Learning Dutch in 100 Days Project: The Midway Mark!

I have been learning Dutch as part of the Parleremo Language Marathon (#PLM) Challenge. The challenge is to learn a language for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, everyday, over a 100 day period. The challenge is hosted on it’s very own platform and not on social media. #PLM has access to lots of language related tools, resources and a super supportive community.

The hope for me is to ‘level up‘ my language skills within the 100 days going from an absolute beginner to an A2 CEFL Level in Dutch.

Back in August I was a complete beginner in Dutch. I have learnt a number of languages over the years, but I have to say that for me Dutch has not been an easy language to learn! In fact, I found Mandarin Chinese easier!

Here are 5 obstacles that I have faced whilst trying to learn how to speak Dutch…

The Dutch Alphabet Pronunciation

Many letters of the alphabet are pronounced differently in Dutch than they are in English. For example, ‘A’ in English is pronounced ‘ay’ but in Dutch it is pronounced ‘ah’ and ‘E‘ is ‘ay‘. Being an English speaker my brain sees the letters and words and instantly tries to correct my pronunciation to English. I need to make new neuro connections that branch off from English and the only way to do this is through consistent practice.

EnglishDutchEnglishDutch
AehahNenen
BbeebayOohoh
CseeseePpeepay
DdeedeeQcuecoo
EeeayRarerrrl
FefefSeses
GgeehayTteetay
HeychhaUyouooh
IeyeeeVveefey
JjayyeeWdouble-youvay
KkaykaXexicks
LelelY / IJwhyaye
MememZzeezed

The biggest challenge for me so far has been the pronunciation of the letter ‘G’! It is not a sound we tend to make in English! The Dutch ‘G’ sound originates in the throat prior to reaching the mouth – it’s almost as if I want to spit. To overcome this hurdle is going to undertake a heck load of practice.

Problematic Pronouns

I didn’t think this was so bad until I discovered that the Dutch have A LOT of words for you! Depending if it is formal, informal and plural. Then I discovered Zij could mean she or they depending on context! The formal ‘u‘ is pretty much like my teenagers informal ‘u‘ text speak.

jij/je (Informal Singular)you
u (Shirt and tie type formal)you
hij, zij/ze, hethe, she, it
jullie (informally plural)you
zij/zethey

Further Reading: Learning Flemish Dutch in 100 Days Learning Dutch in 100 Days Project: In the Beginning

Dutch Grammar Joys

Dutch grammar does not follow the same pattern as English. In English the sentence structure begins with the subject and is followed by a verb. An example of this is ‘I do not break the glasses’. With Dutch, the action typically precedes the subject with something a little like, ‘The glasses break not‘ To overcome this I just think “How would Yoda say it?

Then there is the drama of ‘het‘, ‘de‘ or ‘een‘! Het and De mean ‘the‘, whilst ‘een‘ is the equivalent of the English a/an and not be confused with the number een that is pronounced differently! Don’t get me started on where to place the ‘niet‘, negative particle in a sentence.

Back to Front Numbers!

0nul
1een
2twee
3drie
4vier
5vijf
6zes
7zeven
8acht
9negen
10tien
11elf
12twaalf
13dertien
14veertien
15vijftien
16zestien
17zeventien
18achttien
19negentien
20twintig
21eenentwintig
22tweeëntwintig
30dertig
40veertig
50vijftig
60zestig
70zeventig
80tachtig
90negentig
100honderd

Did you spot the difference between the Dutch and English numbers? Ja, the second number in a double digit number is spoken first! Thanks to learning a little Slovenian a couple of years ago I am use to this way of numbering!

Random Filler Words

Filler words such as hoor, maar and er are great they can make you seem more fluent as you bulk out sentences that were originally Tarzen like. However, these filler words can also drastically change the meaning of a sentence based on the context it is used! Similar really to if you get your tones wrong in Mandarin Chinese ‘Ma‘ could mean ‘mother‘ or ‘horse‘. Therefore using filler words in the wrong places could be the difference between a compliment or an insult! You have been warned…

Goals for the next 30 Days…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Speaking

Daily – Recording myself speaking on Instagram and Parleremo.

Weekly – 1-2 hour weekly Dutch lessons or language exchanges.

Listening

Daily – Listening to the radio or YouTube for about 10 minutes per day.

Weekly – Checking out Netflix to watch some shows.

Reading

Daily – Maintain my Duolingo streak – 15 minutes per day. Now I am feeling slightly more confident with Dutch check out Clozemaster. Read some blogs and online news articles.

Weekly – Re-take some older Duolingo lessons, Use the UTalk app and Learn Dutch.org Flash card app to brush up on vocabulary.

Writing

Daily – Start making regular social media posts in Dutch. Some of my posts are in part English/Part Dutch at the moment.

Weekly – Throughout November I would like to make regular journal articles in Dutch on Parleremo.

Other

Although Dutch is my priority language I will also be exploring some languages indigenous to the UK.

Scots

I plan to continue with the Vocabooster Scots course.

Irish Gaelic

Checking out Irish Gaelic just on Duolingo at the moment.

In Summary…

Obstacles aside I love the Dutch language, thankfully as my focus is more Flemish Dutch the dreaded ‘G‘ sound is softer. Breakthrough moments have included understanding basic texts and conversations, getting a green (after about 20+ red crosses and dings) on Rosetta Stone for my pronunciation of the letter G. Those that have been following my progress have felt my pain!

I look forward to using the language when I visit Holland and Belgium (Flemish). I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure at this point if I’ll hit my target of Absolute beginner (A0) to a talkative A2 and confident reader in 100 days, but what I have achieved so far is a comfortable A1 level.

At the end of the Parleremo Language Marathon Challenge I hope to do a 10 minute Facebook LIVE completely in Dutch!

If you have any tips about how you overcame any obstacles when learning Dutch OR recommended resources/Dutch blogs/articles please post a link to them in the comments section below.

10 Things to Ensure a Successful Language Learning Challenge…

There are a lot of language learning challenges to choose from these days. From a weekend challenge to 26-day mini-challenges and 100-day mega language marathons. Here are 10 things you can do to ensure the successful completion of a language learning challenge…

Some of the most popular challenges are Language Jam, Add 1 Challenge (now rebranded as the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge), My Language Challenge and the Parleremo Language Marathon.

Now a lot of people like the idea of speaking a new language, but do not put in the focus and work required to actually learn the language!

Drop out rates in challenges can be high, so what can you do to ensure you successfully complete a language learning challenge and not be just another dropout…

1 What Challenge is RIGHT for you?

Firstly, you need to ask yourself what you would like to achieve?

If you don’t know what language you would like to learn maybe a shorter challenge that offers an auto-generated language is right for you, such as LangJam (held over a weekend) OR the 26-Day Parleremo Language Marathon. A short challenge that gives you a little taster into a new language without the commitment.

If you know the language you want to learn and want to hold a conversation for 15 minutes within a 90 day period then My Language Challenge or the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge would work well for you. These challenges like regular video updates to be posted during the challenge.

If you have hopped about languages in the past without making great progress, but now want to get focused on just one language, build a consistent study routine and level up your language learning then the 100-Day Parleremo Language Marathon is a perfect option for you! This challenge also focuses on literacy in your target language. In the challenge, you have the option to make regular progress updates via video, audio recordings or journal entries.

You may also need to consider things such as resources and recording eqipment, budgets, community support vs professional support. The Fluent in 3 Months Challenge will give you results if you are willing to commit but comes with a hefty price tag as you are paying for the brand and the awesomeness that is Benny.

Whilst the Parleremo Language Marathon and My Language Challenge offers the same amount of high-quality and support for a lot less, but with no Benny, unfortunately. LangJam is currently free to participate in.

2 Are you READY?

Once you have decided what challenge is right for you then ask yourself if you are ready? Languages challenges are a big commitment and you don’t always see results straight away. It takes time, consistency, motivation, discipline and FOCUS.

All of the challenges listed do give an excellent amount of support, but there is also an element of personal responsibility and acceptance required too. No one can learn this language for you!

3. MAKE YOUR INNER VOICE THE CHEERLEADER

Our inner voice will determine how we approach a language challenge. What we are saying to ourselves at any given moment has the potential to make or break us! This could be the difference between staying in the challenge OR quitting. If your critical inner voice starts telling you that you are “no good, you aren’t going to learn this language“, it will just highlight any fears and anxieties that you may already have.

The language you use dictates that internal movie you play in your head, for example: “I can’t do this it’s too hard”. If you keep repeating this to yourself over and over you may come to believe it and are more likely to give up and pull out of the language learning challenge!

So it’s very important to become aware of the language we are using and become our own cheerleaders. “This is new to me, I can do this with some practice/support“. One great bit of advice that was once given to me by a teacher was to always add “yet” to any negative learning thoughts. For example “I do not understand this YET” OR “I can’t do this YET“. As humans, we’re very good at talking in negatives to ourselves.

Let’s change this NOW and choose to focus on the positives instead!

4 VISUALISE speaking the LANGUAGE!

Imagining yourself speaking the language to a native speaker is actually only helpful to an extent! It’s like an athlete imagining themselves getting the gold medal! It may give you a certain level of belief but doesn’t help in the actual process. What you really want to be able to imagine is doing the ‘little‘ things that will get you to the finish line. Start practicing the vocab in your head and applying it to real life situations.

When we imagine being able to do something we are mentally rehearsing it. It communicates with the body too – when we imagine something, we fire up the same neurons in our brain as when we are actually experiencing it. We want to prime our brains to be able to deal with those situations such as conversations in our target languages.

5 Discover YOUR OWN STUDY ROUTINE…

Having a consistent study routine is crucial. You will not always be motivated and this is when you need to be disciplined in your approach. Sticking to your language learning routine and studying on the days you really don’t feel you want too!

Eventually, the routine will start to become a habit. My own personal routine starts at 7 pm I do 20 minutes focused study, followed by a 10-minute break where I think about all the new vocabulary I have just learnt (diffused study) and then I do another 20 minutes, with the first 5-10 minutes reviewing what I did before the break. Before moving on to any new material.

I do this for 6 days a week and then on day 7, I use an app, such as Drops, UTalk or Duolingo for 15 minutes. We are all different, some of us study better in the evening whilst others prefer to study in the morning. Use the first week or so of the challenge to discover what works best for you.

6 SET small GOALS

Once you are in a language challenge, don’t think too far ahead! Although you do want to be aware of how much progress you make in a weekend, 26, 90 or even 100 days. The progress you make is personal to you and depends on many different factors so please don’t compare yourself to other language learners.

A lot of people tend to do the first 10 days or so and think: “Oh my god I’ve still got 16/90 or whatever days to go!” And even if you are thinking positively, that doesn’t help because your mind goes out to the future. And where you really want to be is ‘in the zone’. The zone is a present state of mind – the here and now.

If you start thinking “oh my god I’m going to win this challenge and unlock the gold badge” it can actually have a detrimental effect on performance because you are not focusing on what you are doing in the present moment. Set yourself small weekly or even daily goals.

This week I have set myself a goal to learn the 1000 most common words in Dutch! I have broken this down into learning about 150(ish) words per day. But that’s all I’m going focus on: Then after I have completed this goal I will set another goal. Then another one AND another… The goal for you may be to learn just 5 – 10 new phases per-day. Having a goal makes a big difference because you are staying more in the moment rather than than focusing on the distance, which is where all the anxiety lies.

7 It’s all about the PROCESS, NOT the OUTCOME!

Real winners don’t actually think about winning as their focus is on performance. The best way to complete a language challenge is to think about what you are doing in the present moment.

Focus on the process rather than the outcome. That’s the only thing you are in control of at any given moment. Remember it’s the process that will determine the outcome and drive you forward, not the other way around!

8 Don’t fear mistakes -LAUGH at them!

Enjoy the language challenge, ensure that you connect and support others, have some fun and don’t take things too seriously. We all make mistakes! I remember I kept calling my Spanish teacher an ‘arse‘ BUT what I was really trying to say was ‘year‘. This actually bonded us and gave us something to talk about! Trust me I NEVER made that mistake again.

If you are feeling stressed, anxious or worried about the challenge this will impact on performance. In challenges, some participants think they need to to take it more seriously as it’s a challenge. But actually, we are less capable when we take things more seriously than when we are having fun – #truestory! When we are happy we are more energised. We’re actually more intelligent. The synapses in our brain fire better when we are happy and when we work together with others.

9 Think of the Challenge as STAGING POST, NOT an END GOAL

If completing the challenge is your only end goal then this can be a problem! What happens after the language learning challenge ends? You get this a lot in sportspeople who want to win the gold medal or a particular tournament because it has been their life’s dream. They achieve it – and then quite often people don’t achieve very much after that, because they haven’t set anything up for after the event.

So set a goal for post challenge, even if it’s just to do a Facebook live in your new language. A challenge is a stepping stone to kick-start the language you are learning in a motivational and supportive environment. What you do after that is UP TO YOU!

If you have something to move on too afterwards it can really help the mind focus. And it means all that studying you’ve done isn’t just for one thing. It really does have a purpose and that makes it more meaningful whether the language learning challenge goes well or not.

10 REMEMBER what you have ACHIEVED

If the worst happens and you have to pull out, or you get ill, try to think positively. Focus on what you have achieved and not what you haven’t. If you managed 25/50 days, that’s still amazing. Top performers reflect upon challenges as learning experiences.

If you were going to do it again, what would you learn from this experience? What would you do differently? Then your mind starts looking for answers. Instead of focusing on the negative you look at things you did right, and look for areas of improvement and that fires the brain towards something rather than away from it.

If you look at all the things you do wrong you actually are mentally rehearsing your mistakes, which means you are more likely to repeat them in the future! So don’t go into denial, put your focus on solutions and what you need to do to drive you forward, achieve your goals and complete a language learning challenge. Good luck!

Taking part in a language challenge? Let us know which one and how you are getting in the comments section below…

Learning Dutch in 100 Days Project: In the Beginning

The goal I have in mind is to go from being a complete beginner in Dutch to reaching A2 Level in 100 days, this is my language journey…

In September I joined the Parleremo Language Marathon. I have been a bit of a language ‘hopper‘ in the past. This means jumping around different languages. It’s time to really knuckle down and focus on just 1 language consistently for a few months rather than juggling multiple.

I decided to go the full hog and take part in the Mega 100-Day Language Learning Marathon to kickstart my Dutch. There is a shorter option available for a Mini-26 Day Marathon if you want a taster of a language OR to check out the Parleremo Randomiser, where a language is auto-generated for you!

Then

Pre-language marathon I decided to do a warm up and worked on the 1000 Most Common Words in Dutch Course over 7 days! Although I wasn’t fast enough to get the certificate (yet) I learnt a lot and feel more confident with the challenge ahead.

Now…

I have just completed my first week in the challenge and decided to retake the placement test I did at the end of August. I was an absolute beginner, but now the placement test has put me at a firm CEFR A1 level!

Further Reading: Learning Flemish Dutch in 100 Days.

So what exactly is CEFR A1 Level?

The CEFR standard is short for the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. There are 6 levels that are widely accepted as the global standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.

Being at A1 level means that I can now understand and use very basic everyday expressions and phrases. I can introduce myself and to some extent others too. I am still working on asking and answering questions such as where I am from, what I like to do and what food to order.

I look forward to seeing what the next 90 days will bring.

Additional Resources I am using…

KSL 10 Week Language Learning Course – every Sunday I have been checking out the free video course from the awesomeness that is Kick Start Languages

Utalk – To help retain vocabulary I have been using Utalk on the PC. Plus Duolingo and Drops whilst on the go.

Future Learn: Beginner’s Dutch – Learn to speak, write and understand basic Dutch, with this free, three-week, introductory foreign language course from The University of Groningen. A research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

Italki – I am taking part in the italki challenge and aiming do around 19 hours of lessons in October. If you are new to italki register using this link, and if you decide to purchase your first italki credits for a lesson we both receive $10 in italki credits!

Dutch in Three Months – I have been using the Di3M audio and language course to give me some focus for my learning.

Parleremo Languages Puzzle Books – I have also just ordered a Puzzle book for Dutch learners that I can work on during lunch breaks, waiting for appointments and traveling!

You can follow my progress on Twitter and via IGTV on Instagram.

Parleremo Language Marathon