You need absolutely no Dutch to thrive through your master’s or your student life. So, as an international student, why would you learn Dutch? Blogger Donatella Gasparro found her reason.
© Sven Menschel
I have been in the Netherlands for one year now, and I started learning Dutch seven months ago. When you tell internationals that you’re learning Dutch, they look at you with a suspicious yet surprised and quite curious look and usually ask: ‘why?!’. When I told my Dutch friends, they answered: ‘that’s so cool!’. It is. It is so cool to learn the code that people use in the country in which you’re living to communicate and to structure their thoughts! I think it’s almost necessary.
The issue in the academic environment is exactly about necessity: you need absolutely no Dutch to thrive through your master’s or your student life. As many of us traveling souls have probably experienced, you don’t really pick up a language if you’re not forced to.
That’s the story of my Dutch: I kind of started getting it, understanding pieces of sentences, discerning and associating pronunciation and spelling, and so on. But real practice always stayed way too far away from me.
A real challenging and fun opportunity revealed itself this summer while I was on a completely different experience that will probably not surprise you if you’ve read some of my previous blogs.
I volunteered at a beautiful farm (surprise!) and stayed with a Dutch farmers’ family, who had three amazing kids. Almost three, seven and nine years old. After the first shy days, the kids kidnapped me to play with them every time they could. There’s no such thing as a language barrier with kids. There I realised: that’s why I am learning Dutch. To communicate with children.
It was incredible to put together almost proper sentences while being helped by friendly kids or ask ‘Wat is dat?’ to learn new terms. The oldest child also asked me to repeat things over and over to be sure I was keeping them in mind properly. Isn’t that beautiful?
Oma’s en opa’s
On another note, playing with kids or just staying around them is something that we really don’t have the chance to do while being students in a student community. We always spend time and are surrounded by people of a certain age, all of them with a proper English, and it kind of feels like a bubble when you have no families around, no oma's and opa's and no kids.
I found spending time (again after a while) with kids regenerating and lightening. It really is a gift to retain some joyful playfulness in life and keep our inner children alive!
So yeah, here’s a reason for you to learn Dutch when living in the Netherlands: it helps you keep your inner child alive. ;)
Donatella Gasparro is a master’s student in Organic Agriculture and is Italian.