How to

How to learn a language

One of the most important things about moving to a new country, is learning the language. Understanding the world around you is a very human thing. We’re curious and most of us actively seek knowledge on a daily basis. Thinking about new words, grammar rules and vocabulary often gets me thinking on where those words originated. I often discuss these topics with my Dutch tutor and there are days where she’ll need some time to think about a Dutch word’s origin.

I’ve more of a stake in learning how to speak Dutch though. I need to learn the language and culture for the Inburgeren (integration) exam. It’s the exam that allows me to stay in The Netherlands for more than 3 years.

Thankfully, you don’t need to do something so crazy as moving to a new country to learn a new language. Thanks to technology, the world is more united than it ever was. However learning something as vast as a new language can be difficult.

I’ve been taking weekly lessons with my tutor for about 6 months now and feel like I could share some of the things I’ve learned. Now these tips go along with daily practice and actually learning the language. You aren’t going to pick it up if you just tell yourself you want to learn it and look at the curriculum once. It takes commitment and dedication. You can do it!

Think in the language
If you’re like me and have an inner monologue (“Oh I’ve got to remember to do this today, or buy that today”) then it’s best to think in the language you’re learning. This is super helpful if you can’t vocalize or practice with someone else. If I don’t know a word, I bring out my phone and look it up. I’m willing to admit my most used sentences are “Laten we gaan” (let’s go) and “Ik heb twee hondjes, zo klein en zo lief.” (I have two dogs, so small and so sweet).

Keep a translator on you
In this age of ever growing technology, it’s easy to have a pocket translator on you. I was gifted one a few months ago but I feel like my phone and Google Translate are much easier to reach for. If there’s something I can’t remember then I type it in and get a quick refresher of a word or sentence.

Find someone interested
This is easier said than done. I thankfully have a tutor and Sander to talk to on a frequent basis. When we go out, I listen as best as I can to what others say around me. I insist that people speak in Dutch so that I can grow accustomed to different dialects. If you can’t find someone to practice with, watch movies in the language you want to learn. Watch with subtitles and slowly move away from reading them.

Invest in text
The easiest way for me to get the right education was to buy a textbook made for the Inburgeren exam. It’s filled with everything I need to take the exam and (hopefully) pass. The trick here is to actually use the book and do the lessons. I’ve got weekly homework as well. It feels like a fog lifts over another piece of The Netherlands each time I cover a chapter. There’s more I can identify and understand when someone speaks.

Don’t give up
This is common sense but there have been a handful of chapters where I’ve just felt like throwing in the towel. However, I remind myself why I’m here. I enjoy living in The Netherlands. I have a thirst for knowledge. I want to keep expanding my spoken word. There are so many reasons to not give up and they usually out number the reasons to stop.

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