Lost in translation

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Many expats have been following Dutch language courses for quite some time but still find it difficult to actually speak. Ever wondered why?

Well, for some reason, most courses out there are designed for slow learning, and what’s more, they don’t even give you what you need to learn at a fast enough pace.

Most people think that all language courses are the same and up to a certain level they are right, since they all use the same principle: simple story lines with people meeting and talking (in Dutch) about everyday issues like the weather.

All you have to do is to memorise by repeating the same sentences, hoping that the rest will just pop up at some point. Unfortunately, in real life, it doesn’t work like this!

Language courses & Hidden traps

Most of these slow-learning language courses have "hidden traps." Just for clarification, I call them "traps" since they slow down your learning curve, and "hidden" because the vast majority of students tend to fall for them believing that it’s the only way to learn the language.

Here’s an example of bad translation:
Let’s start with a typical sentence from an average language course: "Hallo, ik ben Albert. Aangenaam." that would be translated into "Hello, I am Albert. Nice to meet you." I bet you don’t see any problem, right?

 Memorising won’t do the trick

Now, let’s try to translate the following sentence: "Het klimaat in de Sahara is onaangenaam." I guess your answer would be "The climate in the Sahara desert is onaangenaam." But what does "onaangenaam" mean?

I don’t expect you to know the exact translation, but you should know "aangenaam" and common sense dictates that you will try to decompose "onaangenaam" based on what you already know.

You might guess that "on" is like "un" in English, but you can’t go further because they taught you that "aangenaam" stands for "Nice to meet you." Do you see the problem now? The actual meaning of the word is "agreeable" or "pleasing" but we use it in that context when we meet someone.

Now that you know the actual meaning, it is easy to translate, isn’t it? So, it’s not that you don’t know the word. The problem is that you had to memorise it just like that and you are losing the essence!

 Formal vs Informal

Finally, I would like to emphasise one more "hidden trap" and I’m going to use the exact same example. The other problem with the word "aangenaam" is that it is quite formal. In fact, you should only use it in very "official" situations.

One might ask: what’s the problem with being polite? Absolutely nothing! Everyone likes polite conversation and appreciate good manners. Unfortunately though, using formal expressions will result in formal conversations that are much shorter than casual ones.

Again, this will further slow down your progress!

Flexibility & Fun

The ability to learn Dutch fast and efficiently doesn’t depend only on the amount of vocabulary you memorise.

Don’t get me wrong, vocabulary is important, but playing with the words is probably the most important skill, especially in Dutch when the same word can be used in so many different ways.

So, take my advice and from now on try to "understand" the language. Try to decompose and combine words instead of just memorising them. Try to think in a "smart way" and believe me: once you see the difference you will never use your course in the same way.

Just give it a go. You will learn faster and will have fun too!

Albert Both is a specialist on learning Dutch fast and gaining Dutch fluency while having fun.
 Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It,"
 Join his workshop "Finding Dutch Flow, How to Open The Flood Gate to Dutch Fluency,"
 Visit his website or simply comment below for inquiries / remarks. All free of charge!

Albert Both


Albert Both

I help with an approach of learning Dutch that is completely different from any other language course. It is called Dutch Brainwashing. The immediate result is that you learn at...

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