Sunday, 12 October 2014

Damon's Dutch Diary 1

Welcome to Damon's Dutch Diary.

I have been often asked by people how do I learn languages, particularly when they see I speak numerous languages, and I have regularly given the answer that learning Esperanto at age sixteen was a springboard to other languages, but I personally feel that was not always a satisfactory answer. I have decided to therefore apply myself to a new language, namely Dutch, for a number of reasons, and analyse my learning while I learn. It will be an exciting exploration for me, not only of the Dutch language, but also of the language learning process.

Why Dutch? Firstly it is a very useful language as the firm I work for does a lot of business in the Netherlands. Also, it is a Germanic language, and I have a love for Germanic languages, so I actually could be considered to be cheating a little as I already have a feel for Germanic languages. But the thing is, I have often travelled through Schiphol Airport, I love travelling by KLM when the opportunity arises to do so and one day would like to step outside the airport into the Netherlands itself. (As an aside, dear KLM bosses, if you read this, please restart flying the Amsterdam - Manila route, as it was my favourite way to travel to the Philippines).

Let's firstly analyse what I know of the Dutch language. I studied a few pages of a book of Dutch last November, but gave up because of exhaustion as I was doing NaNoWriMo at the same time. I also, as mentioned, have a good grounding in other Germanic languages, particularly German. I've also sat listening to numerous announcements in Dutch on numerous KLM flights.

It's time to get in deeper, take Dutch seriously, so I signed up for a class at the Brasshouse in Birmingham.

So this week was my first class. I quite enjoyed it. Personally, I feel we didn't progress too far, but understandably, as would be expected, a lot of it was a "getting to know you" session, with a lot of "Hallo, mijn naam is Damon" (My name is Damon) conversations to get our confidence up. It is also worth noting that I may be impatient due to having a lot of knowledge of similar languages, and the mechanics of language, whereas the other learners in the class may not, so I think on reflection it was pitched at the right level, to include those learners who are not accustomed to learning languages. It is best to walk before you can run, of course. We were given a vocabulary sheet to go through, then tasked to go home to learn it, and it's worth just mentioning that I think a lot of the vocabulary may have been chosen to build confidence, as most of the words have similar English cognates, making vocabulary learning a lot easier: arm (arm), vinger (finger), deur (door). It's worth mentioning a few words which may take the initial learner outside the comfort zone, and techniques to try to make them easier.

keuken = kitchen
What's cookin' in the kitchen?

kleding = clothes
The cladding is like the clothes of the house.

You have to find your own keywords perhaps, words that mean something to you. I watched the film "Troy" a few years ago, so I'll hopefully be forgiven for putting a picture of Brad Pitt here from promotional materials from that film.


Brad Pitt played Achilles, known for the legend of Achilles' heel. Geel is the Dutch word for yellow. Achilles (in the film) had yellow hair. Achilles heel, geel, yellow. Brad Pitt as Achilles (and his HEEL) with his yellow hair therefore is cognate in my head with GEEL (yellow in Dutch). It makes sense to me, anyway.

In the classes we also will be focussing on the culture of the Netherlands, so it's not all linguistics. We had a general overview of the Netherlands this week, which was useful for exploring our current knowledge about the Dutch world.

So, I have a bit of revision to do before class this week. Good luck to all studying languages, not only Dutch, and I hope you enjoy my analysis of my language learning process.