How to start learning Dutch?
Learn Dutch! Don’t start with learning grammar. Am I saying this as a teacher? 😉
You want to start learning Dutch. You feel a bit nervous because you have to start doing something you think is difficult. That’s how most learners start.
There is already some nervousness around being a student, as well as around doing something that is difficult. And most of us will remember from school: grammar isn’t easy. These thoughts and memories affects your openness, your mindset, your motivation and your passion.
How to start.
Why don’t you start with thinking about what you WANT to learn? You’re not at school anymore, you have the freedom to choose. Do you want to: understand the language? …speak the language? … read it? etc. Ask yourself these questions.
And be precise …
Topics of interest
Why exactly do you want to learn the language? What are your topics of interest? Be as precise as possible. For example, a while back I started learning Italian. My major interest was food and cooking: buying food, talking about food (Italians love that). Recently I started learning German as well and my major interest was having social conversations and talking about nature (and of course food again).
I looked up: restaurants, menu cards, recipes, articles about food. For the social conversation I watch simple soaps and game shows (spelletjesprogramma’s) – sometimes boring in your own language but funny in a different one! You’ll hear a lot of social reactions and the context is often quite easy to understand. (And you can later show off in Dutch by giving a good social reaction 😉
I also joined several groups on Facebook and gained a lot from reading people’s posts and reactions. This is especially useful because it’s real language, and I would prefer to learn probable language over possible language.
Once you’ve made your list with topics, you start with looking for resources. You find some fun stuff to use (nowadays on Internet there’s so much), and you can start leaning in an inspired way.
Now I’ll tell you what the most important tools are that you’ll need:
A good – and I mean really good – dictionary!!! Plus a pen/paper or pc.
Learning a language is about implementing ‘chunks’ in your head. Words have a meaning in a certain context; that’s why you’ll need the dictionary and that’s why you need to study words around topics. That’s also why YouTube is a great resource (language used in context).
Grammar becomes important only later. You rarely get into miscommunications by making grammar mistakes. However, you do run into miscommunication problems by not knowing the right words.
Therefore, start to make word lists around your interests. Learn them by heart. You can start with single words, but then try to find words that go together. By doing so, you will start to notice structure. Grammar is naturally involved in structure, but structure is wider than grammar. For your brain, structure tends to be a lot easier to remember than grammar. This makes learning a lot easier.