One of the most daunting things to consider when moving abroad is, for most of us, the fact that you have to learn a new language. There are no ifs, buts, or maybes. You just have to.
For me, this was something that I was prepared for mentally, but obviously, not so much physically. Since my man and I’s first meet-up a year previous, I had bought the books, downloaded the apps, and installed all the CDs that were going to give me a bit of a head start. Of course, at first, I had no idea that the future would bring me here, but I was desperate to understand a bit more about my boyfriend. It felt good to be able to say hello (ok, so there’s not so much difference there) and ask how he was (when I found my guts). It felt good to try, and hey, who doesn’t want to at least try to be bilingual.
Now, a few months in, I am enrolled in Dutch classes, where I go 3 times a week for 3 hours per lesson, I help teach children in a local school, and, almost exclusively talk to my boyfriend’s parents in Dutch.
Now, here’s the thing. My boyfriend and I spend our days talking English to each other. And I mean 99.5% of the time. The only time that we don’t speak English is when we are out in the shops, or basically ‘around other Dutch people who will hear me speak English and hate me’.
Almost every day, I am told that I should be speaking Dutch with my boyfriend. And, ok, I see your point:
- He’s from around here; that’s quite handy when trying to learn the language.
- Out of everyone I know, I’m around him most of the time.
But actually, how would we really function if we only spoke Dutch to one another? Firstly, for him it’s like talking to a child. And that, my friends, is no way to build a romance. Sometimes he has to repeat the same sentence three times before I have heard and translated all of the words. Then I have to translate my own response into another language and not cock it up. And if I haven’t cocked it up, I’m left wondering if he will understand my dodgy accent spewing out these foreign words?
Secondly, I have questions. Lots of them. All the time. I’m pretty curious as to why there are two different words for the, or why we say numbers the wrong way round, or why I’m shoving all of my extra verbs to the end of the sentence. Usually, he doesn’t have an answer for me, apart from ‘it just is’, or ‘I’m not sure, really’, which is definitely not an insult to him – how many of us know the grammatical ins and outs of the language we’ve been programmed to use our whole life… it just is the way it is, right?
So, we’re going to carry on speaking mostly English, with a spattering of Dutch sentences I’ve repeated a few hundred times and learnt by heart such as “Ik heb geen idee” (I have no idea), or “Ik weet het niet” (I don’t know). And with that, I think we’ll be ok.