As a learner of Dutch you may want to make much progress in little time. And when you first start learning Dutch you may actually experience that it is going faster than you had ever imagined. However, there will be moments when you feel that your learning process is somwehat stagnating. Especially when you fail to (correctly) say something which you are normally (when you are by yourself) perfectly able to say, but, now that it really matters (because you are with your Dutch friends or colleagues whom you are trying to impress), just seems to have slipped your brain? Frustrating huh?
Well, I have something for you that will help you to reduce these awkward moments to a more acceptable level. It is no rocket science and once you get the hang of it, it can be great fun and help to give your learning process a boost again!
Become a proactive learner of Dutch
All you need to do is to change your persepctive from that of a reactive to a proactive learner of Dutch. In order words, instead of just answering questions whenever you are asked something in Dutch (reacting), you should try to ask more questions first (be proactive). That way you could be more in control of the Dutch conversations you are having with your Dutch friends or colleagues. And more control means more confidence. And more confidence means more fun. And more fun means more energy. And more energy means a greater motivation to improve your Dutch!
The main condition for being a proactive speech partner to your Dutch friends of colleagus is to be in an informal setting in which you are able to talk about the topics of your choice. And being a learner of Dutch, you may want to stick to topics you feel comfortable talking about, and even more importantly, feel comfortable asking questions about. Because, remember that in order to be more in control of your conversations with others, you need to ask more questions than you are used to and you need to ask them first!
Weekends and holidays are topics that people usually enjoy talking about. Combined with your skill of asking questions in Dutch and the vocubulary you have at your disposal, you could end up leading a nice informal conversation with your friends or colleagues.
How to initiate small talk
Let’s see how this could work out for you at the office, now that most of your collegues are probably returning from their Summer holidays. Here are six questions you may ask them (click to hear the pronunciation):
Hoe was jouw vakantie? (How was your holiday?)
Waar ben je geweest? (Where did you go?)
Hoe lang ben je geweest? (How long have you been there?)
Met wie ben je geweest? (Who did you go with?)
Hoe was het weer? (How was the weather?)
Hoe was het eten? (How was the food?)
Feel free to add more questions to this list, but be careful to keep the conversation manageable (not too long, not too complex). Also be prepared to being asked the same questions in return. And while asking and answering questions, never feel ashamed to ask for clarification of words and expressions. In order to avoid a ‘system overload’, you may also want to slow down the colleagues who speak too fast (‘Kun je iets langzamer spreken?’).
Whatever the situation, try to keep the conversation (read: your questions!) going for a few minutes and experience and enjoy the fact that you are having an actual Dutch conversation that you initiated!
Keep up the good work
If you would like to keep up this exercise, try to do it on a weekly basis and inform about your colleagues’ weekends. Since this is a very common thing at Dutch working places (however, only between collegues who really like each other!), you will go with the flow in no time.
How good are you at Dutch small talk? Please leave a comment about your experiences with or questions and tips about Dutch small talk.