How come Dutch people are so good at languages?

Sergey   Thursday, October 14, 2004, 20:54 GMT
By the way, I am myself studying Dutch now, and knowing English makes my life so much simpler. French, on the other hand, is a nightmare for me, as I have no experience with Roman languages.
Natalia   Friday, October 15, 2004, 04:34 GMT
Frankly, I did not know that European people have any problems in English, with English classes and construction of education system I’ve thought the problems like that take place in Russia only. We learn English so long time: at school, at the Uni, as a postgrad.student...As a result...I think you can guess about results. As for me, I understand nothing after so long studding English, “bla-bla-bla” only, did not speak English at all, but to say “I am Natalia”, I am a biologist”, “I am ...year old”. Three years ago I met one teacher from the Netherlands taking part in the TASIS seminar. That time I would like to study English by any ways and one of them was to make some messages to different people in the World. He gave me his v-card, I wrote him, he answered me, and the amazing journey to English World started. He is not teacher of English, he has worked to High School as me, but all the time I know him I admire his English knowledge.
He says that the reason of that is early starting of study English and all kind of good every day practice. There are not any special secrets, only every day work. It looks like mountain appearance. Every day bodies of microorganisms, Protozoa creatures come down, and one day gigantic mountain appears like Alps, Everest appear. Creatures are invisible but due to every day work the tremendous Rocks can form. Every day efforts, English exercises are invisible too, but you can see one day tremendous amazing results like Dutch people English skills. (We waste so much time for empty talking, watching and so on, instead of improving language, but minutes plus minutes, hours by hours...)
I am use to be lazy, do not practice every day, but only e-mail messages help me to jump into another World, World of English spoken persons. Now I think what would take place if I take every day self-study practice?! Wow! I imagine mountains, rocks of English words, phrases, information and now I prepare to new self-study experience again.
Natalia   Friday, October 15, 2004, 04:36 GMT
Sorry for digitals! To save I-net time I wrote message in Word and then remove it in the post.
Mel   Friday, October 15, 2004, 11:40 GMT
The badest are the french, they don't speak english, they can't speak english and they don't want.
abc   Saturday, October 16, 2004, 00:03 GMT
why should they speak english? why don't the english people learn french instead. English are lazy sobbering behemoths when it comes to languages.
Easterner   Saturday, October 16, 2004, 00:50 GMT

In my experience many people in Hungary also face the same problem. They keep learning a language for years without being able to speak a meaningful sentence in it apart from the basics. I guess this is partly so because they don't really have models for correct usage (unless the teacher is a very good one), nor an opportunity to talk in class, since they have to memorise grammar rules most of the time, and many of them don't have access to media that offer first-hand experience of foreign languages "at work", in other words, meaningful input to build on.

By the way, back teaching at a high school, I tried encourage my students to speak in a number of ways (after giving enough input), and I found they were quite shy to do this, mostly because they were afraid to be "incorrect". While correctness is important, because you can only be taken seriuosly with at least a fair degree of correct grammar and usage, I think it is also very important to take risks to communicate, because if you never speak out, the teacher or a native speaker will not have an opportunity to give feedback. Better speak a faulty sentence than never speak an impeccable one. At the same time, providing plenty of input first is crucial, but this is the teacher's responsibility. Generally speaking, even at English classes an atmosphere can be created where it is normal for students to speak, but this needs a lot of effort from the part of the teacher.

Interestingly, I often realise that people who speak a foreign language remarkably badly, having picked it up here and there (like my boss at work) are often more confident to speak than those who have learnt it for years but are afraid to speak when they are offered an opportunity. While definitely no models to follow as far as language skills go, I think their willingness to take risks can to a degree be imitated. :-)
Sanja   Saturday, October 16, 2004, 15:26 GMT
I think the more you learn, the more correct you want to be and that's why you're more scared of making mistakes. People who just "picked up" the language somewhere and have bad language skills are not afraid of making mistakes because they know they make a lot of mistakes. But if you want to be seriously good at it, you pay more attention to correct usage and are more aware of making mistakes because you know more about the language itself, so sometimes you can get scared of using the language.
And maybe it's actually the other way around: Maybe those people speak bad English because they were never afraid of making mistakes and they didn't pay as much attention as those who speak good English.
Andrew   Saturday, October 16, 2004, 17:33 GMT
I listened to some news reports on Omrop Fryslan (the website for Radio Friesland), which were in Frisian. Maybe it was just me, but the host sounded very English. Like if he was speaking English, he wouldn't have had any accent, or not much of one. They say Frisian is even closer to English than Dutch. Can anyone tell me if Frisians usually pronounce the article "de" as "the" like Anglophones? I thought I heard that in the reports.
Easterner   Sunday, October 17, 2004, 10:49 GMT

I agree with what you said, with just one remark: I think language is just as much about communication as about correctness. There are situations where you have to be aware of correct grammar and usage, such as a formal letter or a job interview. But it is a little different if you are perhaps not so proficient in a language, but would like to use it for communication, and besides also to get feedback. Or you may get into a situation where you have to use a language you don't speak very well.

Rather than being too general, I will illustrate this with an experience of mine: once I had to arrange a meeting in Italy on the phone, and it quickly turned out that the woman I talked to was not speaking English. While I had not learnt Italian systematically (just picked it up through reading and occasional listening), I realised I had to use it for making this important arrangement. Therefore I took a dictionary to help me out with the vocabulary and did my best to form correct sentences, and listened very carefully for feedback. So at the end I succeeded to make the message pass through. Next time, when I was actually in Italy, I was a lot more confident in using the language (after doing a quick study of basic grammar points). This experience made me realise the importance of taking occasional risks. And most native speakers (if they are not downright malicious) will help you out most of the time if you get stuck.
Sanja   Monday, October 18, 2004, 16:09 GMT
Of course, I agree there are situations when you have to use the language even if you're not proficient in it. My English still isn't that great, I know I make a mistake occasionally, but that doesn't stop me from using it.
mathijs standaert   Monday, October 18, 2004, 16:43 GMT
Dutch people aren't good at languages , I know , I am Flemish ( Flanders is the dutch-speaking part of Belgium).Dutch people have a mayor accent when they try to speak English and don't even think that they can speak French or Spanish .I use a variant of Dutch in my every day life, called West-Flemish. In my dialect we don't have any of those typical Dutch accents , it looks like W-Flemish is a completly different language. (for example, Dutch people say " Geef maar plankgas " (Step on it !), we say "Hif moa goaze").It's actually Flemish People who are good at languages. Because our country has 3 official languages ( Dutch, French, German), we have to study them all at school.It's also a priority that you have to speak English fluently without an accent. Therefore we Flemish people can adapt much better to a foreign language.Holland has only 2 official languages
Dutch and Frisian (minority language), who are very similar to eachother, so it's much easier to learn them at school.

So I come to the conclusion that NOT Dutch people are good at languages , but their neighboors , the Flemisch people are !

any questions? You can mail me on this e-mailadres :
Sergey   Monday, October 18, 2004, 18:24 GMT
Typical Flemish-Dutch rivalry. :) I've been living in Belgium for more than 6 years and know very well that the Flemish are super-sensitive when it comes to the Dutch being better at something.

As a matter of fact, the Flemish have a pretty strong accent as well, not any better than the Dutch. Only very few people master it. As for other languages, not all people in Flanders are fluent in French, many don't actually speak it at all. And German is really a minority language, it's only spoken in a very small region in the West of the country.
Sanja   Monday, October 18, 2004, 18:43 GMT
Having an accent doesn't mean that you haven't mastered the language. I can learn English perfectly well, but I will still always have a foreign accent.
Sergey   Monday, October 18, 2004, 18:59 GMT
I absolutely agree!
Sergey   Monday, October 18, 2004, 20:18 GMT
> it's only spoken in a very small region in the West of the country.

Sorry, I meant in the East.