Thursday 17 August 2017

Dutch Courage // Tips For Learning A New Language

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Whether it's in preparation for starting an exciting new job across the globe, maybe your life took an unexpected turn upon meeting a Dutch man and falling for his dark eyes and finely tuned sarcasm (just me?) or perhaps you're simply headed off on an exotic holiday- whatever your reason for learning a new language, it is one heck of a challenge but boy what a rewarding opportunity and life long skill!

Many of you know the tale of how I tumbled down the rabbit hole and landed in the Netherlands, I find myself now, more than 3 years later, using this fascinating language on a daily basis and I can't help but pat myself on the back share with you a few of the tips and tricks I've learnt along the way.

First of all, be kind to yourself. It isn't a race so take your time, breath in this shiny new knowledge and let it find it's place in your mind in good time. Most complex skills take a while to master and language is most certainly one you need a little patience with, so chip away at it daily and before you know it you'll find it starting to stick.

There are so many brilliant interactive books/ internet courses that really help to tackle it from a variety of angles, (remember, you're learning how to speak, write and understand something), which I highly recommend either as an accompaniment to a class or instead of (I chose the latter option since I felt that by moving abroad was like a big, continuous class anyways...).

Post. It. Notes. When I was starting out, before the big move, I covered my house and work desk with easily grouped together words (Days of week/ month, numbers, colours) and surrounded myself in the translations. I noticed that by looking at it often enough it started to sink in, but be sure to change up your notes otherwise you'll end up remembering a pattern rather than actually learning its meaning. Another fun homework task would be to buy a foreign magazine or newspaper, choose an article and translate it word for word into your own language. Use google translate or a foreign dictionary and start to build up a word book for yourself. The more you do this the less you'll need to jot down.

Reading! I may be biased here but books are such a glorious way to get into your language of choice. Now, step away from the Dickens-esque tomes, we're going back to nursery!.. kids books are perfect for beginners and will have you speaking the lingo in no time. As you progress you can step up a level until you feel confident reading adult literature. Keep it small though, so not to put yourself off. Have your trusty new word notebook handy, if this method works for you then go ahead and write down the new words/ phrases as you go. Other daily media work wonders too, foreign radio, vloggers on youtube and tv shows will do the trick to implement your studies and keep things interesting. I switched from Dutch subtitles on an English show one day, then English subtitles over a Dutch programme the next day.

This is an obvious one but arguably the most valuable to your quest- talking! Find a local to converse with, whether that's a friendly neighbour, someone via skype or a fellow classmate on your language course. Speaking as often as possible will help with your pronunciation, give you the opportunity to flex a different set of muscles to reading and writing, allow the chance for feedback and will no doubt build your confidence! Another thing to prepare yourself for is feeling embarrassed when you make a mistake. Because it's gonna happen. But laugh with the rest of em, remind yourself that you're learning and make note of the super awkward moments- you'll never forget particular words again and will end up with some great stories for later!

Lastly, use your ears and listen. Notice tones of peoples voices, pick up accent traits and emphasis on particular words. Whatever, whenever, just soak it all up. But most of all, keep going. Learning a new language isn't the easiest of challenges but it will change your life beyond measure and it is something that can open a world of adventure and opportunity if you keep at it.