Weekly Dutch Language Class
Dutch Classes with Carol Hoeksema
Written by Jennifer VanKooten
If you are like me, you have heard Dutch spoken by your relatives. You were maybe taught some Dutch songs or phrases in school. You know that goededag is “good day” along with many other words in the English language that are of Dutch origin. But you really wish you could understand or even hold a conversation the way our ancestors once could. I have reached a time in my life when a Dutch greeting or a Dutch prayer sounds like poetry for my soul. I have reconnected with my Dutch roots by working with HPT and I have the pleasure now to hear an occasional Dutch conversation which disappeared with my parents passing. Even though I am first generation American, Dutch language was just a word guessing game my mom and I would play or a secret code my parents and grandparents used on the phone when they wanted a private conversation. I never learned how to hold a conversation in Dutch.
Historic Pella Trust has been so fortunate to have Carol Hoeksema teach Dutch lessons. We believe that we need to preserve what makes Pella unique- first and foremost our Dutch heritage. This priority is followed closely by preservation of all the historical architecture, but especially the buildings where the walls heard the Dutch language spoken. The Dutch immigrants wanted to blend in as Americans as much as possible. This is true as long ago as the days of Domine Scholte but especially after WW1. Parents didn’t teach the younger generations how to speak Dutch so they would not stand out as non-patriotic in the schools. Some of the children of the 1950’s and 60’s had lost that ability to communicate with older relatives in Dutch like their parents could. The lucky ones did learn Dutch either through a class or from family and they are able to enjoy traveling Europe with the ability to communicate. Dutch is similar and commonly understood by people in many countries.
Carol has provided these classes for several years, generously donating the class fee to Historic Pella Trust. This money will be utilized in helping to provide educational opportunities like the second grade field trips to Tuttle Cabin or special events along with our efforts to preserve the historical architecture of Pella, Iowa. This is not a class provided by city services; registration needs to be made through Carol or Pella Historic Trust. She is not sure how much longer she will continue to offer these classes; so if you have been thinking about it this may be a good time to enroll.
The Dutch classes are located in the Pella Community Center in Room 200. The community center is located at 712 Union Street: Pella, Iowa. Parking is available at the library or on the south and west sides of the building. There is an elevator and ramp located at the South East corner of the building; this South east door entry is handicapped accessible for walkers or wheelchairs. Exit the elevator on the next floor up and turn left. Room 200 is on the South side. If using the front doors go up the steps and to the left of the south doors. There is also a door on the North side if you park by the library; you will need to walk down the hall and turn right if you use this door, go past the steps and the next room on the left.
In the beginning class you do not need any prior experience in speaking Dutch. Plan on laughter and good conversation- Carol wants the class to be relaxed and informational for her students. She understands that we all have busy lifestyles and limited time to study, so she will not give any homework. She also does not test for what you have learned during the course. She has taught a variety of ages with her oldest student being 91 years old. “Je bent nooit te oud om te leren”—(you are never too old to learn). She has also had an eight year old home school student who attended with her parent. You are welcome to take the class as often as you like for a refresher on Dutch or just because it is fun! Carol is planning a new format for the 2019 spring beginning class. The class will include information on tracking your Dutch surname in Holland. You may even get to sing the Dutch birthday song! She will show you phone apps in case you want to study at home. The last class will be about restaurants and food and everyone brings Dutch food to share. The class topics may evolve with the group; as an example she included reading and learning the Lord’s Prayer in Dutch for a group who came from Vriendschap Retirement Village.
If you are comfortable with your beginning Dutch skills and need something more challenging you may move on to the more advanced Dutch 2 class for an in-depth Dutch lesson. This spring the students in the advanced group are starting in Chapter 8 of the book “Contact! Nederland’s voor anderstalingen”. Only the continued advanced class will be available the spring of 2019. There is a textbook and homework but there will be no tests. Some students grew up around Dutch speakers and have good comprehension, but struggle to read and write. Others can read and translate, but are afraid to speak and have trouble understanding spoken Dutch. The book is not easy to find, so please sign up early so Carol can give you the information needed for your internet search to order the book.
There’s lots of laughing in both of the Dutch classes. Expect to help each other, just wanting to learn is the prerequisite for class. Advance Dutch students need to have taken the beginning class or have a basic knowledge of Dutch.
If you would like to start with Chapter 1 in the book please contact Carol so she can place you on a future Advanced Dutch class list.