How learning Dutch for the first time is ruining my German

When I was younger I really loved the English language and I thought it was super cool to be able to speak a foreign language fluently. One of my goals was to be able to speak English at a high level and speak it a lot during my everyday life. So, I studied English and went abroad to speak it as much as possible. My track brought me to Finland and there I met my Dutch boyfriend. Since we both didn’t share the same language, we spoke English with each other – four years later we still do. I achieved my teenage goal of speaking English every single day.

Over the time I noticed that it didn’t take me a lot of effort to learn a language, and since I came back home from my exchange with a Dutch boyfriend I considered it a necessity to learn his language. So, two years ago I started learning Dutch, a language that has never been on my list of foreign languages I still want to learn, but I enjoyed it. The actual language learning process started once I started living in the Netherlands.

 

Learning Dutch for the first time

I moved here in July and started working as a German teacher in a Dutch school, so I was simply forced to speak and hear Dutch all day. There was no space for fears of sounding stupid or struggling with words while talking. The first couple of weeks was a lot of concentration and every evening I had the feeling that my brain was exploding. After half a year it started to feel natural to go to work and speak Dutch – not saying flawlessly. I learn a lot from my Dutch students and we help each other learning each other’s languages.

But one funny phenomenon I noticed quite soon. When skyping with my parents, my mom regularly said that my intonation sounds weird, especially the way I say “No”. Often, I got to hear that I used the wrong preposition in German or that this is really not the way you can say things in German. Hearing wrong German all day in school also doesn’t help and I came to realise that I start forgetting words in German. Not really, but at the very moment, I could say the word in English or Dutch but not German. I blame it on the little amount I actually speak my own mother tongue.

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I wanted a life full of English, which I got and additionally, I also got a life full of Dutch. So, just for fun, I figured that I start writing down the mistakes I made. Below you’ll find a list of things I said which are incorrect, how they should be in Austrian German (can’t speak for German German) and what the Dutch equivalent is:

Dutch, German and English

What I said

Correct Austrian

Dutch

English

Was denkst du davon?

Was hältst du davon?

Wat denk je daarvan?

What do you think of it?

Gehen wir eine frische Nase schnappen?

Gehen wir frische Luft schnappen?

Gaan we een frisse neus halen?

Shall we get some fresh air?

Neeeee

Nein

Nee

No

Ich bin morgen frei.

Ich habe morgen frei.

Morgen ben ik vrij.

I’m off tomorrow.

Auf der Arbeit

In der Arbeit

Op mijn werk…

At work

Was sagtest du?

Wie bitte?

Wat zei je?

What did you say?

Schönes Wochenende! – Du auch!

Schönes Wochenende! – Dir auch!

Fijn weekend! – Jij ook!

Have a nice weekend! – You too!

Ich weiß nicht, ob wir das können machen.

Ich weiß nicht, ob wir das machen können.

Ik weet niet, of wij dat kunnen doen.

I don’t know, if we can do that.

 

These are just a few and I must admit every week I can add a few more expressions to the list. But especially that makes me more aware of how complex language development is. To reach the top of confusion my boyfriend and I still mainly speak English with each other, in between we use Dutch terms and to round it up we sprinkle a bit of German on top. My love for languages led me to live a life not speaking one language properly anymore. My mother tongue degenerates, my Dutch won’t ever be on a native level and my English starts to mingle with Dutch/German. But…

…macht nichts aus! – Das macht doch nichts! – Maakt niet uit! that doesn’t matter!

 

Learn Dutch

Learning Dutch for the first time can be scary and also can be expensive. If you’re looking to practice your Dutch for free, then Learn Dutch has a load of video lessons to help. So get spitting out those Dutch words. 😉 We’ve got a lot of fun articles and a few videos ourselves, so check them out on our channel!

I am curious to read about your experiences and in which way your language(s) change(s). Drop your experiences learning Dutch for the first time in the comments!

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