Have you been studying Dutch for a while, and do you like the idea that somehow you could just sit back, relax and have great Dutch conversations? Make sure then that you read this article, because Albert Both from Talencoach is here to give you some first great tips!
Let’s start with a stupid question. Imagine that you want to speak Dutch; what would you do? Learn the language, right? So, then you’d probably sign up for a language course and then what would happen?
Chances are high that you would feel overwhelmed on page one of your course book already. When you are in a class, it could be even worse, certainly when your teacher only speaks Dutch and uses loads and loads of horrific grammar jargon.
So, what most people do is just to try to memorise as much as they can. You study and study, looong lists of words and loads of sentences that don’t make sense to you. Why would you do it?
The theory is simple. If you just expose yourself to a new language and if you repeat things again and again, then one day you’ll wake up and you’ll speak Dutch fluently. This is something that also many Dutch people believe. There is only one problem … it does not work like that!
Just check it out for yourself. Yes, you may have noticed that to some extent it is true that if you study a lot, then somehow, you’ll be able to create some sentences. That is why it seems to work. Chances are high that you think that if you like to speak more and better Dutch, then you need to study more. But once again … is it true?
Too much studyingHere is a shocking truth: most people study too much! Quite often, studying is exactly that thing that stands in your way to Dutch fluency.
The first problem is very simple. Most people see learning a new language and speaking a new language as two separate activities. The idea is that first you learn it and that after some time – in many cases years – you start to speak it.
Luckily, the opposite is true. Learning Dutch and speaking Dutch is one thing. You can see it as yin and yang if you like. When you learn, you speak and when you speak, you learn. It’s that simple. And there is more important news: the fastest way to learn a new language is to actually speak it.
Just check it out for yourself! What would be the fastest way for you to remember new words? By memorising them or by using them? Nothing works better and faster than using new words in real life.
Not understandingHere is another problem. You can never learn things that you do not really understand. If you try to memorise long sentences that do not make sense to you, it will not lead to Dutch fluency.
Many people believe that if you just memorise loads and loads of sentences, then somehow, you’ll figure out all by yourself how the Dutch language works. Unfortunately, this is not true. Although Dutch has many things in common with English, it also has some different rules. The good news is that – certainly in comparison to other languages – Dutch is relatively simple. It is like German-light.
Dutch has the same logical structure as German but is a lot easier. One important thing, for example, is that the structure in the sentence is different. You say: I want to coffee drink (Ik wil koffie drinken) and ik kan Nederlands spreken (I can Dutch speak).
Although the order in the sentence is different from English, it is still relatively easy to master. You don’t need to study a lot of grammar for this. Just create many Dutch sentences all by yourself and before you know it, they will feel natural to you.
One thing is important to understand. If you believe that Dutch makes no sense and that it is one of the hardest languages on this whole planet – this is what many Dutch people love to say – then this will be your reality. But … once you can see that Dutch has a different but logical and consistent system of putting sentences together, everything will be different.
Make mistakesActually, the secret is very simple. When you want to speak Dutch, create as many sentences as you can, all by yourself. Then see what works and what does not work. Of course, you will make many mistakes this way and this is a brilliant thing! When you make mistakes, it will give you more information about the differences between Dutch, English and other languages that you may speak.
Here is what happens in traditional courses. You will learn and memorise dialogues about one specific topic at the time. First, you’ll talk about the weather and then you’ll learn how to fill out a form. In many cases, what you will hear and read does not make sense and often you’ll be bored to death. Here is my golden rule: if you are bored, then learning is always slow, or dead!
Contrary to what you may believe, you actually know more about Dutch than you could imagine right now. The only thing is that you have to learn how to guess the right meaning of new words and that you are really playful with it. Just be willing to experiment! Instead of just memorising loads and loads of information, here are some things to develop that are far more important.
Noticing patternsFirst of all, your ability to detect patterns. Can you figure out consistencies in Dutch? Here is one example. If fantasieloos means without fantasy or imagination, then what is werkloos and respectloos? Hopefully you are able to figure out for yourself that werkloos is workless, without a job, unemployed and that respectloos is without respect, disrespectful. So now if you say, “Dit is fantasieloos en respectloos,” it would make sense, right?
Creativity and improvisationThe second important skill that you need to develop is creativity and improvisation. Certainly in the beginning you may still be missing words, but if somehow you can find a way around it with other words, then at least you can get your conversation going. By the way, often you see that the word that you are looking for comes up naturally in your conversation. All you need to do is to recognise the words that you are looking for and then use them all by yourself.
ConsistencyLast but not least, here is the greatest secret of all. If you focus on speaking Dutch for a couple of days in a row, it can really produce miracles! The problem that most people have is that they only try to learn Dutch once per week. But then this will not be enough to create a real breakthrough, certainly if you are sitting somewhere and are tired from work.
But … if you focus on speaking Dutch for a couple of days in a row, you’ll often notice an important difference within days. Things that seemed to be difficult at first, all of a sudden are much more doable. Also important, chances are high that you’ll have more fun with it and that leads to more confidence.
So, remember … the way to speaking Dutch, is speaking Dutch!
Want to start speaking Dutch fast? Take part in the intensive, seven-day Dutch Brainwash programme from Talencoach.
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