PeterMollenburg wrote:My wife and I were in the Netherlands 10 years ago, learning the language via course materials. Had we not made that effort, we would not have progressed much at all. You are absolutely right - one must make some serious effort to learn the language and then it is a bonus to have people to interact with around you if you are in a country in which the language is spoken.
I read your initial post in this thread and see you have an ancestral link with NL. That's always a good motivator. It motivated me in French and pushed me into Dutch. I'm fairly introverted so going about starting conversations with people has never been my thing, but it got lonely sitting in a park at the height of summer with everyone around you speaking in an unfathomable foreign language.
PeterMollenburg wrote:Furthermore, as many Europeans and other nationalities speak English nowadays and want to practise their English, the risk of having people switch to English to facilitate more efficient/less frustrating communication all the while getting more English language practice is high for beginners. For an advanced learner, even if they switch on you, you ought to have enough language under your belt to be confident in steering the conversation back to the local language, or even going under the 'foreign' radar to some extent depending on your accent.
Absolutely. This is a curse for native English speakers, especially in Scandinavia and here in NL. That thing you mention about speakers switching on you is pretty annoying, sometimes a bit insulting when you've put so much effort into learning. It's also fickle because while people are eager to plunder you for English in the pub or other informal setting, in an official capacity it's the national language all the way, especially if they trying to put you at a disadvantage!
I've also done that thing you mention of 'going foreign'. It's very possible and the more obscure language you choose the better. There's this myth about the Netherlands that a majority of people are multilingual, but it's not true (many are till monolingual, the majority of bilingual people now speak mainly Dutch/English). Some decades ago many more people spoke German (to varying levels) and a lot more French, but this has plummeted as English has barged them out of the way. You don't run into competent French speakers all that often so it's often a good choice to steer back to the local language if someone tries to engage you in English. I once made the mistake of saying I was Polish (since someone at the barber's said I 'looked Polish'!), but it went pear-shaped when someone said 'hey Krysztof, he speaks Polish!'... bad day that one.
As an aside, I've found the older you get the more your original accent starts to return. For a while I'd flattened it out in the effort to be more understood, but now it's coming back with a vengeance. I went for years with people saying 'I can't hear a trace of English in your Dutch', now some people say (to my chagrin) 'are you English?' Anyone else experienced this?