Dutch & English

Maastricht is a small city which has a big famous University with a lot of exchange students. All the lectures are in English and everyone speak English here. I can really tell that my English is improved since I got here because English is almost the only language I use to communicate, which also means that I don’t really get in contact with Dutch as a language. After meeting a lot of exchange students who are from all over the world, I can really tell where the people come from based on their accents while speaking English. I don’t really have any problem speaking or understand English here. What I noticed is that people who speak the same language tend to hang out with each other more. The Americans, Canadians, Australians are always in the same group, so are the Latin American and Spanish. Especially the Spanish-speaking students, they often speak Spanish to each other when they are in class, the same for German students who always speak German together. That’s why the university has a strict rule for every tutorial: only English must be spoken, even in the break! Sometimes. when you’re the only non-Spanish-speaking person in a group, you can easily feel left out. But of course in the hallway or at the school entrance, you get to hear every kind of language. Since a lot of students are German, I also get to hear/ understand a lot of conversation in German too. I have heard from my friend that sometimes, when a group has a German majority and the tutor is also German, they even explain things in English AND in German, which is very annoying for non- German- speaking students.

Dutch as a language is similar to German, which makes it easier for me to understand, even though I don’t take any Dutch course at all. Until now, I haven’t had any problem with Dutch. Sometime it’s difficult to understand the announcement on the train or at the train station, but I can always ask somebody who is next to me to translate it into English with no problem. At grocery store, I kind learned some necessary words in Dutch which help me when buying food. Sometimes, if I really don’t understand something important, I can just ask my friend Google Translate. Everyone here speaks English very well and they answer very nicely if they notice that you don’t speak Dutch.

The funny thing is, because Maastricht is close to Germany, so I’ve been to Germany a few times. And to be honest, I feel happy and comfortable whenever I can understand signs because they are in German. It’s not that I feel uncomfortable in Maastricht, it’s just that it somehow makes me feel more at peace knowing that I can understand everything written in public spaces. Maybe I should have joined a Dutch course a the beginning of the semester.

Ky Duyen Le

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