6 WAYS TO HELP: My partner / friend is learning Dutch!

6 ways to help a friend speak your language

So, your partner or friend is learning Dutch, you’re a Dutch native speaker and you want to help out. I’ve come up with 6 ways to help your partner / friend. Even though this is a Dutch blog, these tips will be helpful to anyone who wants to help out their partner or friend learn their target language.

1. SPEAK AT A NATURAL PACE

Super important and something that most people tend to get wrong. It’s more productive to speak at a natural pace and rather have your partner or friend ask to repeat a sentence than to speak unnaturally slow. He/she can use the following questions and sentences in that case:
“Kan je dat herhalen?” (Can you repeat that?)
“Wat zeg je?” (What did you say?)
“Ik begrijp het niet.” (I don’t understand)
“Wat betekent dat / (any other word)?” (What does that mean?)

You might want to keep your sentences and ideas simple (don’t use too many subclauses). If possible, use gestures or point to things. By speaking at a natural pace, your partner/friend will have to adjust to you and will also hear Dutch as it is spoken in real life.

2. MAKING EXERCISES TOGETHER

It’s a great, fun idea to practice and make exercises together. You could do some grammatical or vocabulary exercises together, just keep in mind that if your partner/friend gets it wrong, don’t give him / her immediately the right answer. Just say “fout” or indicate where the mistake might be (verb conjugation, article, structure) and have him / her repeat the sentence again. Let him/her try and discover the mistake him/herself. Learning a language is not about speaking perfectly, it’s rather about becoming aware yourself what is correct and what isn’t. Using this technique, you’ll help train your partner/friend that awareness.

3. GO SHOPPING!

Learning a language is all about having fun and making it as casual as possible. That can also mean doing things like making a shopping/grocery list together in Dutch or when in the supermarket / shop / … pointing at things (avoid pointing at people, you don’t want to get into fights!) and getting your partner/friend to practice some necessary day-to-day vocabulary. You could even use an app like “Bring!” which can be set into several languages.

4. WHAT ARE WE DOING RIGHT NOW?

When you’re spending some quality time together, you can just take a moment to ask your friend or partner in Dutch “Wat zijn we nu aan het doen? / Wat doen wij op dit moment?” and let him / her explain it to you in Dutch. Then you can continue in whatever working language you have going between the two of you but it’s a perfect exercise to just flex that Dutch muscle. Learning a language is really like growing muscles and a little bit of practice everyday will increase the student’s flexibility and language-switching capacities enormously.

5. SCREEN TIME!

After a hard day at work, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and watching a series or a movie. Why not make it something Dutch every once in a while? Just keep in mind that your partner / friend, depending on the level, might have difficulties understanding soaps, thrillers or other “talkative” movies or series. These mostly consist of people talking about past & future events or people not in the picture without many visual clues.

It’s better to watch together things like cooking shows, travel & nature documentaries, YouTube videos about your common hobbies or interests, etc. This kind of material is not so narrative-based and has enough visual elements for your partner/friend to follow what is happening, even if he/she doesn’t understand every single word or sentence. Even Pixar or Disney movies (or Miyazaki or anime or…) which have been overdubbed into Dutch would do the job nicely. You can put subtitles in Dutch to facilitate the whole process.

6. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OCCASION

Why not have a specific occasion in which you only communicate in Dutch with your partner or friend? Here are some ideas: one day in the week where you only speak Dutch (if your partner is already getting advanced) or maybe all of your conversations via Whatsapp should be in Dutch or whenever you go to the store or to a specific cafĂ© or place you only communicate in Dutch. There are endless amounts of possibilities for you to create small challenges for your partner/friend, but just make sure that it’s fun and that it stays fun. If you see that he/she is struggling, then switch it up or change it accordingly so it doesn’t get too heavy for him/her. Remember, it’s all about creating a positive relationship with Dutch.

BONUS TIP: MUSIC, MAESTRO!

You could, obviously, show him/her your favorite songs in Dutch. Don’t worry too much about whether the song has complex vocabulary. You can explain him/her what the song is about or what the song/band/album means to you. Maybe, your partner/friend will discover something in Dutch that he/she particularly loves and that can contribute to his/her motivation. Here you can find my very elaborate playlists of Dutch & Flemish music, organized according to genre, if you need inspiration.

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