Like most adults attempting to learn a second language, I’m having trouble figuring out what method(s) work best for me. I scour the Internet in search of tips, tricks, examples of how to organize a vocabulary notebook, helpful forum postings, etc. But in the end it comes down to scheduling time to learn the language and forcing yourself into situations that afford you opportunities to practice, both of which I’m having trouble doing. Discipline and will-power really aren’t my fortes, but the expat experience, more than any other I think, showers you with chances to poke holes in your character and find ways to improve. So…I’m trying.
Currently I have a copy of Rosetta Stone and I’m finding its beginning lessons to be far too simple, even for my basic knowledge of Dutch. However, I’m sticking to it because I worry I’ll miss something if I skip ahead. As frustrating as it is to re-learn the colors, for example, it is a bit satisfying to feel like I know at least a little Dutch. I spent quite a bit of time before the move learning Dutch through the free (and awesome) online community Livemocha. I plan on getting back into Livemocha to get feedback from native speakers on my writing and pronunciation. While there are a few cons to it (for example, poor quality audio recordings submitted from users), it’s an amazing site with a helpful community of language learners and I highly recommend it.
I’ve also created a vocabulary notebook based on the recommendations in this article. I’ve yet to start using it (discipline, discipline, discipline), but it’s there. Maybe today is the day.
But in the end I think a classroom is where I will really cut my teeth on Dutch. As a teacher and a lover of learning, being surrounded by other students is a great motivator for me. Signing up for a class can be expensive, but the Volksuniversiteit system in the Netherlands is a much less costly option. Roughly translated it is the “people’s university” and locations offer much more than language courses. Just a quick skim of the online catalog for the Volksuniversiteit Breda and I found art and gardening workshops, history and meditation classes, and Dutch grammar refresher courses for native speakers, just to name a few. My heart warmed for the Netherlands a bit more when I read the Wikipedia article (in Dutch) for the Volksuniversiteit: Apparently the government developed the university system as a way to promote life-long learning among its people. Thanks, Netherlands!
I decided on a course that starts a week from today and runs weekly through April with 24 sessions of one and a half hours. The cost is 234 euros, which doesn’t include the 50 euro price for the accompanying book and CD. This is much cheaper than most private language schools and obviously cheaper than private tutoring. But again, in the end, learning a language is about being disciplined enough to spend time learning it. It won’t happen via osmosis. Now, I’m off to work on a page in my vocabulary notebook…