First of all, I just want to say that even though learning Dutch takes up a lot of my free time, I would never skip out on things that come up just so I can study Dutch, I only study when I'm not doing anything else. The reason that I moved to Europe was not to learn Dutch, but to enjoy myself and explore, and that is what I do when the opportunity presents itself.
So, let's see, where to start? Coming back to NL after being in the US for two weeks made me a bit nervous about remembering what I had already learned. Turns out, I was worried for nothing, I ended up pretty much remembering everything, and maybe even somewhat better since I had a break! I'm not sure if I mentioned this on here yet or not, but I made speaking Dutch more often at work and with Dutch people that I know, my New Years resolution. I use it always at the store and with people I don't know, but with those that I do know, I always felt too embarrassed. It was hard at first, but I'm starting to use it more and more now at work and with friends sometimes. Almost all of my emails to Dutch people in general are now all in Dutch, that is much easier though since I have much more time to think that when I'm speaking.
Some cool things that have happened recently are:
- I wrote a letter to my auto insurance company totally in Dutch and because of the letter, (and an attached letter from my old US insurer) they lowered my rates. It was so cool to have something substantial take place and I did not even have to use English.
- The other day I got a letter from Gemeente Haarlem about a bezoekersparkeervergunning (visitors parking permit). I told Kris it was nice that I could read the whole letter because that usually does not happen with official things like that because the language they use is a bit harder to understand. He then told me no way man, it is because your Dutch is getting better. And I of course said no way! Take for example things from the IND (branch of government that deals with immigration here in Holland) those things I do not understand at all! Then a couple days later I was thinking about that and what Kris had said so I went and got out some of my old letters from the IND. Guess what! I could read them and pretty much understand what they were talking about!! I could not believe it for one that Kris was right and for two that I could read it! It was pretty exciting.
- Last week I called Gemeente Haarlem and was asking about the inburgeringcursus which I mentioned in this post. What I did not say was that when I called I only spoke in Dutch to the woman on the phone. I kept thinking when am I going to have to switch to English? At one point, I did not understand something that she asked me so I said (in Dutch) that I did not understand and instead of her asking me in English, she asked another way in Dutch, I understood and answered her and we continued on! When I hung up the phone I just sat there and was like "Wow, what just happened?" I could not believe that I actually arranged something like that on the phone with no English.
- I made reservations at a restaurant last week and it went totally sooth. The last time I did it, it was also totally in Dutch, but there were some awkward moments, this time, I had none.
- Yesterday, I had a meeting with my boss, his boss, and an external company. I was looking at the meeting invite and was like "oh no, I am the only English speaker here." I hate that because then everyone has to change to English just for me. When we got to the meeting, my boss's boss (who knows that I am learning Dutch) asked if I would like him to do the meeting in Dutch! He said that it would also be perfectly fine to to in English. But I said no, I want to try Dutch and I will let you know if I get totally lost. One and a half hours later, I was totally exhausted because of how closely I had to pay attention, but you know what, I made it through that whole damn meeting!! I generally understood everything (excluding the details) and answered every question that I was asked. I was pretty psyched after that. Now my boss will actually come up to me and ask me things in Dutch which he never really did unless I was the one who started in Dutch, so that is also kinda cool.
- Last night, I met a Dutch woman at meetup and she told me that she was very impressed with me for having no lessons and only living here for 9 months. We talked for a little while and even though I struggled through a lot of things, it was cool to have a conversation with an actual Dutch person at the meetup.
- Last weekend I went out with Kris and Eric and they both told me that I was going good. This met a lot coming from them because complements in Holland don't really come along like the do all the time in the US, people here only say things if they really mean it. We had a bit of a chat about it at the end of the night and it was really nice to actually talk about this with real people for once than just on this blog.
- I worked through an entire issue with my boss over IM in Dutch and was able to take care of the problem.
I can't wait for my classes to start. I really hope that they are good and that I can actually communicate well when I am done.
After saying all of these things, I can finally see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have no idea how I am going to get to the end of the tunnel (no at all) but I am pretty sure that I am getting closer and closer every day. I still cannot imagine myself having a Dutch conversation without struggling, I thing that is still a long way off, but we'll see, only time will tell.