Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dutch Speaking Meetup

Wow, I had the best time last night!  I joined a Dutch speaking meetup group that meets once a week in Amsterdam.  The group is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds who want to practice speaking Dutch.  Apparently there are even some Dutch members (though none were there last night.)  Let me tell you what, this was exactly what I needed!  I was a little nervous at first but I am now really really glad that I went.

Over the course of the evening I got to speak to a lot of people (some who were pretty good, and others who were not) in Dutch.  It was so nice to have people actually listen to what I was saying in Dutch and not just switch to English.  I found out that I know a lot more than I thought I knew.  It is just really hard for me to realize that otherwise since I am always around fluent Dutch speakers; it just always seams like I don't know anything around them.  But with these people it was different.  I was definitely the person who lived in the Netherlands the shortest period of time, but guess what?  I knew more than some of the people that have been living here for 2-3 years!  I got a lot of complements on what I knew for being here only six months (well now almost seven I guess.)  And that finally made me feel like I really accomplished something.  I was actually able to have some conversations IN DUTCH and help other people.  I got a lot of help from others there as well.

This all really made me feel welcome and like I was finally part of a group even though I hardly knew these people.  I am so tired of being the outsider, and this was really nice for a change.  Some things I really like about last night that differ from my normal experiences of speaking Dutch with Dutch people both at work and other places are:
  • People look directly at you while they are speaking in Dutch, not just look at everyone else at the table assuming that you won't undersand.
  • When I say "wat zei je?" (what did you say) because I did not hear someone, they will repeat in in Dutch, not just repeat it in English
  • The conversation continues in Dutch even if I or the other person make a slight mistake
  • People were happy to speak in Dutch with me
  • I did not feel intimidated at all
  • People did not speak super fast and are easy to understand
  • People did not try to teach me only swear or sex words or other things that would be funny for them to teach me.  We actually had meaningful conversations where I can used what I learned again.
  • I felt included the entire time, there were no side conversations with people speaking real fast in Dutch to each other
  • When I asked a question in Dutch, it was answered in Dutch, NOT ENGLISH!  (this is the one that pisses me off all the time at work.)
I wish it would be this easy and rewarding to speak in Dutch at work, but right now, I feel like it really is not.  People here switch to English so fast and it really makes me feel stupid.  I think maybe I will try to legitimately speak Dutch here again after a few good months of meetup.  Speaking Dutch at work would be so much nicer if I was not the only person who is not fluent.  Right now trying to speak it here just does not really work very well.  Everyone here does seem to have good intentions, but for me, I just don't think it is working right now.  It is hard to explain to someone that has known two or more languages their entire life what it feels like to be working here with them.  But, now after last nights meeting, I am much more optimistic that I may be able to fit in (even here at work) one day.

By the way, I got to check off one more of my Dutch goals!  :-)

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