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Basic Dutch: Speak Dutch to me, Please!

Basic Dutch: Speak Dutch to me, please! ( part IV)

How to convince the Dutch that you’ll never learn their language if they keep answering in English?

Direct Dutch Institute, one of the oldest language institutes in Den Haag, recommends speaking Dutch as often as possible, even though all your Dutch colleagues speak English and even though you only know a few words of Dutch and only completed a beginners course. However, we realize that the Dutch are often so eager to speak English to you, that there is hardly any opportunity to practise your newfound language skills…

Before you knew it, September turned up. Time to shake off the sweet summer sand, get back to business and reflect on all the good resolutions you ought to pick back up.

Imagine, you just decided it’s time to get more exercise and make an effort to speak more Dutch. Obviously, you go for best of both worlds. You glance over your Dutch vocabulary and set out to your gym, looking for some sporty locals to practise both your muscles and your speaking skills with. Soon you find yourself a friendly and (not too dauntingly) fit fellow gym member and you ask him/her, “hoe laat begint de zumba/ power yoga/ body pump klas?” While you are congratulating yourself with your very Dutch pronunciation of zumba/power yoga/body pump, your new athletic friend might very well answer “in twenty minutes!”

Now, resist the temptation to slip comfortably into English and keep your conversation going in Dutch. Here are some phrases to make sure that twenty minutes later you will be sweating it out, still gaspingly practising your Dutch. (Don’t worry, these phrases also work perfectly well in any other, not gym-related, context).

> Nederlands, alstublieft! (Dutch, please!)
For some reason, the Dutch can’t wait to speak English. It can be debated whether this is a sign of our contempt for our mother tongue, our pride of our allegedly open and tolerant culture, or just our own language skills. What can’t be debated is that you have to be explicit if you want us to turn back to Dutch – possibly several times.

> Korte zinnen, alstublieft! (Short sentences, please!)
Now you convinced your conversation partner to speak Dutch to you, you have to make sure that you understand him or her. The Dutch really like building up multiple sentences using quite confusing grammar constructions. Ask for short sentences, keep in mind that (in a simple sentence) the verb is often the second word and avoid a lot of puzzling.

> Nog een keer, alstublieft! (Once more, please!)
Repetition is the best way to learn. The best way to learn, is repetition.

> Een ander woord? (Another word?)
Don’t give up when you come across a word you don’t know and just ask for a synonym. You only need about seventy words to make yourself understood in a language. Maybe you just happen to have learned seventy different words for the same things.

> Langzaam, alstublieft – niet harder! (slowly, please – and not louder!)
No harm in kindly stressing that you have no problem with your ears, but that you would appreciate to be able to distinguish the separate words within the rattle. Probably, your friend isn’t aware of the fact that he is talking too fast for you, especially when he gets the hang of the conversation and slips back into his natural pace. Don’t be embarrassed to ask him to slow down several times and realize that you will be able to have a ‘natural’ conversation eventually.

>Spreek Nederlands! Met mij! ( Speak Dutch! To me!)
If you grow tired of constantly asking to be addressed in Dutch, you can always wear one of our ‘Spreek Nederlands! Met mij!’ buttons and point to it whenever someone addresses you in English. Don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask for a free button, if – let’s say – your friends at the gym just don’t get it and you keep spending your zumba/power yoga/ body pump workouts speaking English!

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