How to get started again when you’ve given up on Dutch
Last year was challenging in many aspects, but for language learning it was the worst. Learning a new language is simply not something you are meant to do on your own, locked in a room!
But how to start again after you’ve given up?
Often when language learning goes wrong, we tend to put the blame on ourselves. Or the language, the culture, the people around you, your boss or the Dutch rain. It’s hard to start again if you have convinced yourself that learning Dutch is a lost cause.
Do you think it is your own fault?
Even with all the time, discipline and perseverance in the world, there is no way to make any proper progress if you cannot hang out and chat with other human beings. The only people that actually improved their Dutch in the last year are those who were suddenly forced to do all of their online meetings in Dutch.
Also, it is hard to stay motivated if all the things that make learning so rewarding have vanished. Like overhearing a conversation in a bar and being able to understand a few words… Or having lunch with your coworkers and being able to tell them about your weekend… Or having a chat with others at the gym… Or having a nice conversation with parents at the playground. With all these spontaneous little moments of success gone, it was hard to find the drive to continue.
In conclusion: it was definitely not your fault that you struggled with your Dutch this year.
Do you think Dutch is just an impossible language?
I get that. Dutch does have its quirks, like the confusing word order and the pronunciation. But I promise you, I can make that insightful and even easy for you. And then it is just a matter of making mistakes until you learn enough to stop making them. Easier said than done, I know, but not impossible by any means!
Some find it hard to love the sound of Dutch. The real question is: Can you learn a language that you don’t love? Well, of course. Language is not a ‘thing’ to ‘achieve’, but a useful tool to reach your personal goals. Do you need to love the screwdriver? Do you need to love the spoon? No, you just need to learn how to make good use of them, so that the table doesn’t fall apart and your soup reaches your mouth. If you want to be able to connect with your neighbors or coworkers, or grow your career, or talk to your father-in-law or to your daughters’ school friends, then Dutch is just a tool to create those connections you are looking for. Nothing more.
Do you blame it on the Dutch culture?
I cannot talk about Dutch culture without talking about the rain. And the cold. Here we are, half of the year geared up in snow boots and raincoats and rain pants and scarfs and gloves, trying to fight our way to school and work and the supermarket through wind and rain. I mean, think about it: Without the rain and the cold, we would all be so much nicer, more open, friendlier! We would be like My Little Ponies! But the rain made us more like Voldemort, and just like him, we do not take responsibility for our own behavior and prefer to blame it on Harry Potter and the rain. Do you think it is a coincidence that all the people born in the Northern Hemisphere have a reputation of being introverted, cold and hard to approach?
And then Covid hit and the only places where Dutchies blossom and open up to strangers were closed down: the bars, the clubs, the festivals, the concerts, the sports events, school, Kingsday… It was definitely the culture, but ultimately it was the rain, and above all, Covid-19. And then still, yes, you may need to become a member of a sports club or a choir or a book club to make some real friends here.
So, how to start again?
Set a clear goal that you really look forward to. Not something you ‘must’ achieve for whatever reason, but something you enjoy doing. The boring stuff is never a great motivator. Fun stuff is!
Cut your fun goal into smaller steps. Think of willpower as a big and strong elephant. If you set your goals too high and make them too boring and uninteresting, your elephant will take the easy road. With an attractive goal, broken down into easier steps, your willpower-elephant will be invincible! In our courses we’ll help you with this.
Set a small & fun challenge for each week that is connected to your goal. It could be as small as saying ‘hi’ to the neighbor, sending a text to a friend or ordering a coffee in Dutch. Figure out what your comfort zone is and take one modest step beyond it each week!
Would you like some help with that? Let us know!