How not to learn Dutch

Regrettably tested by yours truly, here’s a 7-plus-one-step tried-and-true method to ensure your knowledge of Nederlandse taal never gets off the ground.

Step 0: Spend a semester in Brussels, as an exchange student in a Flemish university. Enjoy the sound of Dutch, but never get out of the international group where English is the lingua franca. Tentatively decide you’ll apply for a Masters’ in the Netherlands and learn the language.

Step 1: Move to Maastricht. Start studying in the SBE. Realize the language resounding on the hallways is not flowing Dutch, but rough-edged German. (Unrelatedly, realize your parents were right in recommending German lessons back when you had time for everything.)

Step 2: Discover the magic of online fleamarkets. Purchase a small book that promises to teach you Dutch in 3 months. Flip through it excitedly, then place it in your newly assembled Ikea bookcase.

Step 3: Get caught up in other things. For, like, 5 months or so. Never open the book.

Step 4: Convince yourself that exposure to the language is a promising start. Change your Facebook language to Dutch. Attempt to navigate your bank’s website without Google translate. Sing along to ad jingles at the beginning of YouTube videos.

Step 5: Gather up the courage to ask for a Cola in Dutch. The puzzled look on the seller’s face indicates that you somehow managed to massacre the pronunciation of not only “alstublieft”, but also of “een”. Feel embarrassed and grateful when she switches to English, as everybody does.

Step 6: Shrug when asked how your Dutch learning is going. Make jokes about it. “I’m testing whether languages can be learned through osmosis from books on the shelf. So far, no results.” “I’m only smoking to keep my ability to pronounce the hard G.”

Step 7: Slowly admit to yourself that this isn’t working. Hide the language guide in a binder. Wonder which other language you should pretend to study. Then repeat steps 1 through 7 with necessary adjustments.

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