Photo circa 2007: My mom and I hanging out in Amsterdam, Dutch newspaper ("een krant!") in the foreground.
Every year, when it comes time to make resolutions and set goals for the new year ahead, "Relearn Dutch" makes the list. It's been a long-standing index card in my box of Life Goals. Most of you already know this about me, but for those who don't...my parents tried to raise me to be bilingual with Dutch and English...and, as a very young child, I did speak a little bit of both. But come time for kindergarten, I hated mixing up my words and not being a "normal" American kid like everybody else, and so over time, the Dutch faded out.
Needless to say, as an adult, I've been pretty bummed that I lost my Dutch way back when. It's all the more heartbreaking these days, as we get a surprisingly large number of Dutch customers at REI. I'm always sad that I can't really interact with them more in their native language, even though I always surprise them by being able to identify their accents. Likewise, I'd love to be able to talk with my mom in her native tongue again, too.
It was my hope that my study abroad program (complete with Dutch classroom lessons!) in the Netherlands would help me relearn the language for good - and, true, my understanding was better at the end of that semester than ever before. But even immersed in the country and in a Dutch homestay, I wasn't fluent, let alone really even conversational, by the end of the program. I had a Dutch teacher, a Dutch homestay host, a Dutch guy I even dated for awhile...but I also had a program full of other American students, an American program director, an American roommate, and oh, 90% of the Dutch population is fluent in English.
Well, the time has finally come that I'm taking charge of my long-standing and long-unfulfilled goal. I'd mentioned to Alan several times the possibility of getting the Rosetta Stone Dutch program - generally considered to be the most effective language-learning software out there - and he finally convinced me to take the plunge. We are both going to learn it, so we can practice together at home, too! Obviously, I have an unfair head start, but I'm excited Alan wants to be a part of my effort to reconnect with some of my own cultural roots...and infinitely appreciative of his helping push me toward my goal.
My biggest excitement since starting the program? In brainstorming ways to get more exposure to the language outside of just the computer software, I realized I can listen to live streaming of Dutch radio stations on the internet. So while most people spent Sunday out to brunch or on picnics with their mothers, I spent my morning doing lessons on Rosetta Stone and listening to a radio station based in the Dutch city of Hilversum, picking up snippets of understandable speech among the DJ's and listening to mostly American pop music, with the occasional rockin' Dutch hip-hop or French rock. And even though I wasn't on the same continent as my mom for Mother's Day, and in fact, our temporal overlap of the holiday only lasted 16 hours (thanks to the epic time difference between Seattle and the Netherlands), it felt really comforting to be immersed in Dutch for the day.
Rosetta Stone Photo Album:
This screen made me choke aloud on my laughter.
Here's what the whole screen actually looked like. (The program gives you a phrase, and you click on the picture that matches.)
Not all the vocabulary is particularly challenging.
The Dutch says it all.