So moving to another country and setting up your life so that you have no choice but to speak a new language, is a guaranteed way to become at least conversationally fluent.
To keep the language, you need to keep practicing. For example, staying in touch with your new made friends helps a lot. Although, they are forced to read your letters out loud, in order to understand what sounds you’ve tried to put into words like a coded spy message. Ups.
Make sure they are nice and patient people.
Writing in French still, doesn’t make sense to me. Neither does English, but in case of latter, I had a teacher who made me memorize everything from random texts to grammar for the longest 12 years of my life. Every day. Every year started with conjugating every possible verb out there. It is the worst possible way to learn a language and cannot be done when you’re relying on your motivation alone. School sucks.
You may also choose the people you hang out with very carefully.. For example, living and working with 30 French people in NEW ZEALAND for three months, not only helped me to keep the language well and alive, but also injected some Parisian slang into my vocabulary. When in New Zealand..
..but of course.
Moving somewhere and exposing yourself to a new language is the most fun way. And although I never planned or had any ambitions to learn Dutch (who does anyways?), it sort of happened because that’s what I unintentionally did again. In other words- I learned the language by accident. Haha.
It was my Erasmus year and I was living and partying and having loads of fun with other international students. Except, I promised myself that I would pick up rowing no matter what.
I’m still figuring out if setting this ultimatum on myself was a wise thing to do. Joining a rowing club in the Netherlands meant joining a student society with rules and ‘duties’. Sort of like an American sorority, fraternity or whatever they call it these days.
Ultimately, you commit to socializing with people, you would probably otherwise would never naturally connect with. It was fake and cultivated my disease for people-pleasing like nothing else so far.
But at the time I went along with it. I was lucky enough to be a part of a group of some open minded girls. Without them, I would ditch this whole idea no doubt. Some random Latvian in a pure Dutch club with a couple of Germans. Oh boy.
Then again, I did also make a proper rower friend, who introduced me to sculling. The boats are expensive and you wouldn’t see any beginners on the water in those single sculls. I hope one day I’m rich and famous with a mansion by the river with ten of those babies.
It was a true Dutch experience. And learning the language gives you a true insight into the mentality of the people. Although we were all just a bunch of students drinking, rowing and studying our way through the year. I did get a proper close up to the Dutch love of rules, strict money affairs, and directness.
It was definitely a full-on year. I got to do lots of rowing which I enjoyed a lot, a lot. I was slowly but surely learning Dutch, which I also enjoyed very much! Not only was it rewarding, I actually to this day love the sound of it. It is a language that makes sense to me and was a strong base to learn German in a matter of couple of months.I also worked in an Irish pub with some super cool laid back people. Should I have just worked in that pub, it would have been already a cool year to remember. People from work were truly authentic.
Oh and did I mention university? Yeah, I remember cycling up there now and then. Listening to some pretty bad English about subjects I had no interest in. The biggest time waster of that year. If you ask me..
But if there’s one thing that I did learn for sure, it was the Dutch language. Curiosity, rowing society, and the rewarding feeling as you progress made me bloody fluent in it!
It really was a weird year. I thought it was one of the best years of my life at the time and I sincerely wanted to stay in the Netherlands. But looking back I’m not so sure about it. I guess I was just still in search of myself and my tribe.