26 May, 2010

Hitting the Wall

So, it would seem that language-wise, I've hit a wall.  I've been hideously busy lately.  I swear, May is busier than the Christmas season!  So, with all of the public holidays, the school holidays and weekends away, my Dutch has stopped improving.

Last week was my first week back at school after about three weeks break, and my original class seems to have disappeared!  They are all either Geslaagd or have changed their schedules, or perhaps have just stopped turning up!  My class has also merged with another, so my nice cosy class with 10 people has jumped to 24!  I really enjoyed the intimacy of my old group - there was lots of one on one with the teacher and each other.  Now we are struggling to fit everyone in the room.  Don't get me wrong, the new group is also lovely - most of the students are people that were in my introductory classes way back at the beginning of this process, so I know them all.  I just miss my small group.

Because I've hit a wall and need to get over it, the obvious solution is practice practice practice!  It's just difficult to find the time and motivation right now.  Next week I'm back into the full swing of the classes, but that's only until we go on summer holidays in July.  I'm really hoping that I can keep the motivation going through the summer, but I feel the year slipping between my fingers in between preparing for the impending wedding, visiting abroad, having visitors from abroad, planning a wedding celebration here later in the year, going to concerts and festivals, and seemingly endless family parties and commitments!  Not to mention International Almere events that are potentially every week.  At least the upside is that I have no time to be lonely or miss living in Australia!

I did have a nice 'Up Yours' moment a couple of weeks ago at a family party.  I was managing ok talking in Dutch to a couple of elderly relatives (struggling a bit, but getting my point across) when Maarten piped up and mentioned that we rarely speak Dutch at home.  Cue the usual finger wagging and "You must talk Dutch" from one of the ladies.  Instead of staring gobsmacked with my mouth hanging open as I would usually do, I said politely that I work 40 hours and go to school two nights per week, so I and I do not want to have to work at home too, and Dutch is hard work for me.  Shut her right up.  I think the finger wagging seems to stem partly from ignorance.  I get the impression that for a lot of Dutch people, learning another language is just as easy as taking up a new hobby and if someone who is trying to learn their language but struggling is not doing enough or making a reasonable effort (I don't get this impression from everyone, of course!  I have a LOT of support from family and friends and I'm extraordinarily grateful).

How have you coped when you hit the proverbial language wall?  How do you manage to find the motivation again?  Or are you just always keeping it together and practicing everywhere you go?  Do you ever experience the finger wagging, or is it just me?

In the near future I have loads to discuss, more on the Exemption Test (congratulations to Connie for passing with flying colours!!), plus more bits on the course books and how my portfolio is going (in the sense of not at all).  I just have to find the time to fit it all in!!


Sonya said...

I think everyone hits a wall with learning the language. I am slowly learning dutch but we speak 100% english in the house. It's what we prefer and like. As for the finger wagging..they always find something to complain about..lol

I know of two women that when they moved here the family refused to speak to them in english. So for about 6 months they were miserable because noone would talk to them. The family members said if they were going to learn dutch then there would be no english allowed. It forced them to learn quicker but they also hold serious grudges because of that. At a time when you need an adjustment period they were getting the full on cold shoulder with no sympathy at all. Thankfully my dutch family is very helpful with speaking both english and dutch to me.

Hang in there, it will all come together for you:)

Unknown said...

Thanks Sonya! Your words are very encouraging. It also put me into a defensive position when my future inlaws decided they were only going to speak Dutch to me late last year. I appreciate the sentiment and that they were only trying to help, but it was the bald faced assumption that they knew what was best for me that was irritating! Thank goodness they never went through with their threat (lol) and now we speak in a mix of Dutch and English.

I'm sure I'll get my backside into gear again when I'm not so busy doing everything else!!

Unknown said...

Hello, there!
I agree with Sonya - I think that we all hit a wall when learning a language and most of us have experienced the finger-wagging ... I just don't care! I speak Dutch reasonably well, I try to improve it and I always make an effort to communicate in that language in every situation outside my home. So then, when people hear that I speak English at home with my husband, many times they try to lecture me about that. But hey, I can choose what language I want to speak at home, can't I?
It is true that these people many times do it out of ignorance - they just don't know what adapting to a new country and learning a new language involves - so I think that that gives us the right to wag fingers (or worse hehe) back at them!

Unknown said...

Thanks Aledys! Good for you to be able to let it wash over you, I'm getting there I think! I too always make a concerted effort to speak Dutch, except at my hairdresser actually. I really must start making the effort with her...

I should also start practising wagging my finger back! Love it.

Valentijn said...

I fully defend my right to speak English at home whenever I feel like it. While speaking only Dutch might be faster, integrating in a new country is a stressful experience, and it helps a LOT if I can communicate with my fiance without being forced to endure additional stress.

I do want to work on my Dutch speaking more, but laid down the rules somewhat firmly with my fiance 1) I speak Dutch when I want to. 2) He responds in English because he's over-educated and no good at speaking simple Dutch. 3) He's expected to correct my grammar problems, but shouldn't try to expand my vocabulary.

Some people are great at speaking simple Dutch, such as Dutch instructors and people that work with children a lot. But he keeps using a lot of words I don't know, which just causes me frustration and more stress. And I get more vocab than I can handle as it is - I just need to work on grammar when speaking spontaneously.

One thing I've started getting used to in the Netherlands is to being stubborn when I have to :-P

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