When I came to the Netherlands in August 1997, my Dutch was near to zero. I checked every single place in Kiev where they were teaching languages – Dutch was not on the menu. I diligently studied my Delftse methode book and when the time came to move to the Netherlands, I knew how to read and could count a little. I checked the available language courses as soon as I arrived, but the one that was useful and affordable had a waiting list. “Put me on it”, – I said. In the meanwhile I was forcing my Dutch dictionary to work overtime trying to decipher messages from the municipality, tax authorities and Alien Police (no kidding, this is the official English translation of Vreemdelingenpolitie). Not to forget the daily GTST sessions.
Learning Dutch in the Netherlands is quite a challenge. With regard to their language Dutch either don’t care whether you learn it or they think you MUST learn it. No one is ever happy you try, and no one has the patience to wait for you while you’re searching for words and trying to tie them together in a sentence. The overall impression is: “We think you HAVE to learn Dutch, but we are not going to help you.” As a motivated foreigner you feel abandoned, sad or pissed off, but never any good. I was pissed off. So much, that my written Dutch is now better than that of an average Dutch. Anyway, I’ve managed to learn this language and I’m quite happy about it. I think that you can never truly learn the country and its people if you don’t speak the language. And you certainly can’t call a place ‘home’ if you don’t speak the language. ‘Home’ is a very different topic, but I am very happy with my Dutch. My mother tongue will always remain Russian, but Dutch is very important to me too. To give you an idea of how important: if I am to start a relationship with a man who is not Dutch, it will be very important to me that he learns (or at least tries to) both Russian AND Dutch.
In the past few months I’ve met several people who live in the Netherlands for years already and who don’t speak Dutch: someone from Spain, someone from Ecuador, a couple of Italians and even someone from Kiev. All these people have spent between four and ten years in the Netherlands and still they refuse to (and cannot properly) speak Dutch. I don’t understand that, but if they choose to live this way who am I to say they shouldn’t? What I was really surprised about is how much this turns me off! What is the reason for this? I don’t think Netherlands is the best country in the world and everyone who comes here should be thankful for being tolerated and therefore over motivated to integrate into the Dutch society as soon as possible. I don’t think these people are stupid – their English proves they are not (if not their education and work positions). Is it some kind of revenge: I’ve gone through this, now you should too?
There was no YouTube back in 1997.