When you first get to Holland you might experience quite a shock. No, not because we are so tall or because our food is not what you call the ‘haute cuisine’, but you will be – at first – totally unable to recognize any of the words the people are pronouncing. You might have a feeling that everything that comes out of our mouth is the same. Like Snoop Dog in this commercial that aired on TV a couple of years ago:
Now, you say, you might get this feeling when hearing so many other languages. Finnish and Chinese are definitely harder to learn. But what’s so difficult about Dutch is that it’s a very ‘harsh’ language. It has strong sounds, like the ‘g’ in ‘goed’. This sound is produced back in the throat and is so strong that it might be the only thing you hear all day long. And what about the ‘r’ like in ‘werken’ or ‘minder’? So hard for the English to pronounce. And when you finally have the courage to speak in Dutch, how on earth do you know how to pronounce that nice place near The Hague where you can go to the beach? Yes, I’m talking about Scheveningen. Do you know how ‘uit’ is pronounced, that sign that you see every time you drive on the highway? Well, at this point it might all be the same to you.
Throughout the courses, I train the students to especially listen to themselves and pronounce the words in the right way. But you can do a lot yourself to get used to the language. It will only help you if you decide to take the Beginners Course.
1. Turn on the TV
Just turn any of the Nederland 1-3 (the public broadcasting) on and see what there is. Anything might do, especially the news. I would actually recommend the news that starts at 19h30 on RTL 4, because it’s much more informative and usually longer than the NOS Journaal at 8 o’clock on Nederland 1. You might notice that the commercial broadcasters have a lot of American movies and TV-series on, so avoid those, it won’t do you any good.
2. Read newspapers
Even scanning the newspapers daily will help. After a while you will recognize more and more words. There are free newspapers in the train like Metro or Spits!, but if you want to read something better you might opt for de Volkskrant or the nrc next. De Volkskrant has a pretty good website with most of their articles online: http://www.volkskrant.nl. Avoid newspapers like Telegraaf and AD.
3. Listen to some radio
Yes, this is probably something you won’t be looking forward to, but this happens to be the most difficult thing about this language: listening and understanding. The more reason to do it. Most radio stations you can find online. Radio 1 is the best: http://www.radio1.nl.
4. Look for the things that interest you
This is the best tip I can give you. Don’t read stuff that you don’t find interesting, only for the sake of reading. If you love cooking for instance, pick up the free Allerhande magazine at Albert Heijn and go through it. In that way you learn things and you don’t get bored easily. If you like comic books, buy the Donald Duck.
Don’t push yourself, but be curious. Find a way to laugh about the language and the funny people that live here. I’ll be there to encourage you just a bit more and to open new doors for you.
Mirsada (Dutch Teacher)