Language learning


Dutch will be the language of my children’s education. They will do exams in Dutch and their proficiency in that, as well as the subject, will determine which secondary school and then university they will go to. I do find this quite intimidating and I switch between worrying that their Dutch won’t be good enough to do that and then that we won’t be able to maintain their English when they are so immersed in a Dutch environment. Given that I can’t decide which to worry about I’m sure they’ll be fine with both 🙂

My son sits at home playing and talking to himself in Dutch. He amazed me when he first started talking with how quickly he picked up English and it is the same with Dutch. I feel very proud when I hear him using grammar constructions correctly (often the ones that I’ve just covered in my lessons!). We have been here very nearly eighteen months and he has absolutely no problem in Dutch school. His swimming teacher had a panic when he found out we were English and worried that rocket boy didn’t understand him – I think that’s more to do with his ability to be in his own little world than anything else. My husband would say that he gets that from me and he’s probably right. 

Starry girl is expanding her vocabulary and combining words together. Mostly in English, but there is some Dutch – it’s always “nee” not “no” and generally accompanied by a frown and a waggy finger! She understands Dutch though remarkably well and as she’s just started pre-school I’m sure her spoken Dutch will come on leaps and bounds over the next few months. 

  So I’m under real pressure to keep up with them! There is a real sense of satisfaction when I talk to someone and use a separable verb, or er, or pronouns, or another construction and feel I’ve got it right. Though I do rehearse sentences in my head trying out different word orders to see which one feels best. And then they reply and I need to say something else…

I know OPOL is considered to be the gold standard way of raising children bi-/multi-lingually but I’m not following it dogmatically. I think it’s good for the children to hear me talk Dutch as I’m modeling language learning to them. And I have no worry that I’m going to give them bad habits – rocket boy corrects my pronunciation already! He also answers me when I ask him a question in Dutch, even if he’s just ignored me asking the same question in English. And any Dutch book I would read them in Dutch; unsurprisingly our collection of Dutch children’s books is growing. In a few years I’ll have homework in Dutch to help with too 🙂 But most of the time I talk to them in English as that’s my language. 

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