By Catherine Talbot.
One of the main challenges of living abroad is the language. It is something everyone else has in common, yet makes you stand out like a sore thumb. But language can either be a barrier into other cultures, or a gateway into them. It just depends on what you choose to do next.
When I first heard the Dutch language I did not think I would have any chance at all – they make all sorts of sounds that for many English speakers are completely unnatural. Nevertheless I signed up to language classes and am now attempting to make those sounds myself.
Learning a language is never easy and I can assure you that Dutch is no exception. But like all those wise people before me say, practice does genuinely make perfect. Everyone appreciates you having a go, you are not going to be laughed at for trying.
In the few months that I have been living in Holland I have been fully immersed in the language. I listen to Dutch radio, Dutch adverts, read Dutch signs, Dutch food labels, well unsurprisingly everything is Dutch. I kind of like the feeling of being able to have a conversation at the supermarket in another language.
It certainly makes a food shop more interesting if you are guessing what it is you are buying. One of my friends confidently brought yoghurt at a supermarket and when she got home she thought it did not taste quite as expected. It was only after a week of having it for breakfast that she googled it and discovered it was actually vanilla custard. But that is now another word we can add to our Dutch vocabulary!
Admittedly, sometimes you really do want to give up and it is easy to slip into temptation and wait for someone to translate. But stick at it. There are so many ways to learn a language. In my classes we play games, listen to music and read dialogue to each other. I have learnt that it is okay to get it wrong and it is the best feeling when you get it right.
I am by no means an expert but I already know the basics to hold a conversation and I hope that by the end of my time here I would not have to say “sorry, I only speak English” even half as much!