Understanding the Dutch better by adopting their communication style

26 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

“You don’t have to speak Dutch in the Netherlands, at least not when it comes to everyday, functional things. Tax matters, bank affairs—it can all be done in English. If someone hears that you’re not from the Netherlands, they automatically start speaking in English. It also wasn’t necessary to learn Dutch for my job at ABN AMRO. Yet, still, at a certain point I decided to take the leap.”

Finn Niina Pussinen explains. “At first, speaking Dutch felt like running a 100m dash on one leg and with two hands tied behind my back. Because I had lived in the Unites States for a spell, I spoke English, and then it’s frustrating to take that leap and only speak Dutch. But I’m thrilled I kept at it!”

Not speaking Dutch leads to feeling insecure

Just like many other expats, Niina learned some Dutch, but didn’t practice enough to communicate confidently. “I wasn’t initially planning on staying in the Netherlands for long. I learned Dutch back then just because I like learning languages. Besides, I felt quite insecure not speaking the language that everyone around me spoke. You don’t have a clue what they’re saying. If people in the train station start running after hearing an announcement, you don’t know what to do. Should you run, too?”

It helps to communicate as candidly as the Dutch

It is a well-known fact that you gain a better understanding of a culture by speaking the language. Niina was able to experience that first-hand as well. “The Dutch communicate very differently to what I was used to. I really had to get used to the candidness of the language. I thought it was blunt and impolite, but once I started to communicate more straightforwardly myself, I noticed that it worked. By adopting their communication style, you can better understand the Dutch. One aspect of Dutch which I think is quite funny is that time always comes at the beginning of a sentence. That’s because time is such a critical concept in the Netherlands.”

Communicating effectively when writing and speaking

Thanks to her perseverance, Niina can speak without hesitation in her job. She manages a team and gives presentations regularly. “A really chatty job,” as she calls it. “I can express myself well and get the sense that I’m understood. But I wanted to learn Dutch even better, so I gave Regina Coeli a call for a Dutch course. During the programme, I focused on how I could communicate as effectively as possible, both when writing and speaking. The trainers taught me more about structure and intonation, and also about communicating clearly and concisely. The Dutch just love it!”

The use of the definite articles ‘de’ and ‘het’ (‘the’ in English) are troublesome for most non-native Dutch speakers. When do you use what? “A trainer gave me some simple tips so I would make fewer mistakes with ‘de’ and ‘het’. Now I have a list with the ‘het’ words that I frequently use on the job. If the word is on my list, I automatically know it’s a ‘het’ word.”

A very focused approach to challenges in the language

Niina followed an individual training programme with four different trainers who helped her brush up her Dutch for an hour each, every day. “The strength of the programme is that it’s individual and you have different trainers. Because of this approach, all the lesson materials could be fine-tuned to my particular situation. You cannot even begin to compare that approach to a group training programme.” This way of working allowed the trainers to work in a focused manner on Niina’s specific challenges in the language.

Speak more sloooowly

She’s not done learning yet. After finishing her course at Regina Coeli, she’ll continue on her own. “I’m a very enthusiastic person, which means I often speak too fast. That means I also don’t give myself the time to consider thangs like sentence structure and what-not. A simple tip: speak more sloooowly. I’ve even drawn a pause button on the back of my phone. It’s there to remind me to slow down and come up for air now and then.”

Interested in following language training at Regina Coeli?

The Regina Coeli method ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. Our highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation so you can immediately start communicating in the language.

Do you require more information? Please contact us!

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