Een Nederlandse Experiment

Een Nederlandse Experiment

(ENGLISH TRANSLATION BELOW DUTCH ARTICLE) Vandaag wil ik iets in het Nederlands schrijven. Helaas kan ik de taal nog niet zo goed gebruiken, maar ik vind het heel leuk en het is echt spannend om nieuwe talen te oefenen. Ik heb het Nederlands voor een paar weken geleerd, en hoewel het moeilijk voor mij is, wil ik het in het echte leven gebruiken en niet alleen voor nadenken – dat is niet praktische. Ik heb een paar veranderingen in mijn leven gemaakt – ik heb de taal op mijn telefoon veranderd, en op Facebook ook. Daardoor kan ik de taal elke dag zien, en ik kan ook leren zonder denken. Op Facebook zie ik de woord “berichten” en met de verband weet ik dat het in het Engels “messages” is. Er zijn ook veel zinnen die ik geleerd heb – “verwijderen”, “instelligen”, “x vind y leuk”, enzovoort. Leren zonder denken – dat kan een goede zaak zijn, indien het nuttig is! In de tweede plaats probeer ik Nederlands elke dag gebruiken. Het hoeft niet veel zijn, maar ik moet minstens een beetje van de taal schrijven of praten – gewoonlijk schrijven, maar dat is iets dat ik moet veranderen, denk ik. Ten derde probeer ik het Nederlands met echte mensen gebruiken. Doordat leer ik de woorden die ik niet weet (en het moeilijkste zaak is dat je niet weet wat je niet weet!), en ik kan ook de zinnen van anderen studeren en sneller leren – het is geen “snelkoppeling”, maar het is een makkelijke manier om de belangrijkste woorden te leren. Ik kijk op die woorden die ik gebruik en dan kan ik hopelijk...
Accelerating Language Learning

Accelerating Language Learning

I just wanted to write a quick post about some of the language experiences I’ve encountered in the past month or so, in the hope that it might be useful to the one or two people that might perhaps read this. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on your perspective! – this post has turned into a bit of a behemoth, and currently stands at over 3,500 words. If you’re learning a language – especially if you’re in the very early stages – I hope that my experiences might help you to accelerate your learning and get you on track at a faster pace. Even if you only learn one or two things from this post, I hope it can still be useful to you in some way. This is several years of reading, learning and my own personal experience condensed down into a single post. Please enjoy! The Initial Challenge   In the two months since I last wrote a post, I’ve been playing on a ship sailing back and forth between North Shields (near Newcastle) and IJmuiden (about 30-40 minutes from Amsterdam, in the Netherlands). As I was fortunate enough to have a decent amount of free time during day, I made sure to keep myself busy with several different projects and learning experimentation. Specifically, towards the end of the contract, I resolved to make a more concerted effort at properly attempting to learn Dutch, compared to the meagre few words I’d previously attempted to learn. It seemed like a shame not to start with Dutch, actually – being in the country every other day and only being able to grasp the absolute bare minimum of what’s...
Foreign Language Fluency, Acquisition Methods and Psychological Bias

Foreign Language Fluency, Acquisition Methods and Psychological Bias

One of my recent personal projects has been to work on improving my fluency levels in both French and German. I would say I’m conversational in both, with my German being a little better, but although I can speak in both languages I am by no means at mastery level in either of them, or even at fluency depending on the situation. The criteria by which one judges a level of linguistic fluency is commonly measured in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which goes through six levels: Common European Framework of Reference For Languages   A1 – Complete beginner. Familiar with very basic expressions and can understand simple questions. A2 – Elementary level. Can communicate on a basic level with relatively familiar subject matter. B1 – Threshold / intermediate. Can deal with most situations likely to arise when travelling. B2 – Upper intermediate. Can interact with a level of linguistic proficiency that doesn’t hinder communication. C1 – Advanced. Effective Operational Proficiency. Can express ideas fluently and can recognise subtle, implicit meanings. Usually able to work in the language. C2 – Mastery. Can express oneself very fluently, and can easily understand almost everything that is being heard or read. Right now the only language I have at C2 is my native tongue, English. I’m unsure as to exactly what levels my French and German are at, but I took a brief online test the other day to try to place my language skills at an approximate level, and it put both of them at A2 level, which was extremely irritating because I thought my German at least would have been B1....
The slow death of curiosity, and what we can do about it

The slow death of curiosity, and what we can do about it

“Curiosity killed the cat”. I heard this phrase today, and immediately stopped what I was doing. For some reason, it had never occurred to me just what an awful, insipid little adage that is. What, now we really think about it, is the intended moral behind this seemingly innocuous saying? Right off the bat, unfortunately, it’s not a great start for poor old curiosity. In four words, we’re taught – via this sad little aphorism – that this virtue is not to be trusted after all. Let’s face it, the example we’re actually being given here amounts to: “the cat was curious and look what happened to him, so do you really think you’re going to do any better? Don’t be curious. Don’t try things.” Nor is that the only example of the decline of curiosity. What about the account of Pandora’s Box? In this tale of Greek mythology, Pandora (the first woman on earth) is given, by the gods, a wedding present of a beautiful jar. There’s a catch – she is not, under any circumstances, to open it up. Of course, sooner or later, her curiosity (presumably instilled in her by these same gods and goddesses) gets the better of her, and she ends up opening it, thereby (unwittingly) releasing all evil into the world. Yet again, curiosity is apparently the one to let the side down. It doesn’t stop at Greek mythology, either. In the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, God tells Lot and his wife that he plans to destroy the city of Sodom, and that they must leave immediately if they wish to stay alive...