How a filthy mind can lead to fluent Dutch
Per usual, Albert Both from Talencoach gives us a unique way of looking at language learning. This time, it's all about your dirty mind...
When you look at all your language course materials, have you ever wondered if one certain topic is missing? Yes, you learn about many different topics. How to buy tulips, ask for a bill in a restaurant, say hello to people that you don’t know, etc... And yet one very specific subject is never ever there. It is something that most people think about all the time, but you never talk about it and certainly not in a language class… It starts with an “s” and it rhymes with “ex” ?.
Let’s start with a very simple question. How would you interpret the following Dutch sentence: “Ik sta droog”? Literally translated it means “I stand dry”. Chances are high that you remember the word “droog” from when you learned how to talk about the weather. So, yes, you are right. If you are standing under an umbrella while it rains, it is an appropriate thing to say.
But then, imagine that you are in a café and that one of your friends shouts: “ik sta droog!” Should you bring an umbrella then? Hopefully, you are smart enough to know that it means something else. It could mean: “my glass is empty, I need more beer!” If you think about it, it makes sense, right?
Why would you only talk about the weather?
But now imagine that your friend complains and says: “ik sta al heel lang droog” (I have been dry for a long time). Do you think a glass of beer would solve the problem? Well, perhaps so, after a couple of beers your friend might find it easier to approach new people and then one thing may lead to another… (as it also means: I haven't had sex in a long time)
So, here is the thing. Normally, if you learn words like “heet” and “koud” (hot and cold), “droog” and “nat” (dry and wet), they usually relate to the weather. But, don’t you think that if you can only relate these words to the weather, that you might be missing out on so many other things?
It seems that most language teachers have the mindset of a nun. When they teach, they only want to teach you the things that are neat and proper and socially acceptable. But here is a point that I’d like to make… if you learn like a nun, there is no fun!
Getting rid of inhibition
Have you ever noticed that if a word gets all of your attention, it often means that your teacher labels it as bad and filthy? More than once I have heard from my teachers that I should not be learning these words because then I might use them by accident and upset innocent people. Now, how moralising is that?
So, let’s assume that you don’t learn the bad words. What might happen then? Once, one of my students was sitting in a meeting and she wanted to ask a question about “de huur” (the rent) of an office space. Unfortunately for her, she pronounced it as “hoer” (which is a person who engages in sexual activity for payment, aka a prostitute). As you can imagine, everyone was laughing like crazy and my poor student was only feeling embarrassed. That is not a great feeling to experience, right?
So, here is the first reason why we should all embrace those so-called filthy words: they help you to get rid of inhibition. Many people feel shy anyway, and when they speak another language and say a bad word by accident, it makes it even worse. However, once you have trained yourself to say bad words with elegance and grace, you’ll find it a lot easier to make other mistakes as well ?.
Another great benefit of these so-called bad words is that they are a lot easier to remember. All you need to do is a little test. Could you name two Latin words that are part of the human body? Chances are high that you found them quickly, and they start with a “p” or a “v” right? The moral lesson here is very simple, if you want to remember things faster, you know what to do!
Why would people withhold important information?
By the way, have you ever wondered why so many textbooks are boring? The reason is very simple. They are often asexual. A world of difference, if you compare them to movies or advertising. So, here is a very logical question. If movies and advertising use sex to get your attention, then why wouldn’t you use it for language learning?
There is one thing that I can personally guarantee, once you put the subject into your teaching, all of your students will, all of a sudden, be far more engaged.
Here is another funny story that I would like to share with you. Years ago, I was sitting in a Greek class when we learned the word “doulapa” which is a cupboard or wardrobe. I asked my teacher if I could say in Greek: “o andras ine stin doulapa”, the man is in the “doulapa”.
My Greek teacher was surprised and did not understand my question at all. Why would a man be in a “doulapa”, she said, it is something to put plates or socks in. However, if you think in Dutch, Spanish or French, it makes perfect sense. If you say in Dutch: “de man is in de kast”, it means that the man is in the closet.
And of course, you might think, why should I know all of this stuff? Well, if you hear at the office: “een collega is uit de kast”, now you know what it really means.
You don’t want to miss out!
What is something that Dutch people love to talk about all day? Contrary to what you may think, it is not about the weather or bills. One of the most important topics of conversation is people and their relationships to one another, for example, who is sleeping with who? Therefore, if you really want to know what is going on around you, it is very important that you learn certain words and phrases.
Many language teachers will argue that they don’t have to teach you these words. They will tell you that you’ll learn them all by yourself, without any effort at all. And guess what? It is not true! Although you may pick up certain words, you’ll miss out on many things in daily conversations if no one teaches you these things…
Embrace your dirty mind
Last but not least, one of the most important things about speaking a language is that you also understand humour. Whether you like it or not, one of the most important aspects of humour is that words can have more than one meaning. If you never ever learn those double meanings, you might get bored with the conversation, while others are having fun and laughing out loud.
This is why it is important that you embrace your filthy mind. It is a great friend that can help you focus longer on learning new stuff and connecting with others. A dirty mind is not only a joy forever, but it can also lead to far more Dutch fluency. So, don’t starve your filthy mind to death, but feed it, because you really need it!
Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast whilst having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow: Opening The Floodgate to Dutch Fluency" on Sunday, December 1, 2019 in Amsterdam.
You can also:
- Download his e-book "3 Steps to Dutch flow"
- Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It"
- Visit his website Talencoach.nl
- Check out his Facebook page
- Watch videos on his YouTube channel
All free of charge!