When they [her children] have been in Belgium or The Netherlands, well then they rattle on in Dutch. Then it suddenly… then it surfaces and they are really fluent. With errors of course. You always hear that they are not really native speakers. They are obviously English speakers, but fluent [in Dutch]. After those two weeks.
When my eldest daughter was born and that was not in The Netherlands but in Italy, I spoke only Dutch to her. So she was my Dutch speaking eldest daughter. Then two years later we had a boy and until he was 2 I spoke Dutch with him and my husband English. But he read Dutch books aloud as well: ‘Jip en Janneke’ [a classic Dutch book] for instance… and this oldest boy told his father: “You’ve got a bad voice for Dutch Dad!” And he was not allowed to speak Dutch any longer.
And that was very difficult because from then on we switched more and more to English. And by the time my third child appeared the home language had become English. So though we had intended to bring up the children with Mum: Dutch, Dad: English… by the time my youngest daughter was born it did not happen at all. It was purely English. She spoke English to siblings, to me, to her father. Dutch was not used.
When she was 4 we went for quite some time to Belgium and there she heard people speak Dutch, daily, and she spoke it herself with granny and aunt and uncle. With them she could speak Dutch. So there Dutch appeared again.
Then we tried to keep that up when we came back home, but within a week it was all English again. There were no Dutch friends in New Zealand. There was no input from outside the family. Nothing at all. The only input was when we went back to Belgium.
Family was incredibly important. Not only for speaking with when we are there but also because I have a wonderful sister who sends books. My mother always sent books, my sister always sent books. And not only paper books but when the older children were little we had those little cassette tapes… so endless listening to Fairy tale series. And later we had videos. A huge amount in Dutch. And later we had DVDs and also computer games. So the children had a large amount of computer games in Dutch.
I regret we did not continue to speak Dutch at home. Today my eldest son, who put a stop to it all in the family that is also his biggest regret, that we did not continue to speak Dutch. So that is something to recommend to other people. If you don’t speak Dutch because one parent does not speak the language for instance or because the children put their foot down and refuse… you can always bring Dutch in through the back door. So read aloud. Read aloud all the time. Read books, give books to the children to read. Give films. And when you watch an English film , do so with Dutch subtitles. So they can learn it that way. Nowadays there is so much… computer games. The Internet…
A: Parents who come here… they see this environment and then try as fast as they can… Yes we want to be New Zealanders, we must speak English… and our children must speak with a Kiwi accent” and our language drops away”.
And you have children who refuse. Because they don’t want to be different from the other children at school. And it could be a reason to be unhappy… so the parents will say: “Ok we will switch to English because we don’t want to disadvantage the children. They must not be unhappy at school because of being different.” So that is another reason why parents don’t transmit the language.
And yes, sometimes it is simply easier not to. Especially if one of the parents does not speak Dutch. So those are all valid reasons why the language is not passed on.
Q: Because sometimes people don’t even think about it. It is an automatic process.
Q: Isn’t it. The children come home from school… they have done everything in English that day and even though you have spoken Dutch in the morning… they come home and continue in English. There are English friends and you cannot be impolite. So you have to speak English… the friends go home and you simply continue in English.
A: Yes exactly, it comes automatically.