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learning a new language

Ik Tengo Zesentwintig Años, Or the Pitfalls of Learning Two Languages at Once

Learning a new language is hard work. Being required to learn two languages at once is somewhat of a nightmare. Why two languages you may be asking? The first is Dutch, which makes sense, after all I do live in the Netherlands. I'm marrying a Dutchman and as of now plan on making this my permanent home. Learning Dutch will only help me feel like I fit in here, make new friends and advance my career. Plus I am required as part of my visa to pass a test by June 2015. The second language I have to learn at the moment is Spanish. For my degree, I am required to take two years of Spanish. I'm not really sure why this is, but if you don't pass Spanish you don't graduate. So, I'm stick learning both at the same time. 

Here are some of the pitfalls of learning two languages at once:

1. You mix up the languages in your head. I am 100% sure I put some Dutch on my last Spanish Exam. It didn't exactly help that the instructions were in Dutch first. 

2. You know that you should devote a ton of time to studying both languages, so you get stressed out about it and instead spend no time on any languages. I'll be the first to admit it, I don't spend anytime working on either language. I think I just get overwhelmed. Which is why starting next week I'll have a study schedule. I'm thinking Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday should be dedicated to Dutch, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Spanish. I'm thinking an hour each day to start off with. Think this will work?

3. You never feel comfortable speaking either. There are plenty of Dutch people here in the Netherlands, there are also plenty of Spanish people. But I am not confident enough in my skills in either language to hold proper conversations. 

Have you ever tried to learn to languages at once? How did you accomplish this? Have you ever learned another language, I'd welcome those tips as well! 

 

 

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7 Habits Adult Language Learners Can Learn from Bilingual Children

Here in The Netherlands, I pick up the occasional tutoring gig for young children who are bilingual, and who are too young to learn English in school. These are normally the children of Nederlanders who moved to English speaking countries and have since moved back here. Since I have started becoming serious about learning Nederlands, I can´t help but compare the relative ease of being bilingual in my charges, to the struggles I face everyday as an adult. I have pinpointed 7 habits that I see in my young bilingual students that I think will help me, and other adult language learners in their strife to become bilingual.

  1. Brush off mistakes/embarrassment: I am not quite sure when in our lives it becomes embarrassing to make a mistake, but it is really a terrible habit we develop. With my kids, if they make a mistake with their grammar or pronunciation, it doesn't phase them at all, they just keep going. In reverse, when my inburgering teacher calls upon people to read the text out loud, I don't think I could make myself smaller in my seat. The don't call on me because there is this word I am unsure of how to pronounce mentality is a real antagonist to my ability to learn. What I and other adults need to realize is that no one is perfect 100% of the time, if we were there would be no reason to be in a class because we would already be fluent. Be proud of your mistakes, they mean you are actually learning. 
  2. Set apart time to learn: While I think that you should be open to learning your new language whenever it presents itself, having a set time that you know is dedicated to learning is really helpful. For example, my students know that when they see me, we will be speaking in English. We try to make it at the same time each week, that way the kids are already in the mindset that on Thursdays at noon, they can not play with their friends, they have their lessons. Conversely, I know when I have my inburgering lessons each week, but when I get to my homework is anyone's guess. I think that next week, I will have set study times for my homework, that way all of it will actually get done.
  3. Have a  designated place to learn: Each time I see my kids, we go to the same spot in their house to have our lessons, this is the same place they do their homework. Most of the time it is a dining room table. When I was in high school, my space was on the floor of my best friend Christy's bedroom. In college it was a local coffee shop. I do not do well at home, too many distractions. Here in Utrecht, I think I will try the beautiful Utrecht Centraal Library, since I have a love affair with the building anyway. My point is, find a place free of distractions to make it easier to learn. 
  4. Just do it: Children have teachers and parents to hold them accountable for their learning. As adults, we are accountable to ourselves, but sometimes having a partner in our learning can help.If that is not possible, then you are going to have to just grin and do it. No excuses, you have already set apart this time to learn. But at the same time...
  5. Know when you have hit a wall: With my students it is easy to tell when they have hit a wall. It is when they suddenly lose all interest in what we are doing. If you have read the same page four times and still are not comprehending it, it is time to try a new tactic.
  6. Try something else: When we are learning our first language, we watch movies, we sing songs, we read stories. Why do we not utilize the tools when trying to learn our second? When you have hit a wall with your grammar books, try doing something fun with the language. Watch a movie in the language, listen to local artists, it is good to remind yourself why you wanted to learn it.
  7. Don't get discouraged: This goes along with the mistakes thing, think about how long it took you to become really proficient in your language. Now compare that to how long you have been trying to learn your second. See, you are doing better than you thought. Keep it up!

Do you have any language learning tips?

 

Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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March Photo Challenge: Day 6: 5PM

It was a relatively nice day here today. The air was brisk but not unbearable. It was cloudy but the sun was out. And, the days have been getting longer for awhile now so that means that there is still plenty of sunlight out at 5pm. Which is why, I decided to take to the roof for my Nederlands lesson today. Since Loek and I live on the ground floor, we are not lucky enough to have a marvelous balcony to call our own. But, we do have access to our roof and this summer, that will be where you can find me. You know, on the like, 15 days it is not raining! I might even try to get a tan. Those of you who actually know me will know how funny this is. I got sunburned last year in April at the Keukenhof. I was even wearing sunscreen! But today was perfect for some studying up there.

I have become extremely diligent in my learning of Nederlands in the last two weeks. The language is Nederlands, not Dutch. Dutch is what foreigners called it because they got it confused with Duits.  I digress, after months of sparse attempts to learn and not wanting to turn into an expat who can’t communicate with the people who’s country she has invaded in their native tongue. I decided it was time to get serious. ( No offense to the expats who don’t feel the need to learn Nederlands, that is just not how I roll and I plan on being here for the long run.) Since my job feel through and we don’t have money for lessons, I have been treating learning Nederlands as my full-time job. Currently I am using The Rosetta Stone and Klare Taal in De Klas, a student’s grammar guide.

 

I actually really like Klare Taal in de Klas. Everything is in Nederlands, but since it is for school kids I can understand it. It does a really good job of explaining grammar and has exercises that I make Loek check. I realize that I can only get so far being my own teacher. Here in The Netherlands, they have a program called Inburgering. Basically, there are a lot of tests you have to take, a year’s worth of intense classes before those tests, that you have to take if you are a non- EU resident. Most people dread this like it is the black plague. You can either wait to be called or you can volunteer to start. Guess which one I did? Just waiting to hear back for my interview. Yes, I know I am crazy.

What are some of the most effective ways to learn a language you have in your arsenal?

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Yoda's Advice for Learning a Language.

A very wise, little green alien once said to a pupal learning an important lesson, “Do or do not, there is no try”. A valuable lesson for all, but especially for those trying to learn a new language. You have to work at it, otherwise you will never really become fluent.

So often, I find myself telling people that I am trying to learn to speak Nederlands. What I really mean by this is that, I study when I want to. I study when it is convenient for me, but I don’t devote near enough time to it as I should. Needless to say, I haven’t learned an impressive amount in the almost 5 months I have been here. According to an interview by Suitcase Entrepreneur of Benny from Fluent in 3 Months, most people have trouble learning a language because they are lazy about it. I can definitely see his point. I have been lazy, and my progress has suffered.

So how do I, and other language learners remedy this situation? Here are some of my ideas to get on track with language learning.

  • Have a clear, realistic goal in mind. My current goal is to finish the Rosetta Stone by June 1st, which means I need to do a lesson a day. About 2 ½ hours.
  • Have an hour reserved each day to devote to hearing/ speaking nothing but Dutch to my fiancee.
  • Spend an hour each day on grammar workbooks.
  • Have a defined daily schedule, keeping in mind the times that I know I am most productive. For me that is from 10am to 12:30 and again at 4:30.
  • Watch more Dutch films, people quote movies all the time, I might as well be quoting Dutch ones.
  • Have an accountability partner, someone who you won’t lie to that can hold you accountable for learning.
  • Treat my language learning like a job. I was always much better about showing up to work than I was to class. Since I don’t work, I will now treat learning Nederlands as my current career.

In case anyone was wondering, I did Level One, Unit Two, Lesson Two this morning.

Any language learners out there want to share their suggestion or tips for learning a new language?

 

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