The more you say a language is hard to learn, the harder it will be to learn. Especially with a language like Dutch, where things can get pretty shaky, real fast. Just when you think you’ve got the basics down, someone throws you a curveball like “Wat is er aan de hand?”, and all the sudden you feel like you will just never make it happen. In times like these, you need to allow that extra boost of motivation to kick in.
The art of persistence
Isn’t it impressive to meet someone who is bilingual, or even trilingual? I know from personal experience that I always envy those who can speak in multiple languages aside of their mother tongue. Even if you aren’t fluent, it is an advantage in life to have an effective conversational level of speaking skills to get you by. Whether it aids you in traveling to different countries or looks amazing to prospective employers, no one ever said thought of multilingualism ass unimpressive. However, picking up a new language can seem impossible at first, but the reality is that it isn’t impossible. See, languages are comparable to anything else in life, and it all comes down to how motivated you are and how much time you want to invest in the process.
You may be taking a language course, and you might even be completing your homework and performing well on tests. Bravo, you are participating in the learning process. But how far can the classroom take you? It is pretty standard that most people may attend a language course, practice what they are learning in those few hours, and then go back to speaking their mother tongue with whoever they talk to until their next class. This is a big contributor as to why language learning may take years to become sufficient.
Using what you learn in the classroom as often as possible in everyday life will not only give you the real-life encounters of practicing that language, but the confidence that comes with it – because after all, confidence is key. If you happen to be, for example, and expat living in Amsterdam, and you hope to learn Dutch, then use every opportunity possible to practice it! Ordering your morning coffee?
“Een koffie alstublieft.”
Once you start to grasp a sense of confidence outside the classroom, set a goal for a specific period where you only speak that one language, and see how long you can last without going back to your native tongue. When doing this, don’t focus on whether or not your grammar is correct; rather, this is to help you get into the flow of speaking the language with confidence in your everyday life. The rest will work itself out as you gain some bearings. Don’t just revert to speaking English because you are comfortable with it. Yeah, you may make a few mistakes, but that’s the whole point of learning, isn’t it?
Locals appreciate your effort
On my last note about making mistakes… who cares! A native speaker will be far more impressed that you are taking the initiative to communicate in their language rather than going down the easy route and speaking English. Most Dutch people I have met emphasize how much they appreciate foreigners trying to speak their language, regardless of how well they pronounce words. One of the reasons is that it shows respect for their culture, and demonstrates that you are happy to be in their country, all while learning their ways. Plus, most native speakers won’t have any reservations about helping you improve your skills while speaking with you, and pointing out common mistakes to help you learn for the future. This will also introduce you to a whole new world of friendships. Rather than sticking to your expat friends who all speak English (or whatever your native tongue may be), you will be able to really get to know the native speakers on a level that goes deeper than casual conversation and courses. Being surrounded by Dutch people who are constantly communicating in Dutch will allow you to listen in, ask questions when you hear something that confuses you and really participate in the language.
Turn it into your daily life
Another great technique to get into the habit of is to immerse yourself in the culture of the language and surround every aspect of your life with it. If you are in a foreign country where you wish to learn the language, watch the local television channels to practice your listening skills. Read magazines and newspapers to practice reading, and look up words that you just cannot seem to figure out. Listen to the music from that country (rap music in different languages is also a great way to practice listening, and you will probably be able to connect with locals who are fans of those artists!). If you want to get even more practice, change your phone settings to the language you are practicing, that way you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Although these things seem obvious, it does take a lot of extra effort to focus and stay committed – especially when you may not understand the language well. However, if you stick to it you will surely be surprised by how much your skills improve, in addition to being entertained