How learning Dutch can ruin relationships
"My partner is Dutch, but I don’t speak Dutch." How many times have you heard - or said - this sentence?
It may sound strange, but if you have tried to practice your Dutch with your partner you will know exactly what it feels like. In most cases, learning Dutch with your other half is just not possible...
In the beginning it seems like the perfect opportunity: You love and want to share everything with him / her, and you have the impression that all he / she needs to do is to listen, answer a few questions, correct you, and of course, appreciate the fact that you are trying to speak the local language.
Seems like a constant expression of love; a genuine act that deserves support and recognition, right?
Before frustration and disappointment kick in, spend a few minutes to appreciate how your Dutch partner feels. It may be less romantic, but once you accept it you will feel much, much better.
The "shocking" truth is that even though your partner may be the perfect life companion, it doesn’t mean that he / she is the perfect teacher, and here are three possible explanations as to why:
› Your partner doesn’t know how to teach
Many people erroneously think that if you speak a language, you can also teach it. Nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to language, the vast majority of native speakers are completely unaware - or even ignorant!
How many times has your partner told you that Dutch has no rules? How many times has he / she claimed that Dutch is full of exceptions that "cannot be explained?" Did it occur to you that he / she can’t share that knowledge?
› Your partner can’t speak simply enough so that you can understand
This second explanation is a little more tricky. Think for a minute about how the books looked like back in school, and remember how your teacher was trying to explain to you grammar and syntax.
Got it? OK, now compare these simple sentences with the ones you are using now. Do they really have much in common?
Of course, your partner can speak Dutch perfectly. But just like you, locals use much more complex expressions and slang language in their everyday lives. And this doesn’t help you - quite the opposite in fact.
Making things more complex is easy. Making things easy can be extremely difficult! Unfortunately, this is a universal truth, and applies to almost anything..
› Your partner doesn’t appreciate the fact that you are trying or he / she doesn’t care
This may be the hardest one to accept but some people just can't. Let’s not talk about this case - this is something that you - and only you - can figure out or exclude as a possibility. Just a hint thought: Does he / she notice whether you are getting better at using the language?
"Are you telling me that it is a bad idea to speak Dutch with my partner?" someone might ask. Of course not! In fact, you should speak as much as possible. But you do need to learn how to speak first!
You need to realise that in most cases, being with a Dutchie doesn’t mean that you can learn Dutch. Put simply, it might sound like a good idea and the "easy way out" for you but it is highly unlikely that he /she feels the same way.
To conclude, I suggest you look to your partner for love, not Dutch grammar. Make sure you don’t bug him / her with things he / she does not specialise in , doesn’t have time for, or simply doesn’t want to do.
Learning or teaching Dutch is not the ultimate expression of love. So, appreciate your partner for what he / she really is, otherwise you might end up hating both him / her and the language!
Albert Both is a specialist on learning Dutch fast and gaining Dutch fluency while having fun.
› Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It,"
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