Monday, 15 September 2014

A Foolproof Way of Measuring My Dutch

It struck me over the weekend in a moment of pure brilliance that I have managed to establish a system that can accurately assess my level of Dutch. As many of you know I am British and my mother tongue is English but I spend most of my time navigating through life in Dutch. But it is by no means perfect. Not even close. Whilst reading a story in English to my seven year old son, it suddenly, out of the blue, struck me that getting a grip on what level my Dutch is actually at was easier than I thought.


Well, I can talk to my two year old in Dutch and he understands me perfectly. He doesn't correct me. He doesn't do what I ask either, because he is two and his way is better. So my Dutch language skills are better than that of a two year old. Actually he is nearly three. So, minor correction, my Dutch language skills are better than an almost three year old.

I can talk to my four year old in Dutch and he understands me. What I say quite often has no consequence, simply because he is four and he knows better. However, I do know he understands me and he also doesn't correct me. I do sometimes have to correct his de or het when he says something. It's not often mind because most of the time I am not actually sure if the noun should have de or het in front of it, so I let it slide. He also says "hij hebt..." a lot and I absolutely correct that because that is something I do know. And just so you know, should you ever hear him say that, he hasn't picked it up from me. In fact, we have no idea where he has picked up that from. Anyway, moving on. My Dutch language skills are definitely better than those of a four year old.

I can talk to my seven year old in Dutch and he understands me perfectly. But he does occasionally sometimes often have to correct me. (Well, actually he doesn't HAVE to correct me, but he does. Even though it agitates me. I'm his mother, for god's sake.) And sometimes I ask him for help with a word or two when I have to write something in Dutch and his father is not around, but in general my Dutch writing skills are better than his. (And I am well aware that he has only been reading and writing for a year but small victories and all that). Anyway, so my Dutch language skills differ little from those of a seven year old, but I do contend I have a superior vocabulary under my belt. But I fear time is not on my side.

And lastly, I can talk to my husband in Dutch and half way through the conversation I often feel like I have lost him, and his eyes are a little wild looking, as if he's not really hearing me. Then when I stop talking he reels out a list of words I used incorrectly, every noun that should have been de and not het and questions every word that I just actually made up on the spot which sounded a little Dutch at least to my ears.

From these conversations I deduce that my Dutch is nowhere near as good as a forty year old's command of Dutch.

So there you have it. The level of my Dutch language skills lies somewhere between that of a seven year old and that of someone who hasn't yet celebrated their fortieth birthday. A scientific approach it may not be, but my goodness it's accurate!

Based on my utterly amazing measurement system, what level is your second language currently at?


  1. After over 35 years of "training" in Nederlands, I read better than I speak it. And my Dutch husband doesn't correct me in public, but he still corrects me later. As I do his English here in the US. One consolation, you will always speak better English that anyone who is Dutch. But they won't agree ;P. Linda@Wetcreek Blog

  2. As I speak in a non-native language (Welsh) to our son, I could really identify with what you were talking about here. Being able to talk to a toddler in a non-native language can be a bit of a challenge. Certain aspects of it can be harder that using the language in a work context if that's what you're used to doing.