5 fatal assumptions about learning & speaking Dutch
When it comes to learning and speaking Dutch, most people believe in certain myths and make false assumptions.
Here are 5 popular things that people love to believe and hardly ever question. Let’s talk briefly about them and bust those myths, once and for all!
1. Just memorise words and sentences, and learning will "just happen"
This assumption is very dangerous because it is true. At least partially...
To learn a new language you have to start by copying sounds, words and sentences. However, it’s not only about memorising; you have to know all possible translations and above all, to be flexible since words in Dutch are not as precise as in English.
Here’s an example:
Het weer is weather in Dutch. So how would you translate the following sentence: Het weer is weer fantastisch?
Confused? It’s simple: weer also means "again." So, het weer is weer fantastisch simply means "the weather is fantastic again."
So, memorising words won’t always do the trick. Once you learn a new word, you must see how you could use it in other contexts as well. This is the so-called multiple context shifting.
2. Full Dutch immersion is the fastest way to learn
Again, this assumption is only partially true. You will not learn Dutch without exposing yourself to it - but this does not mean that everything will be better if you have 100% exposure.
Why? Because there is a high risk of overwhelming yourself. If you receive too much information, your brain will simply "switch off." And obviously a "switched off" brain does not make for effective learning.
Instead, you need to be properly prepared for Dutch conversation. You can probably repeat simple sentences - but what’s the point if you don’t know the basics?
Without proper understanding of grammar and syntax, you’ll never be able to start your own conversation, or hold a long-lasting one with someone else.
Also, listening to a new language is very tiring. After a couple of hours you feel completely drained and the learning process will slow down.
Why not try combining the benefits of Dutch immersion and speaking English at the same time? Speaking English (at least in the beginning) has two huge advantages: you feel at ease and you have much more clarity.
The more clarity you have, the faster you learn and the better you feel! All of a sudden everything is much less intimidating, and consciously, or unconsciously, your brain starts to draw certain conclusions.
3. Learning a new language is above all an intellectual activity
Many people erroneously believe that learning is a synonym for studying, and that using complex words guarantees "high-level" learning. Unfortunately, this is wrong: learning goes a lot faster if you make it simple!
One important skill that you need for learning Dutch is to think in visual ways:
Can you see that bloedzuiger is a leech here? And, let’s take it one step further: even Dracula could be een bloedzuiger... Apparently, not a leech, but someone who likes to drink blood :)
Studying is important but emotional intelligence is essential too. When you learn something new and encounter inevitable struggles, negative feelings may turn up.
At this point, it’s not the "difficult" grammar or lack of vocabulary that stops people from speaking great Dutch...
4. Evening (after work) courses can do the trick
The first challenge for most people who want to learn a new language is to find time. And then, before they know it, they fall into the trap: they decide to do it after work.
Yes, it looks like a great idea... You’re sure to have time after work, right? But the real question is: will you still have enough energy? Will your brain still feel alert?
Chances are that you are already tired from work, which makes your mind unreceptive. Consequently, a lot of people find post-work learning slow.
This is particularly noticeable in the beginning, when you need to be mentally alert and energetic to take on board so much new information.
If you’re having these struggles, remember that there is nothing wrong with you. Rather, it’s just a case of bad timing... If you feel that you’re lacking the time and energy for learning Dutch, then try taking one week off from work.
During this time, cram your brain with as much as you can, while you’re not distracted by outside worries. Believe me, it will make a huge difference!
5. All language courses are the same
Most people think that all language courses are more or less the same, and that only the price varies. In reality, this could not be further from the truth.
Here are some suggestions for if you want to choose the right language course for you:
› Your teacher should inspire you
He or she should really motivate you and thus, make the most out of your potential. If you feel drained or bored every time you go to class, then you might be wasting your time and money.
› Surround yourself with people that speak English
Dutch and English belong to the same language family. If you are in a class filled with people that do not speak English, then you won’t be able to learn as fast.
› Find some motivated classmates
Make sure that the rest of the class are also motivated! And don’t worry if you are not the best student of your class - the fact that some are "better than you" can actually be a good sign: you have the opportunity to learn a lot more!
› Attention! Attention! Attention!
A small group is always better than a large one - it means your teacher is able to give more attention to each of her students.
Also, make sure that your teacher is there every time you say something in Dutch. Many teachers let the students talk to each other, but it has little use if no one can correct you. Besides, you might end up learning things that are completely wrong!
› Talk to people
In many language courses (including some very expensive ones), you mainly work with a computer or in a language lab. This is not the fastest way of learning!
Learning a new language is not just a "mechanical process" - it is also about people. You will learn a lot faster in the presence of real people, speaking the language in real life!
For the average person, the above makes complete sense. Believing these myths is easy, but it does go with certain risks. Ultimately, they will not lead you down a fun fast-track to reach your full potential!
› Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It"
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