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Learning A New Language While You Learn Improv

Whoaaa. It was there all along! The wonderful union of practising a language and doing improv.

I got the opportunity to sit in Jenny’s Improv Your Dutch class. Opportunity is the right word. I got to speak, listen and respond to the Dutch language in a judgement-free space all while laughing my ass off.

I’ve been trying to speak Dutch for the 17 years I’ve lived in the Netherlands. My Dutch is accustomed to running and hiding the moment a native speaker chuckles at my attempts, switches to English or does some hardcore eye-rolling. Not in Jenny's class, nee nee! I enjoyed 2 hours of confident communication in Dutch, no matter how crappy my Dutch was.

For the first time, I didn’t let my mistakes stop me from speaking Dutch! That is sooooooo in line with the principles of improv: let go of ‘how it’s supposed to be’, dare to ‘look silly’, make mistakes, fail and play and fail and play…and then wash it all down with a fresh pint of fun.

Communicating is more than the words that fall out of your face. I learned by watching too! If I didn’t understand a particular word or phrase, I could safely rely on understanding body language and not feel left behind by my lack of vocabulary.

I felt really supported by Jenny and the other international expats in the class who know how it feels to want to speak more Dutch but are missing the opportunity.

In improv, we learn to work together to achieve a common goal. In Improv Your Dutch, we really helped each other understand each other better; we gave space, took our time and really listened.

Oh, and I felt brand new again, improvisationally speaking. I wasn’t in my usual, English-speaking comfort zone…what a gift! That’s a perfect jump-off point for my improv and something that can be hard to recreate after many years of improvising. I came out of the class super giddy, speaking to myself in Dutch on the bike ride home.

Because I’m laughing while I’m learning, the learning lasts longer. I knew naaien meant sewing but now I know it also means sexing (teehee), also getting screwed over (screwed…teehee). I’m going to remember that every time I sit at my sexing…sewing machine. Lekker zeg!


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