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The Silent K – Learning Dutch in Belgium

By alison - March 8, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

I am attempting to learn Dutch… again.

It’s been an on-going battle; a tug-of-war between my guilt at not being fluent (and at this point I would call anything above a three-year-old’s level fluent) and my lack of motivation.

Honestly, my excuses for not learning are pretty weak:

  • I don’t have time – well, I work from home and don’t have kids so I’m sure an hour a day won’t throw off my oh so busy schedule.
  • Dutch is a hard language to learn – True, but it’s not like learning English is a piece of cake either. I mean, how do you explain the silent K, like in the word knife, to a non-native English speaker?
  • Dutch isn’t a very common language – True again, but I am living among Dutch speakers for a few more years at least. Besides, it gives me an excuse to visit some of those Dutch islands in the Caribbean. (Curaçao anyone?)

When we first moved to Belgium we were keen to pick up the language and we hired a private tutor. We knew that organised classes wouldn’t work well for us, as Andrew’s schedule is so unpredictable. We had two classes. After the third time we had to cancel at the last minute because Andrew was flying off somewhere to help a customer, we felt too guilty to continue.

Our neighbour then offered to teach us. We thought, because she lives next door, we could organise things at the last minute. I learned much more from her than our first tutor, as I felt much more comfortable with her, but the scheduling conflict became even more insurmountable. As a single mom with a very active daughter, we had trouble finding times that we were all free.

So, as you do, I picked up words and phrases here and there and, sometimes, I’m quite surprised at the things I do understand. However, my ability and confidence to converse in Dutch is only slightly above nul.

Frustrated with myself, I did what any wife of a computer geek would do – I searched the internet and settled on a piece of software to help me learn.

The Rosette Stone Dutch, level 1 & 2, claims it’s “the fastest way to learn a language guaranteed.” The idea is that you learn Dutch by immersing yourself in the language, the same way you learned your native tongue. There are different components to each lesson – reading, listening, writing and even speaking into the voice recognition software.

I’ve been attempting to use the program at for at least an hour and a half to an hour a day.

So far I’ve learned some helpful phrases like:

The airplane flies (well, I do live near the airport)

The girl jumps in the water (useful for summer when my neighbour’s daughter is in the pool)

The clown has blue hair (Frankly, I hate clowns and get the shivers every time I see the picture that accompanies this phrase.)

So, I don’t think I’ll be having any meaningful conversations about world politics or global warming in Dutch anytime soon. But if you want to know that the cat is under the table, I’m your woman.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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