AMSTERDAM Nov 6 How do you woo a girl who lives half a world away? Teach her Dutch by podcast.
After spending a week with a girl named Laura and falling in love, 35-year old Brenno de Winter said he began courting her in earnest by voicing simple yet descriptive Dutch podcasts.
"Laura was in San Diego, I was in the Netherlands. I was desperately in love," said de Winter, an IT journalist. "You can phone, you can send flowers but then you are stuck."
Although he made the podcasts at www.lauraspeaksdutch.info for an audience of one, he attracted thousands of students and admirers from as far away as China since its mid-2006 launch.
Bridging the distance between himself and Laura with snapshots of Dutch culture, geography and its way of life seemed to strike a chord with a larger audience.
Podcast are digital media files which can be downloaded from the Internet onto portable media players like the Apple iPod, providing a sort of portable, listen-anytime, radio show.
"I had prepared two episodes and planned to take the podcasts offline after that but then the emails came flooding in. After two episodes, I had 1,000 listeners," he said, adding that the blossoming romance with Laura might have helped.
More than a year and a half later, De Winter said the podcasts are downloaded, on average, about 30,000 times per month. Slightly over half of listeners come from the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Dutch is spoken by about 23 million people worldwide, mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium, several Dutch colonies and parts of France and Germany but surprisingly attracts people in Asia.
"I love this. I've been trying to learn Dutch and this is a fabulous website," one subscriber, Dawn, wrote on the site.
Listeners learn how to greet in Dutch and how to order in a restaurant. They also learn about Dutch food, like spreading chocolate sprinkles on bread and eating a raw herring whole.
Although De Winter now has a global audience, he lost the girl. Laura didn't pick up Dutch and they broke up in September.
"We just grew apart. The long distance killed the relationship in the end."
But the podcasts continue.