Teacher Talks | Chris about the challenges of learning Dutch
Dutch Ready works with an amazing team of native Dutch tutors, all of them with different backgrounds and a unique story to tell. Their experience of working with students from all over the world with various language levels, brings up wonderful stories and interesting points of view.
For this article we contacted tutor Chris Wacanno and asked him about his experiences with teaching, and the main challenges his students face when learning Dutch as a second language.
Chris, can you tell us something about yourself?
Kan je iets over jezelf vertellen?
My name is Chris, a Dutch native with Indonesian and British roots. I’ve been working as a tutor for Dutch Ready since October 2020, and worked as a language teacher in Madrid and for academies in New York and New Jersey for over 7 years before that. I have experience with teaching both 1-on-1 lessons and in-company lessons, which I did for organisations such as JP Morgan, American Express, Bank of Spain and the Ministry of Defense. I also taught at several summer camps for children, in the age of 6 to 14 years.
What is it like to teach Dutch?
Hoe is het om Nederlandse les te geven?
I absolutely love it and I always have great respect for my students. Actually, for any person who decides to learn my beautiful mother tongue. I find it so adorable when they try to speak the language! More often than not it’s so different from their native language, and it doesn’t sound like music to their ears at all – at least in the beginning.
What are the biggest challenges your students face?
Wat zijn de grootste uitdagingen voor je studenten?
There are a few but let’s pick one: pronunciation. The pronunciation of Dutch words can be really challenging for students.
“Can people really shape their mouth like that, or use their vocal cords in such a way, so that they can create these sounds & sound combinations?” That’s what I hear them thinking.
But yes, we can. And they (as students of Dutch) will likely learn these new ways of pronouncing as well. Maybe not on their first attempts, but they’ll get there!
What else proves to be difficult?
Wat is er nog meer moeilijk?
Grammar rules can be tricky, and there are a lot of them, as with any language. But to many of my students it feels like a never-ending story, and it’s hard to stay motivated sometimes when the rules are adding up in quantity.
Which Dutch grammar rules tend to be a challenge for everyone?
Welke Nederlandse grammaticaregels zijn voor iedereen een uitdaging?
Conjugation is always a tricky one. For example: when to add a “t” to the stem of a verb? This causes lots of confusion, especially when we get to the past tense. There are so many rules to think about, and sometimes these rules don’t seem to cooperate at all.
Articles are another returning issue. The bad news is: you have to learn them by heart. And it’s not a matter of masculine or feminine like in Spanish for example; in fact, those elements could complicate Dutch grammar even more. Needless to say that many of my students get a bit frustrated at this point. They might want to scream or just give up, at least for a minute.
So how do you help your students overcome these challenges?
Hoe help je jouw studenten deze uitdagingen te overkomen?
I quickly tell them the good news: there are little tricks we can use to make things easier. And suddenly they are all ears.
What kind of tricks do you mean?
Welke soort trucs bedoel je?
For example, there are a few tricks to keep in mind when it comes to articles:
- Vegetables and fruit are always ‘de’-words.
- Plural always gets ‘de’, and diminutives get ‘het’
- Words ending with ‘-ing’ are ‘de’-words
- Languages require ‘het’,
- Words ending with ‘-isme’ always come with the article ‘het’.
There are plenty of other tricks that I can help my students with, specifically when it comes to Dutch grammar. By applying those to their everyday life in The Netherlands, they will quickly notice that their Dutch improves significantly, without having to know each and every rule in the book.
The best part of teaching my students those language hacks is seeing them smile suddenly, and noticing that they feel some hope: “I might get it after all!” Those tricks and little rules in Dutch have become their life saviour then and Dutch has – finally- become music to their ears!
About the Tutor