So you've decided to learn Dutch and have invested in some Dutch lessons: great! Learning a second language in general and your determination to study Dutch in particular can do nothing but benefit you.
Whether you practise your Dutch language skills with a native speaker or prefer to learn the language on your own, you will certainly need some tools to do so.
As you surely know from school experiences and past learning ventures, you cannot rely on just one source of material for learning - be it your teacher or your preferred textbook. Furthermore, you should know that you will have to put in extra work between your lessons, preferably with a variety of learning materials.
Spending extra time outside of your language lessons studying language and culture, learning and using Dutch phrases means that you will learn the official language of the Netherlands that much faster.
Are you ready? Your Superprof now divulges the best tips for quickly mastering the Dutch language.
Plan Your Revision
It is not uncommon, when faced with an overwhelming task such as learning languages, that a learner will forgo any initiative, instead relying exclusively on the guidance and instruction of their teacher or tutor.
If you see yourself among those numbers, let us work assiduously to dissuade you of that practice.
Even if it were possible for your teacher to pry open your head and pour knowledge into it, you would still have to do something with it in order for that bequest to have any value.
How can you add to the instruction you are given? First, look ahead.
It is an unfortunate fact of learning a new language that connections - between word types and grammatic cases, or even between individual words and how they came to represent that aspect of culture... those connections are not immediately obvious.
By looking ahead, you can set yourself short-term goals for learning, such as:
- With its French, Germanic and Hebrew roots, how is the Dutch language standardised?
- Which English words come from Dutch?
- is Flemish a language in its own right, despite its close association with Dutch and being spoken in Flanders? How is it different from Standard Dutch?
Instilling in yourself a curiosity of the Dutch language, its history and its continued evolution; keeping your focus on a much bigger picture will help you stay focused on learning this language so that you can unravel its mysteries.
What grammar rules do you need to learn first, and how much grammar study is actually necessary for you to begin to speak the language? Is there certain vocabulary you covered in class that you need to revise?
You may consult your course syllabus (if you have one) or ask your Dutch tutor or teacher for a brief outline of what you're going to cover in each class.
Once you know what to expect and look forward to, you can use that timetable to explore and utilise resources besides your textbook and worksheets between classes which, in turn, will help you keep on top of those course materials.
Come time for your next lesson, you will already be familiar with that learning session's objectives - it's topic and grammar rules, meaning you will be better able to engage in classroom activity.
Looking ahead will make you a star pupil; one who excels in learning Dutch!
Copying Out Notes
Although considered old-fashioned and, by some, ineffective, taking notes in class and from your textbook (or worksheets, if your teacher uses them) is crucial. Here's why:
The act of writing involves various parts of the brain. Your eyes will see what you write, your hand will perform that function and your concentration will be on the correct transcription of what you hear.
The concept of learning preferences is a hotly debated topic in education. It posits that no two students learn in the same manner; some prefer visual exposure to their study material while others prefer 'manipulating' knowledge, perhaps using blocks or flash cards, to cement concepts in their minds.
Which type of learner are you? Do you prefer reading to acquire knowledge or is listening to lectures more your style? Are you a hands-on student, bemoaning the fact that, often, the chance to move around as you learn simply doesn't present itself?
Let us now look at the above-written statement through the lens of learning styles: audio, visual and kinesthetic.
Through the process of note taking, visual learners have an entire feast to regale their eyes with! They get to see the words formed, letter by letter, enjoy the aesthetic appearance of the words, carefully lined up. They can then read the words, testing them for accuracy.
Audio learners hear what the teacher is saying and transcribe it.
Kinesthetic learners - those who learn best by getting hands on, actually get hands-on through the process of writing.
Finally: as few can absorb information merely by listening or seeing, the action of making notes itself is a way of learning and remembering.
Taking notes addresses the learning needs of every type of learner. Furthermore, as no one is purely one type - rather, they have some dominant preference for learning, the act of note-taking ensures that the maximum opportunity for knowledge acquisition is afforded to every student.
You'll note (pardon the pun!) that the effectiveness of this type of review is predicated upon using hearing information as well as seeing it. Therefore, merely copying out of your textbook word for word doesn’t count as learning (and will take you a long time!).
Such an exercise is akin to rote repetition. While repeating words might help you nail Dutch pronunciation, it does little to help you retain new concepts. The point of learning is to understand, after all, not to blindly memorise and repeat on cue.
Learning a language is difficult - there's no argument about that. How you learn is vital, though; that is why, if you take notes in class, transcribing them later, when you have time to reflect on that newly-learned material will give you the opportunity to absorb it completely in the manner best suited to you.
Once you have covered a topic or grammar rule in class and transcribed your class notes, why not test yourself? Find out where else or how else that rule could be applied - for example: do other verbs conjugate the same way? Is other words' plural form similar to the batch of vocabulary you just picked up?
Liven Up Your Studies
Once you've transcribed your notes and played around by building sentences using your newly learned vocabulary, you might consider making a few flashcards or posters.
You could, for example, label the furniture in your room with brightly-coloured stickers that bear the Dutch name for each piece: Stoel on your chair, Kledingkast on your wardrobe and Venster on your window.
If you've just learned how to conjugate an irregular verb such as zijn or hebben, you hang a placard on your wall with present, past and future tenses all written out.
If, while hard at your studies, your attention wanders, let your eyes travel around your room to all of the progress you've made thus far.
Such passive review is a great way to reinforce and consolidate knowledge.
Many people, especially those who are visual learners, find things easier to remember if they are colourful and well-presented well. If this is you, use bright coloured flashcards for your revision notes.
Conversely, you might try using a different coloured ink for each word type: nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives; conjunctions, prepositions and adjectives could each be represented by a different colour.
Using Mnemonic Devices
One of this writer's friends was cooking dinner one night when her daughter entered the kitchen and shouted: "I am a daughter, not a chicken!". Waiting only long enough to see the bewildered expression on her mother's face, that child spun on her heel and went back to her room.
What a clever language learner! Only later, seated around the dinner table, did my friend learn that her daughter, a Polish language student, was trying to internalise the difference between two very similar words in her second language.
In that language, córka means 'daughter' and kórka is a chicken.
Those words look the same and, but for the first letter, sound the same. Even more confusing is the pronunciation of the letter C. In English, if it precedes the letter O, it is generally pronounced as K - meaning that the poor language learner always mispronounced 'daughter' when speaking Polish.
Astutely and most amusingly, she employed a mnemonic to help her keep the distinction straight in her head.
In language learning, a mnemonic device is a way to make sense of what, at least so far, makes no sense at all.
Language learners make sense of their new vocabulary in one of two ways: either by translating it into their native language - which, on the whole, does not help retain new language very much.
The second method is by finding some sort of connection between what is known and the new word or concept.
The mnemonic she used is effective on many levels: for one, she could imagine herself as a chicken rather than a child. The firm negation of that visual would prod her to use the right word.
Another way it works well is for the student to remember her mother's shock at that declaration - that declaration had come with no provocation whatsoever. She might imagine her mother's shock at her getting the word wrong, thus compelling her to use the right word every time.
The use of mnemonics depends heavily on imagination and personal experience. As your Superprof has no idea what would be an effective memory trigger for you, you would have to devise your own mnemonics for the words you encounter in your Dutch lessons.
Can you think of any examples where a mnemonic would help you to remember Dutch vocabulary?
Use the SQ3R Method
We get this helping hand from across the pond; American educators have long advocated for the value of skimming through the material in question; drafting questions about that text and then reading it in depth, writing about and, finally, reviewing what you've written.
Here's how it works:
- Scan recently learned material: look for familiar words or phrases, find any tables (maybe a conjugation table) or highlighted segments of text.
- A lot of language textbooks include cultural tidbits; you might read them before you delve into the lesson itself!
- Question: formulate queries of what you know of this material and what you anticipate having trouble understanding.
- For extra practice, you could write down questions using vocabulary from that lesson
- Read: now is the time to take in every word, answering the questions you had previously formulated
- Recite: by memory or in creating your flashcards, speak your new vocabulary out loud
- Review: this final step calls for you to abandon your textbook in favour of the extra materials you have created. Alternately, you could review the text and compare it to the extra materials so that you can be sure you've not left anything out.
It might take a little while to get used to this method of revising your Dutch lessons but it is an effective learning formula that will help you in the long run.
Go ahead; give it a try!
Go Beyond Your Textbook
Seldom does one learn a language for no other reason than the pursuit of knowledge; usually one hopes to make use of their new language skills - either at work, through an educational exchange programme such as Erasmus, or because one plans to visit the land where that language is spoken.
That being the case, it is of paramount importance for you to have someone to talk to in your second language, if only other beginners - maybe your classmates.
Speak to fellow learners; maybe test each other on what you've learnt in class. Perhaps you didn't quite grasp how to apply a grammar rule you just learned; here again, your classmates can help. If you didn't understand it in class you might find it easier when someone else explains it in their own words.
Find Native Dutch Speakers to Talk to
You might wonder about this advice, especially if you live in a remote corner of our country where not many linguists can be found.
Fortunately, in this digital age, the Internet brings the world to you! If you have a stable connection and a bit of time, you might consider logging into Language Exchange, a website where people all over the world are just looking for a chance to help someone learn their language.
You only need to create a free profile and then search for Dutch speakers who wish to practise their English. Send them a message and, soon, you will have a new friend to speak the language of Rotterdam with!
Similarly, My Language Exchange boasts millions of profiles, including those of people learning Dutch as well as those who are native speakers of that language. Here too, signup is free; you only have to be fair: give a bit of your time to help others learn your language and soon, you'll be on your way to Dutch fluency!
There are several of these free language exchange sites; you only need to plug that search key into your browser and choose the one(s) that suit you the best!
If you'd rather practise your Dutch conversation skills with someone local, you might try finding an exchange in person - it's not so far-fetched! Just take a look at that link; you'll find that our little island offers plenty of opportunity for Dutch learners and Dutch speakers to get together.
Work with a Tutor
You might baulk at this suggestion because of the added time and extra cost you would have to commit to but learning Dutch with the help of a tutor is a very sensible and cost-effective solution to mastering the language quickly.
For one, your tutor is yours - as opposed to a classroom situation, where teachers must divide their attention between every student present. Your tutor will focus on you exclusively: your difficulties in pronunciation and in grasping complex linguistic concepts, your progress and your goals.
Will you soon sit your Dutch language certification exam? Is your holiday to Holland imminent? Have you been assigned to work out of your company's Brussels office? All of these are great reasons for engaging a tutor for your Dutch lessons; perhaps you have an even more pertinent one than we listed!
But what about the cost?
You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Superprof Dutch tutors cost, on average, £18 per hour. What's more, many Superprof Dutch tutors give their first hour of lessons at no charge so you can see how well they will work for you.
Superprof has over 130 Dutch tutors scattered throughout the country; why not check if you can find a Dutch tutor within your budget?
Listen and watch as much authentic content as you can. You need to immerse yourself in the language you are learning. Books, TV, radio and subtitled films can all help.
Reading allows you to revisit learned vocabulary, and see those words in new sentences and contexts. One excellent source of foreign language exposure is through graded readers, which are designed specifically for language learners of different levels.
Another good source of reading material is advertisements or menus, which tend to use short, colloquial text.
However, you might have trouble getting your hands on such things. That is why we suggest something more immediately available.
DutchPod 101 is a Youtube channel that aims to help Dutch learners master the language quickly.
Whether you are an absolute beginner or more advanced in your language skills, DutchPod 101 has a series of videos for you. Each is hosted by a native Dutch speaker and breaks down aspects of the language into morsels that are easy to digest.
You may choose to watch their video series on Dutch Tips and Learning Strategies or jump right into their lessons, conveniently organised by topic: reading practice, listening comprehension; even a series on Dutch Holidays such as Christmas and Carnival.
Of particular interest might be their 24/7 broadcast called Dutch TV, where the host expounds on a variety of subjects of from leisure activities to preparing Dutch foods.
You can train your ear by listening to Dutch broadcasts, either on this channel or on the radio.
You may also watch Dutch TV online. While a great technique for listening comprehension, if you are only just starting your language learning adventure, it might be best to just keep it on in the background while you're busy with mundane tasks.
Doing so will help you to pick out familiar words in context with other words you don't yet know. The longer you listen, the more you'll hear how they are using certain words or how native speakers formulate sentences.
During such listening sessions, it's good practice to note down words that come up often. These are usually connecting words or useful verbs that you can work into your own speech.
Apps to Help You Revise
If you’re struggling with revision and need another method other than using your textbook, you can use online resources to boost your learning between lessons.
Duolingo is a language learning website and App for mobiles and tablets. It's 100% free and is a great way to improve your language skills. The App is designed so you progress through a language course.
You can practice your speaking, reading, listening and writing skills while playing a game! You'll improve your vocabulary and grammar skills by answering questions and completing lessons. You start with basic verbs, phrases, and sentences, and learn new words daily.
Duolingo uses repetition as a learning tool. Words and phrases will keep coming up in different questions until you know them by heart.
The App rewards your dedication with points and congratulates you on logging on to your lessons consistently every day.
Duolingo is one of the most popular ways to learn new languages. It is a great fun way to improve your skills and is completely free too!
Babbel offers language courses online through its website and on its app. It uses quiz style questions to help you progress. You will be shown new grammar and vocabulary and then be asked questions throughout the lesson to reinforce the information.
The courses are really straightforward and easy to use and can be used as a great addition to your Dutch lessons. You can use it as a beginner or go in at a higher level.
Unlike Duolingo however it is not 100% free. You can start a course for free but you have to pay to access more materials.
Overall though Babbel is a great tool and will easily complement your lessons.
In a language class, yesterday’s vocabulary is more important than today’s. The goal is to transfer the short-term knowledge of new vocabulary into your long-term memory. Review is essential – in the first few days or weeks after learning new vocabulary in class, recycle those words and you'll entrench them in your memory.
Keep on top of your revision and you'll really make your Dutch lesson count!
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