Monday, 16 December 2013

By the way, here is what I have done so far

By the way, here is what I have done so far:

- Michel Thomas. My original start and nothing has benefited me more, especially actively)

- Colloquial Dutch. Have gone through slowly (no exercises) at least once. The grammar in the latter sections really turned me off though I did persist. I have forgotten most of it and should review. The problem is that I get frustrated like people who cannot get to grips with higher level mathematics (ironically, I am very good at maths!)

- watching American TV series with Dutch subs. I find this great for picking up every day dialogue/vocabulary. Things that a textbook or reading the newspaper wouldn't really give you.

- reading newspapers. I do this occasionally. I am better than I was, having gotten used to the vocabulary used there. But I still rely on a "dictionary" i.e. Google Translate.

- forum posting. I tried to post regularly on But it is not really my crowd and I feel stunted due to lack of ability to express myself without resorting to Google Translate.

- listening to Dutch spoken-word radio daily for 2 years. This has given me slow progress with listening comprehension and new vocabulary. I enjoy it a lot but my progress is reaching a limit, despite understanding most (but not all) of what I hear.

- watching Dutch TV. I cannot watch catch-up TV from here (my internet connection blocks video, plus they have recently started blocking non-Dutch from watching anyway) but I have a box set of the first 3 series of the only soap in Holland. It is quite boring at times but often fun at other times. I recently just received two more modern and dramatic series (cop show, thriller), I hope I can watch these over Christmas.

- Dutch movies. Hardly any of them. I have seen all the classic Rutger Hauer oldies!

- Anki. Did it for a while but never kept momentum. Probably because it barely registered any interest for me.

- Dutch music. Listened to several hip hop artists and know many of the lyrics off by heart now. Good for listening comprehension and some small amount of vocabulary but little else.

My Current Situation

I recently posted the below on this HTLAL thread (Never had classes but have reached a wall) where people have been very helpful to me. I post it here as the basis for my plan for the upcoming weeks and months:

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Wow guys, some really awesome feedback here! Maybe I can share a bit more about my progress so far, techniques I've used and also clear some misconceptions.

I don't use Google Translate to "cheat" or become lazy. I use it for single word translations or to basically translate what I must and no more. That does sometimes include entire sentences but I do "study" closely and I believe it helps me a lot. I get similar benefit (better actually) from comparing L1 and L2 novels.

I have done some shadowing, though not to exercise in the Arguelles style. I often watch American TV series with Dutch subs and will repeat back lines in Dutch, simply because I like doing so. It's probably not thorough and repetitive enough though. Aside from that, this method has really done wonders for my reading comprehension (of dialogue at least) and was responsible for my acquisition of the top X,000 words in record time. I still enjoy it a lot.

I intend shortly to re-watch my favourite shows without the audio track, so I am forced to read the Dutch subs and really "live the story in Dutch" if you see what I mean. I'm curious to see what a few days worth of watching like this will do for me.

I will check out Duolingo for sure. I did check out that lyricstraining site but couldn't see anything other than foreign lyrics, maybe I was missing something there?? Interestingly, I have also listened to Dutch music and it has definitely helped me. I have always sung while listening and over the past 1.5 years have acquired several Dutch "Nederhop" songs which I sing with gusto! One downside of learning lyrics is that it tends to improve my accent and my hearing especially, as well as word order, but I still sing many lyrics where I have no idea what they actually mean! Yes, I should look them all up but I tend to forget their meanings very quickly.

My problem with grammar is that it is a set of rules. While I love solid process and rules in the world of work as they remove uncertainty, in my personal life I am not a fan of them when it comes to languages. To me, grammar takes all of the fun out of language learning. To me, there is nothing interesting whatsoever about grammar. I would go so far as to say I detest it.

But given that it seems unavoidable at this point, this is why I am so keen on lessons. I know many of you advise against it, but I've proven that over 6 years I just cannot do it on my own. Yet at school I had no problem doing grammar for French and Spanish because I learned it formally and with expectations. Basically, I will do lessons for grammar and some active practice. Plus I will meet some new people with a shared passion and maybe even network. I don't really see it as a bad thing. For little more than £100 for a term, it's not really that much money either. My only dilemma is whether to go for a level 1 (basic) or level 2 (upper basic/lower intermediate) class. Level 1 would give me the best shot at grammar from the beginning but everything else would present zero challenge to me.

I will take a look at the SSiD, thanks.

I will keep looking for a tutor. I still have not found one. I may try asking the class teacher if they would tutor me possibly. I am even wary of any ad for Dutch tutors because it would not surprise me if none of them were qualified in any way and were just Dutch people looking to make an extra buck, capitalising on a rare market....

I know some think that my lack of self-discipline and detest for grammar can be somehow overcome by redoubling my self-study efforts. Perhaps so. But let's not forget that most people here are afficionados of language study. I'd venture that, although tough for all of us, many are maybe even more naturally gifted to learn languages. I don't see myself ever learning multiple languages, though I could be wrong. I still think classes will benefit me. And at this point I am willing to redouble my efforts in every single area. Heck, I wish I had time for a degree in this subject! UCL offers a very good degree, too bad I don't have time or money for that.

I have not tried podcasts because I don't think any exist for this language. Unless you mean regular podcasts in native Dutch? In which case, I listen to several hours of Dutch spoken-word radio every single day. I have found benefit, but extremely limited. i.e. my passive benefit is great and has almost peaked, but it has done nothing for my active side.

I have done some Anki. I even use software to extract popular words from masses of subtitles files. I did not form regular habits with it though, probably because it bored me intensely. I will revisit this though, especially with sentences. I recently watched half an entire series of the only Dutch soap (GTST) and took many notes of sentences where I felt I could learn something. But I haven't looked at them since.

I guess momentum is one of my biggest problems. But my whole career it has eluded me. I am a jack, never been a master. I have a short attention span. I am extremely impulsive and often change my mind. I commonly start things and never finish them, including in business. It has been very bad for me in many walks of my life sadly, especially in this modern world where focus and the long game are now more valuable skills to have, whereas I wonder if it was different in the past. Again, why I think I can benefit from classes. I doubt most people here have these problems...

Oh, as for the Skype, my internet connection actively blocks it. I use a 3.5G connection, they try to cap your bandwidth by restricting you to simple web pages only. It's a miracle I can even get the Dutch radio channel I can.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

What This Blog Is About

I previously had a blog called "Fluent in Dutch in 3 Months" which never went anywhere!

I have been learning this language for 6 years now.

In the first year or two I made great progress, then I hit a wall.

I am intermediate level but with a ton of holes riddled in my knowledge, understanding and execution of the language.

I must improve my Dutch. I want to go back to Holland and improving my Dutch will help me greatly.

I need to formulate some goals for 2014 (I am participating in a challenge here: TAC 2014 Team Dutch), here are some rough ones that are subject to revision:

  • Enrol in a Dutch evening class
  • Read one Dutch novel a month
And specifically for January

  • Finish first series of GTST (currently half way through)
  • Start going to local Dutch Meetup events
  • Read and do all the exercises in Colloquial Dutch textbook
  • Watch one series of a US TV program with Dutch subs and no (English) audio track. I have several to choose from.