The Dutch Language Race

Bilingual Child

I am thirty five years old. I have been learning Dutch for the last fourteen years. During that time I have gone on courses, attended classes, filled out homework and taken exams.

My daughter is two. She has been learning Dutch for two years (the first year mainly involved listening). She has not gone on any courses or attended any classes. She has never had to do any homework or take any exams either (unless that is what the scribbles on the wall in crayon where last week).

She might be half Dutch but there is no denying that my Dutch is better. This is because I have a twelve year head start and a really good motivator; I can’t let her get better at speaking Dutch than me… And that might prove to be difficult because she is already gaining.

Language Race

Alarmingly she has already over taken me in some areas of the Dutch language. For example; unlike her I am unable to name all the Care Bears in Dutch, I do not know all the words to the Nijntje theme song and until yesterday I did not know the Dutch word for rainbow (until she told me).

This is a little unfair because I don’t get to practise the same kind of words that she does. I simply don’t get a chance to use them in my everyday life and would get strange looks if I tried. I can’t stand up in the middle of a meeting and say that, “the points made are all well and good but we must consider that the tijger doet rrraaaaaaa and the poes doet miauw.” I would probably be escorted out of the building and advised to seek help.

To add insult to injury my daughter and I will often have ‘disagreements’ over English vs. Dutch. Just last week we were having a debate about whether her favourite ball was green or groen. She was of the strong belief that it was groen. I was trying to introduce the idea that it was green. She was having none of it. When I tried to meet her half way and concede that the ball was both green and groen at the same time she only became more defensive in her beliefs.

“Neeeeee Papa! Groen!”

Sometimes when I do say something in Dutch she might try to repeat it but get the pronunciation slightly wrong. When that happens I repeat the word for her again so that she can retry. Because of this we usually end up in a loop, each saying the word one after the other, again and again. To be honest, after a while I get slightly lost and start to wonder who is leading who. It’s possible that she is actually trying to teach me the correct pronunciation of whatever word we have ended up saying over and over again to each other. When this happens I try to use the ‘I am an adult’ approach to proving that I am right and break the loop but then my wife usually enters the room and tells us that we are both wrong.

It is possible that I am going to lose this race.

19 responses to “The Dutch Language Race”

  1. Very possible indeed.

    At this point, the most you can do is to keep trying your hardest, but the mini-Invader has got you beat by a long shot.

  2. Anne Marie says:

    Wait until she gets older and then you can do what I do with my son (10 years old, but we’ve been here only short of 2 years) – “Mom, I bet you don’t know what (insert childish Dutch phrase) means!!” And I start rattling off Dutch words you would only use in a business setting: “toezichthouders, onderneming, vordeel, prestaties, investeringen, bedrijfsleven…” He generally looks at me strangely and gives up the fight. Ha!

  3. Alison says:

    Another reason for me not to have kids … ;)
    Succes!

  4. AJ says:

    And try explaining to a three year old the difference between a slug and a snail, a tortoise and a terrapin or a squid and an octopus in Dutch – then it really gets interesting!

  5. Rinda Scheltens says:

    At least you English is still better. For now.

  6. Ley says:

    No doubt!
    Kids learn so fast… and we are not kids anymore, so, yes, you are losing this race!

  7. Viking says:

    I’m 40 and learning Dutch for the last 9 years. My daughter is 5 and she knows more words than I do and can say all with perfect guttural pronunciation in complete sentences without stop. I tell you, so you can prepare mentally for that shock… She will win this race 😉

  8. Suzana says:

    I don’t believe that it is a race, that this should be regarded as a race.
    She will pick up a lot of words that you don’t need and vica versa.

    My older daughter learnt Dutch in 6-7 months (when she was 5 years old) but still she struggles at school with vocabulary regarding that her dad was also not Dutch, just like me. But she has no idea what belastingdienst means or aangifte, and that’s it.

    I’m happy that my kids use Dutch as their second mother tongue and I am totally not discouraged by the fact that I don’t feel it in my guts if it is a DE word or HET word. Dutch people love it anyways if people take the time and effort to learn their language,

  9. McGinnis says:

    Just wait until she goes to school and starts interacting with dozens of other Dutch kids and teachers all day every day. You’re doomed!

  10. Nienke says:

    Hahahaha, lovely. Very likely that she’ll surpass you before long.

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