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The Netherlands

I tried to learn Dutch, Amsterdam 2000

A few years later, I learned more of the Dutch language when I lived in Nijmegen for a while.

I tried to learn some Dutch while I was living in Amsterdam, May to December of 2000.

The effort was futile, and beyond my limited scholarship abilities. People say that Dutch is difficult to learn. Others say that every language is difficult to learn. One problem with Dutch is that the Dutch speak English. This is especially true in Amsterdam.

I found no exception to this rule, in Amsterdam. The Dutch have a confident and competent knowledge of the English language. The Dutch learn English from television, from films, and from visitors. Oh, and in school — years and years of English in school.

A great number of visitors pass through Amsterdam. It's always been that way. Amsterdam was a powerful merchant city. It grew to greatness in the 1600's as a center of international trade. These days, the international language is English. It's the language of commerce — so of course the Dutch learn English.

Foreign cinema and television shows in Holland are always played in the original language, and subtitled — never overdubbed. The Dutch grow up being entertained in English.

So the Dutch can speak English, and it might seem polite to ask — but the Dutch may treat you as if it's not.

But I felt compelled to try to learn Dutch (and it is important. When you can speak but not listen, you can't really participate.)

I sat in cafés with a newspaper and my Dutch-English dictionary. I asked a few questions about some phrases. I had one day that I didn't speak English; but I didn't say much of anything that day, only going to a café and to the library to use the internet.

Once, I tried to speak Dutch at the postbank, a post office/stationery shop/bank, at the branch there in Osdorp. I said, in what Dutch I could, that I wanted to pay my rent (cash, into the landlord's account.) The woman behind the counter said "I speak English too, you know." She said it in a very derisive manner. I told her, in English, "Yeah, but I'm trying to learn Dutch." As I walked away, she and several old ladies tittered and giggled about me.

I did learn some Dutch words. And I learned something about how to learn language, which I would excercise to much greater use in Spain, where the Spanish, God bless them, don't speak English.