How to make the Dutch help you learn Dutch
Let’s admit it, learning Dutch is not always easy.
Firstly it takes a lot of effort to get the locals to speak Dutch to you, rather than English. This is the crucial first step, which you must take if you're serious about learning the language.
Once you have overcome this initial obstacle, then the question is: how can you improve your Dutch if no one ever corrects you?
If that's the case, then don’t worry, as there are three things you can do to get the Dutch to help you all the time!
1. Ask people to correct your mistakes
You speak Dutch and naturally you make mistakes - which you may not even notice - especially if Dutch people don’t correct you.
How are you ever supposed to take your language skills to a higher level if the locals don’t even help?
If this thought has crossed your mind then chances are high that you forgot to take the first important step: you must explicitly ask people to correct you.
Despite what you may think, it's not because they don't want to help that the Dutch don't correct your mistakes. Dutch people are often willing to correct you but resist because they don’t want to be rude and suggest that they do not appreciate your efforts. Consequently locals will be unlikely to offer corrections unless they have your specific permission.
So believe it or not, people avoiding correcting you is a sign of respect. Therefore, if you want Dutch people to correct your speaking, then make sure to remove that first barrier and give them your permission.
2. Receive feedback in good humour
This second point is vitally important. Make sure you always react in a positive way if people correct you.
Put your birthday present face on, so to speak. Look happy, even if you don’t like the gift. Receiving (constructive) criticism is not easy - even if it’s well-meant. But it’s necessary!
As long as your reaction is positive, then Dutch people will continue to correct you. But if you look bothered or annoyed for just a couple of seconds, then they may stop immediately as they do not want to be responsible for killing your motivation!
3. Remember what people tell you
The third point is something many forget. If people correct you, it is your responsibility to remember the correction.
Consider it this way: how many times would you correct a person if he or she says something wrong? Probably three or four times. Therefore, if you keep making the same (type of) mistake again and again, then after a while others will simply ignore it.
So be sure to learn from the feedback you receive. Constructing a grammatically correct sentence remains your responsibility. Make sure you keep taking steps towards mastering this skill.
This way, if you make a mistake now and then, Dutch people can help you - as long as you're also making an effort!
Some points on feedback
Correcting Dutch or giving feedback is also a skill. It is important to realise that not everyone can do it.
Sure, people may hear that something is wrong, but many times they are not able to explain the grammatical reasons why. So if Dutch people correct you then be willing to accept that they can't always explain why.
Also realise that if people correct you, they cannot of course correct all your mistakes. Even a professional teacher will only focus on a couple, the most important ones, so that you can improve your Dutch step by step.
Let’s face it, if you hear that almost everything you say is wrong, then you would soon lose hope!
This is the complex nature of feedback: it should show what needs improving, while remaining positive at the same time so you can stay motivated.
But let’s end with some good news: the truth is that Dutch people can always show you what is correct - by simply speaking their own language.
All you have to do is listen and focus on the details and the differences. This way, bit by bit, you can gradually improve your pronunciation, word order, vocabulary and more.
Keep making mistakes!
Last but not least, always be patient and have fun. There are many things to discover, so make sure that you enjoy your learning adventure!
Also, be kind to yourself: remember that making mistakes is really important, so don’t let it be a worry and instead enjoy this part of the process!
Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast while having fun. Download his e-book "3 Steps to Dutch flow" for free!
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