I have been living in Utrecht for the past two years now, and not once did I ever feel like I needed to learn Dutch to survive here. I think that stems from the fact that everyone here, old and young alike, all speak English. Since Dutch does sound quite similar to German, I was able to deceive people into believing that I spoke a bit of Dutch, or at least understood it, for quite some time. I never thought I’d learn the language until the day that I found myself sitting in one of the classes with Emmelie and Lara standing in front of the room welcoming us to the Dutch course that ESN was now offering. I think my main motivation to learn Dutch came from the fact that whenever someone asked me if I had picked up any Dutch during the year and a half that I had been here, I would always reply with a no and then feel quite embarrassed at the fact that I had been in the Netherlands for so long and managed to only know how to say thank you. However, the look that I got wasn’t worth the cost of going to an actual institute to learn the language, which is probably why I jumped at the opportunity to learn the language when ESN offered it for just 15 Euros for the whole course.
My initial thought was that even if I don’t learn the language, at least I’d get to meet my friends at the course, get a good cup of coffee and the delicious stroopwafel! In my books, that sounded a lot better than what I had planned on my Wednesdays which included me probably sitting at home either working on an assignment or watching a mind numbing tv show. From the first lesson already I was hooked. They managed to make it so much fun that I was genuinely looking forward to the next class. After each lesson, we’d get to hear a Dutch song, which everyone would try to sing along to because we’d get the lyrics. Though we probably butchered the pronunciations, we would sing it with so much confidence that no one dared to correct us. My personal favorite things about the course were possibly the sayings and how peculiar they were. So, before I end this I would like to share some of my personal favorites that really resonated with me.
- Helaas, pindakaas! Literally translated: ‘unfortunately peanut butter’. However, what it really means is, ‘too bad/a missed chance’. It’s usually used to show regret.
- Oude koeien uit de sloot halen. Literally translated: ‘taking the old cows out of the canals’. However, what it really means is, ‘to bring up old stories’. It’s usually used to say someone’s being a nag.
Of course I had to use the sayings that were stereotypically Dutch, one that involved the mention of peanut butter and the canals!
By Mehreen Becker