English princess with Dutch partner

What can go wrong when you have a Dutch partner?

Once I have a Dutch partner, I’ll learn Dutch within 3 months.

A lot of people without a Dutch partner seem to think that this will be the case. Expats with a Dutch partner will tell you that it doesn’t work that way. Your Dutch partner doesn’t magically instill you with Dutch language skills. On the contrary: having a Dutch partner can be quite frustrating when learning Dutch. You assume you should be able to master the language fast, but you don’t. You think: What is wrong with me??

How can having a Dutch partner frustrate you when learning Dutch?

Meeting your partner when you already speak Dutch quite well, is the best way to go. You ask your partner to speak a bit slower and when you miss a word, you ask them what it means. But it is more likely that you meet your partner when you don’t have a good grasp on the language yet.

What can happen next is:

  1. You speak English together and get comfortable doing this – too comfortable.
  2. Your partner speaks too unclear but as a newcomer you’re not sure if it’s you or them. It doesn’t have to be you, as I experienced when a student’s Dutch husband called me and I had no clue what he was mumbling.
  3. Your partner has no patience with you. They expect you to speak Dutch at the same level that you speak English after just ten lessons.
  4. You overestimate yourself. You think you understand what is being said, but you make something completely different up in your mind. Or you think you can do it all with Google Translate. An old American friend complained to me about the lack of understanding of the governement, and then she showed me some completely incomprehensible Dutch mails she sent to them. Wow!
  5. Your partner overestimates you. Your partner is speaking in Dutch and you are sitting there, smiling and nodding. They’ll assume that you’ll understand, while you have no idea what they’re talking about. Be careful with this one.
  6. Speaking Dutch before you are ready, can lead to serious misunderstandings. Don’t do it. In a relationship you sometimes have to discuss serious subjects, like study, housing or children. Communication between couples is hard enough as it is. You don’t want your relationship to fail because of the language.

    How can your Dutch partner help you?

    In general Dutch partners really want to help you and of course they can be of great help. But first you have to put in the work yourself, so follow some classes, download an app or use free material online. There is enough to get you started. Your partner can help you by:

    • showing some interest and ask at least once a week what you have learned so far and help you with your homework.
    • speaking Dutch with you for a limited time. Just start with 15 minutes a day. Use context.reverso or Google Translate to look up words you don’t know. Set a timer for this daily conversation and keep to it.
    • doing a roleplay with you. I made scripted conversations with exercises where you learn the vocabulary on a specific theme and can play a role play according to a scenario. Give this scenario to your partner, so you can do the role play together while having fun and learning Dutch at the same time.
    • Show some gratitude

      Please appreciate your partner for putting in the effort to help you. It takes a lot of patience, love and understanding, just for you. Tell them you love them for it and then they will help you even more!

      Interested in the book?
      You can buy the first book with 10 scripted conversations and role plays on Amazon.

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