One of the things I was excited about coming to Belgium was the chance to learn a new language. I’m pretty bad at spoken languages (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) but I’ve had some fun little triumphs and plenty of the other stuff too.
-I already mentioned the “frieten met halve kip” story. This was probably the best value on non-homemade food I’ve had here so far!
-As I was walking to a school office someone stopped me in the street and asked me something in Dutch. All I could tell was that he was asking for directions. I said I didn’t know and turned away. My mind was running slow and as he walked away I realized he was asking about the University Hall. So I turned around and told him where it was. He thanked me and walked off. After about a block of feeling proud of myself I realized that I’d sent him in the wrong direction! So I ran back and tracked him down, but he’d already figured it out. I’m still proud that I was able to make the whole exchange in Dutch, even if I messed it up on every other level.
-I’m actually surprised that guy didn’t switch to English with me. Most people here know a decent amount of English and will switch over if they notice you have any difficulty, making practicing Dutch pretty hard. Also, a lot of the clerks at the restaurants and grocery stores that I go to (i.e., the ones I can actually afford) are Asian immigrants who seem more comfortable with English than Dutch anyway.
-Then at church, after a single written conversation with someone where I was frantically switching between an online dictionary and Facebook, I was introduced in front of the whole church as the new student who learned Dutch in two months! Fortunately it’s an English speaking church and people were merciful to me (I could use the practice though!).
-Another small victory came today when I went to buy some bananas at a corner store. The lady asked me if I needed a bag… and the second time she said it, I understood every word! All two of them. “Zakje nodig?” Or something like that. Yeah, you have to get excited about things like that.
Anyway, pray for me with language. I really am very bad at spoken language, and it’s hard to get practice around here. It’s also difficult to know how much time I should invest in it, since I can get by in English if I have to, and I have school to worry about. It’s a lot of fun, though, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to enjoy it.