Albert Both from Talencoach explains why language levels are not always the answer to speaking fluent Dutch.

Have you been following a Dutch course for a while? Chances are high that you discovered that when it comes to language courses, there is a certain system. If you are a beginner, then you start with A1 and then you will take A2 (sometimes to AA), followed by B1 and then B2.

Meanwhile, you may start to wonder: What should you do if you want to speak Dutch for real? Move to C1? You could move to level Z, if that level exists … So instead of asking yourself should I move to the next level again, here is a much better question: Why not speak Dutch right now?

Thinking levels are the biggest trap everSpeaking Dutch right now? What thoughts come up after reading this idea? Does your mind tell you that this would be impossible? Do you hear that critical voice in your head that tells you that you have to study much more and that you’ll have to do a lot more homework? Sure, these thoughts seem to be relevant and valid but … what if the opposite could be true?

Yes, it might be shocking, but when you look at it again, it is more than obvious. If you have been studying Dutch for quite some time and if you find that somehow you have not been speaking the language, then something is wrong. It is that simple. I love to call it the ABC trap, where you are thinking or believing that the levels A1, A2, B1 and B2 say something about your ability to speak Dutch. On the contrary, believing in this system is exactly what is in the way. The higher your so-called “level” is, the more difficult you may find it to speak Dutch for real.

First of all, have you already discovered that most language courses are not really designed for helping you to speak a new language? Sure, you’ll get drilled to say things like: “Hallo, mijn naam is … en ik kom uit bla bla”. So it is true that you will learn a couple of sentences.

But here is the thing: If you would like to speak Dutch for real, then there are other things that you need to understand and learn first. Have you noticed that most language courses are driven by dry memorisation? The thought is that if you memorise many words and sentences innumerable times – even when they do not make sense to you – it will do the trick. It also means that mainly what you have to do is study, repeat, study and repeat …

It is true that it can help, to some extent. There will be progress, but it requires hard work and it is often boring. The worst thing of all is that – at least in my opinion – it does not lead you where you want to be. Which is most likely fluency and the freedom to talk about anything that you like, and feeling that you are smart and creative.

There is some good news, however. Contrary to what you may believe, this whole system of A1, A2 and AA is completely irrelevant for a language like Dutch. Sure, it could make sense if you want to learn a language like Japanese, Russian or Arabic. But Dutch is very close to English. It simply means that you do not have to start from zero and that thinking in terms of certain levels is completely irrelevant.

Here is a simple test for you: Can you guess the meaning of the following Dutch words? Economie, zelfsabotage, spiritualiteit, prioriteitenlijst … Hopefully it is not that hard, right?

If you know what these words mean – congratulations! You are not on level A1 anymore. The great thing with a language like Dutch is that from the very beginning, you can already touch on things that officially are supposed to be on higher levels. This feels a lot better, right?

You can speak Dutch right now!Here is one of the biggest problems … Many people study too much and when you take many language courses, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Dutch is far more difficult than it really is. To make it worse, universities certainly love to intellectualise things. They bombard you with grammatical diarrhoea with terms like nevenschikkende voegwoorden (coordinate conjunctions) en naamwoordelijk deel van het gezegde (subject complement). Don’t worry, you do not need these terms.

Luckily, it is relatively easy to make progress in Dutch very fast. The secret is simple, you start speaking! Just start speaking and find out what works and what does not work. It is the most natural way of learning.

Instead of trying to memorise a language, you can start to discover the language first. You will be surprised how many things Dutch has in common with English and then step-by-step, you can discover that Dutch has a logical system that is relatively simple, certainly in comparison to other languages.

Because of the fact that you have already started to speak Dutch first, it is easy to expand on it. Now what you need to do is to develop a new way of thinking that is logically structured and creative while being intuitive at the same time. You need to develop a new talent for solving little puzzles and how to draw conclusions for yourself about all the Dutch things that you see.

Memorisation is not necessaryThe great thing about this approach is that it has little to do with memorising. All you need is to develop a certain way of looking at things and then develop a new habit that can help you pick up new things fast – all while you rapidly implement everything that you discover. This means that you can move forward fast, and it is exactly this set of talents that will boost your confidence. It is also the most natural way of learning – just allow yourself to be playful and optimistic.

Instead of thinking “Have I studied this before?”, you can look at some new information and figure out how you can deal with it on the spot. Once you have discovered a certain logical system, you’ll quickly realise that things can be relatively simple and easy to use.

So, if you would like to speak Dutch for real, then here are my tips: Do not walk into that trap of thinking in A, B or C levels. Start speaking Dutch from the very beginning. Start thinking in Dutch and do not translate. Do not think in English first and make sure that no matter what happens, you feel good about learning and about yourself. Also very important: make sure that you have outrageous fun with it. When you see it as a great adventure, it is easy to feel excited about it!

Nothing is wrong … You just need to activate your natural learning firstLearning how to learn and learning how to speak Dutch for real are normally not things that you will learn from an average course. Sure, you’ll learn some sentences and many rules, but speaking Dutch is so much more than that. It is all about developing a new way of thinking and creating some supportive habits.

One thing that greatly accelerates speaking Dutch for real is intensity. What if you could focus on Dutch for a couple of days with laser beam focus, without distractions while having outrageous fun? How much confidence would you gain if you really dove into a new way of natural learning?

Have more fun with DutchOnce you start to focus on Dutch for a couple of days in a row, great things will happen. All of a sudden, you understand things on a deeper level. You just get it and things that looked very difficult when you saw them for the very first time, become more natural … All of a sudden you notice that you can make your own sentences faster, you are more creative and instead of feeling that you have to study, you get genuinely intrigued and curious.

Once you start to discover Dutch by speaking, playing and experimenting instead of walking that slow official path of A1, A2, B1, B2+ that everyone else is trying to walk, things change, sooner than you think!

Learn Dutch with Talencoach:

Download the e-book “3 Steps to Dutch flow” Download the e-book “Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It” Visit the website Talencoach.nl Check out the Facebook page Watch videos on YouTube All free of charge!

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