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The language you speak

The language you speak

The language you speak

The language learning method used by Language Institute Regina Coeli ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. The institute's highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation, so you can immediately start communicating in your new language.

Why would you, as an expat staying in the Netherlands for (perhaps) just a few years, want to learn the tricky Dutch language, especially when your working language is English?

When learning a new foreign language, we are reminded that every language has a different word for the things around us. There is much more to it than that, of course, such as the fact that every language comes with its own grammar and sentence structures. And that is not the end of it.

Learning a new language is like opening a window

The Swiss philosopher Peter Bieri (better known by his pseudonym, Pascal Mercier) said in an interview in 2011 that by learning a new language, we learn "a new melody of life". "Life," said Bieri, "is different if you live it in another language; it tastes different. Learning a new language is like opening a window."

We express ourselves differently in foreign languages; the everyday spoken language is different, different kinds of jokes are made. We call this "language culture". And as a result of this language culture, when we speak a foreign language, we sometimes experience ourselves differently: we might feel a bit like "someone else" in another language.

Dutch pupils who learn British English sometimes say that when they speak English, they tend to behave more "properly", while American English feels "looser" and "more international". When they speak French, they feel "romantic and graceful' and when they speak German they feel a bit "strict". When they speak Spanish, they feel like "life is full of passion".

What do people who are learning Dutch as a foreign language experience?

I have heard that many people think Dutch sounds like singing. It goes from low to high and back again, but it is controlled and nonsense-free because the Dutch do not like exaggerated fuss. Another common experience is that the Dutch are very "direct" and would rather not use a lot of words, which is also reflected in the language.

In Dutch, for example, we do not use complicated grammatical constructions for things that will happen in the future; for the most part, we just use the present tense: he "comes" today, he "comes" tomorrow, he "comes" next year or he "does not come" at all (well, fine then).

Unfortunately, this desire to formulate things concisely and powerfully sometimes leads to constructions which are actually quite complicated, such as the concept of "er", which is often slightly feared by the non-Dutch. The sentence: "You have four bookshops in Amsterdam" gets transformed to "There are there four there" (Er zijn er vier daar). And then we go and say, with a shrug, that writing a short piece of text is more complicated than writing a long one.

Of course, the Dutch language can also be courteous, but we generally find that a bit too cumbersome. Instead of "we could, we may, we might", we prefer to keep it short, saying we are either doing something or not doing it. And if that is too direct, we can use our hard-to-translate ‘"little words" ("maar even", "nou toch", "nou maar", and "wel even") to take the edge off the sentence.

How do you feel when you are speaking Dutch? What are your experiences with learning this language? Let us know in the comments section!

Author Marjolein Kuperus is a lawyer, philosopher and writer. She works as a Dutch language trainer at Language Institute Regina Coeli and guest lecturer in philosophy, as well as a writing teacher for lawyers in particular. Do you want to know more about the Regina Coeli method? Contact Language Institute Regina Coeli for more information!

Marjolein

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Marjolein Kuperus

Marjolein Kuperus (1964) is a lawyer, philosopher and writer. She works as a Dutch language trainer at Language Institute Regina Coeli and guest lecturer in philosophy, as well as a writing...

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