do this in only about three months or so, but in practice, from what I've read online, it takes folks at minimum half a year. Hopefully living here will give me an advantage. Regardless, I am looking forward to diving in and seeing how well this works.

Tot ziens!

1. Literally, "how goes it with you". It's sort of pronounced as "who hot et met oo", with the final word being the "oo" in "room", not "book".

Tags: language, travel
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