Learning their language

IMAG0822Having recently decided to study Dutch, one of the languages of my ancestors, I have to wonder what took me so long. I’m enjoying it thoroughly. I’ve always loved languages. I studied German and a little French in school … dabbled in Spanish with Berlitz tapes in the ’90s … Dutch, however, always felt more elusive … more obscure … even though, of all these languages, it was the only one spoken by my ancestors. I now know that my grandparents knew more Dutch than I realized; they used it only when needed. They were native English speakers, born in the United States.

Technology — and the wider availability of language learning tools — is one reason Dutch now seems more within my grasp. Before embarking on a journey with Rosetta Stone Dutch lessons, I looked at many good options, including Pimsleur and some free on-line courses, one of which — memrise — I’m using as a vocabulary supplement. I chose Rosetta Stone because I wanted to learn what the language looked like, as well as sounded like, given that I am a more natural writer than speaker. It also includes a microphone to practice speaking and provides access to a certain number of live, on-line sessions with a coach. It’s patterned after the way one learns language naturally … with no explicit grammar lessons (which I confess, as an adult, I do miss, but that’s part of the challenge!). I’m sure other language learning tools are also very good, just different.

People usually want to know why one is learning a new language … especially one deemed as impractical as Dutch, which is spoken, apparently, by only about 23 million people in the world. I am doing it because, as I said, I love languages … and I hope to go to the Netherlands some time … and it would be cool to read my great-great grandfather’s letters as he wrote them … and frankly, simply because it was my ancestors’ language, and as a family history buff, I’m odd like that. A few of my reasons are practical, most of them hugely impractical. And yet … it’s been a rewarding challenge so far … just getting started.

Next up … Norwegian … even more obscure, with fewer tools available. To keep from confusing my nascent Dutch, I’m starting with a simple list of common Norwegian vocabulary words on memrise … to prepare for when my Dutch is more secure and I can take on the full challenge of learning the language of my Nordic ancestors as well.

This entry was posted in NETHERLANDS, RESEARCH PROCESS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Learning their language

  1. This is fabulous! If I knew Dutch I could read those old documents that belong to my ancestors! But, of course, most Dutch today speak English as well as I do!

    • ljhlaura says:

      It’s a great point — English is now more widespread — which, of course, makes this an even more impractical indulgence! :-) It’s a rewarding one, though, and I’m looking forward to being able to read the language better …

  2. My grandmother is Dutch and after spending 3 months in the Netherlands last year, I am now taking weekly Dutch classes while also using Rosetta Stone as another resource. People always ask me why I am learning such an impractical language too. I fell in love with the Netherlands while I lived there, and along with my Dutch ancestry, I have the motivation and passion to return and work there someday!
    Veel success met nederlands leren :)

    • ljhlaura says:

      Dankuwel … appreciate the comments! I hope you get your wish and best of luck with your Dutch classes … Live classes probably remain the best way to learn …. sounds like you are learning a lot … Perhaps I will be able to say all of that elegantly in Dutch some day. :-)

  3. vanbraman says:

    I know a bit of Dutch, but not much. I am much better with German.

  4. Jana Last says:

    This is wonderful! Good for you! Please let us know how you’re doing with learning Dutch. I wish my mom had taught me Portuguese. She was born in Brazil, as were her parents. I heard it spoken around me when my grandparents visited us. I also wish I knew how to speak Swedish. My paternal grandmother spoke Swedish even though she was born in the U.S. Her parents were born in Sweden. And then there’s Norwegian. That’s another language that would be helpful to learn for my family history research. Please keep us updated on your progress learning that language as well. :)

  5. Sheryl says:

    It sounds like a wonderful adventure to learn Dutch.

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