Why not play with Dutch in 2014?
Would you like to speak much better Dutch next year? Then there is one important thing you need to do - study less and play more!
Of course, when you are learning a new language, you first need to learn a few new things. Many people believe that in order to speak a language well, you have to study really hard.
Contrary to what you may believe, however, studying hard does not necessarily have a huge impact on your fluency. Actually, you’ll speak a lot better if you study less!
Memorisation is important, right?
Many people believe that learning a new language is all about memorising new words. You need vocabulary, right? So, the more words you learn, the higher your level will be.
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily true. There are two things that are far more important than just memorising words: it is understanding how the language really works and being able to play with words.
The problem is this: many people memorise words and then only recognise them if they see or hear them exactly as they memorised them. But Dutch words can change all the time.
So if a word looks a bit unfamiliar, chances are that you won’t know what it means if memorisation is your only language-learning tool.
Speaking Dutch is not only about studying!
Let’s take the word kans, for example. Would you agree that this word translates to "chance" in English? Great! So how would you translate this sentence then?
Ik heb kans op promotie. Well... this is too easy, right? Therefore let’s not insult your intelligence too much, how would you handle the next sentence?
Dit is kansloos! If you translate it literally, it means: "this is chanceless." Does it make sense to you? Maybe it is easier to find the right meaning with this Dutch sentence: dit plan is kansloos.
You get it, right? It means something like: "this plan will not work." Sure, this may not be the first sentence that you would create (you may prefer dit plan werkt niet), but this is how Dutch people talk. Once this type of sentence makes sense, it becomes easy to use it in conversation.
Let’s play a little bit more. What would you think of the next sentence? Dit is een kansloos figuur!
You will only understand it correctly if you are willing to play, because it doesn’t make sense if you translate it too literally. The word figuur means "figure," of course, but it is also slang for a person. Therefore een kansloos figuur is someone that does not have a chance. You might even call that person a loser!
Now you can use new words with ease!
Here you can see that with the Dutch ending -loos, a word starts to have many more meanings. It is the same in English, for example with timeless, ageless and wireless. In Dutch, you can also frequently end words with -loos, even those that would make no sense in English. Here are some other examples:
› Het is respectloos: "it does not show any respect" (disrespectful)
› Kleurloos: "colourless" (does not stand out; is boring)
› Internetloos: "without internet"
Look at the next sentence: Oeps! Ik heb een internetloos moment! For a Dutch person this is normal sentence, certainly when there is no Wi-Fi connection.
Playing is learning
Learning new words is always good. Far more important, however, is that you really learn how to play with them. You will find that Dutch expressions are often very different to English, but once you understand how it works, it is easy to comprehend.
Once you grasp this point, the meaning of hundreds of new words will quickly become clear to you and you will be able to use them with ease. All it takes is some courage, playfulness and creativity.
So for when you would like to take your Dutch to a whole new level, make sure to memorise less and play much more!
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