Learning Dutch: A pleasure and a challenge

By: Fr. Rian Supardi, SVD

Before I came to the Netherlands, many people said to me that Dutch is a very difficult language. When I heard this, I just said, “every language is unique and yet it can always be learned.” No matter how long it takes. My reason was very simple; I knew that learning it is like learning to do any other thing. Of course, I have to admit that all possibilities are open, I mean, could turn out to be difficult or otherwise. Some people take more time and some people less. But I remain positive, that anyone has the capacity to learn a new and strange language.
Now, coming to my real experience of learning Dutch in the Netherlands. When I began the course, I found it honestly exciting and at the same time really challenging. I have never learned Dutch before, perhaps like most of the migrants who are new or just arrived in the Netherlands. And to make matters worst the system and method that I experienced in the first language school, felt like it wasn’t really suitable for new learners like me. Of course I knew very well that these difficulties are but part of the entire learning process, and so I remained positive and simply shook all my worries off my shoulders.

Since in the beginning of the whole course and up until now, learning Dutch has turned out to be a really pleasurable experience for me. Even though the process sometimes causes a lot of pressure I always try to make it a point that the whole thing becomes a fun and enjobale experience. For this reason I have grown to enjoy learning this new language.
In the long run the mistakes an errors that I have made, have encouraged and motivated me to gain more impulse to learn Dutch. At the moment I can already speak it, although it still is a bit of a struggle. I consider it myself as a huge progress from the time that I started with the program. I found also helpful that I had two other confreres who were also learning the language together with me [Melvin and Eko]. I really found it helpful, we would always try to speak Dutch at home to get more attuned to it, regardless of the many personal mistakes we had. More often than not, I have learned to improve on it through the many mistakes I made.

We recently moved to a new language school and for the past five months or so, I have noticed the difference in their teaching method as in comparison to the previous school where we were. Every now and then, I would still ask myself whether I have done enough to improve and develop this very important tool for the mission. With these things in mind I remain thus consistently conscious of the fact that a deepening of what I have learned is really intertwined with how effective I will be as a missionary here in the Netherlands. So I’m positive that were moving through to the right direction.

However, it remains really tough. Like whenever I interact with people outside the comfort of the learning environment on the streets, the market, or the OV or public transport, I often still find it difficult to follow what’s being said. I constantly go through that experience when you ask yourself why they pronounce things like this and that, and or, is that actually another word or not? Ja! It’s tough yet it’s also very enriching. It’s a slow and painful process yet very rewarding.


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