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LEARNING THROUGH THE CORONA RETREAT

LEARNING THROUGH THE CORONA RETREAT

Dear language learners. This post is about fun in learning, for all of you out there studying a foreign language. Think about the long-term and stay strong in these difficult times of the Covid-19. Our national hero football player Johan Cruijf always said ‘Elk nadeel heb z’n voordeel / each disadvantage has it’s advantage, or the other way around? There are plenty of technological solutions and fun things to do while you are in retreat at home!

IT IS A JOURNEY

I myself have native fluency in Dutch, German and English and have above medium level of Portuguese and Spanish. At the moment I am learning mandarin Chinese. I can tell you that learning a language is a journey.

While at home in The Netherlands I would study Spanish by listening to audio and even using traditional Spanish textbooks. When I then went to Cadiz, Spain, I worked on preparing a camp site and would always try to chat with everyone in Spanish while on break and try to understand what everyone was saying in Spanish. I would write down all the shopping items on paper and repeat them and try to pronounce them. The people around me were very encouraging or just simply laughed at me. That is something I mostly did not mind because I would just start laughing too. Just persevering is the trick. Even when obnoxious. Try to find people that enjoy helping you!

ALLOW FOR MISTAKES

It is important as a language learner to not be too hard on yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes openly, as I have found this the fastest way of becoming fluent in a language. The way to achieve this is to spend as much time being emerged in the foreign language of your choice as possible.

When I could not be in a target country of my targeted language, I would always try to google in the language that I was aiming to learn. This can be very hard for languages with another alphabet, but Google Translate is getting better and better. There are also nice movies or even series in the target language, which you will find enjoyable and helps you when you are in a more passive mood. I would even prohibit myself from watching YouTube in English but only see Spanish entertainment (like music videos and rap). That way your normal time spent on entertainment also becomes language learning. Even if it is not so fast, it all adds up.

FASTEST WAY TO LEARN

The fastest way for learning a foreign language, is getting a tutor! This can be an experienced teacher who speaks the language natively and also knows how to explain grammar and word structures. Also, they can help translate some words which you find in an interesting article you have read or a music video, which is more clear than looking up a literal translation.
I have used Duolingo and audio books to get me to the basics of mandarin Chinese for the first one hundred days of learning, but from now on I use a Chinese tutor as this accelerates my learning and helps me find better strategies for learning! Good luck to you all, you can find a suitable private tutor on Flowently! The tutor will work with you via Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp video. We all hope the Covid-19 crisis is over soon. We continue to offer digital learning and in the near future you will be able again to meet our local tutors in person. For now, I am confident that you will find a great match with one of our online language tutors or let us help you find a tutor! Hang in there!

Written by Ben Ziskoven

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DUTCH SLANG FOR TEENS

DUTCH SLANG FOR TEENS

Every linguistic community has its own slang. Funnily enough the Dutch mainly use slang from other languages. In Highschool they flourish like nowhere else. Here are a couple of teenage slang words for your youngster to shoot the breeze with his or her Dutch peers, coming straight from the source; from my two native Dutch sons, aged twelve and sixteen.

FAKA!

‘Ja, is goed, ouwe’, I often hear my oldest son say. Rough translation could be: ‘Yes, it’s ok, oldie’. ’It seems as if he’s addressing his granddad in a disrespectful manner, but he’s actually talking to his friends, showing his affection with the word ‘ouwe’. The vocabulary of one school may differ though from the use of slang in another; Everybody uses the term ‘ouwe’ in the highschool ‘Het Fons Vitae Lyceum’, but any student from ‘Het Ignatius Gymnasium’ would raise his eyebrows, my son knows from experience.

‘Bro’ is another term obviously derived from English, which the teens enjoy using a lot. Faka’ is often used to greet each other. The term ‘Faka’ is an abbreviation of ‘Fawaka’ and  has its roots in Surinam, meaning ‘how’s it going?’It often appears in Dutch rap and is very popular among teens. ‘Hé, die is wel fattoe’, says my oldest son about an Insta-post he finds amusing, a word that also derives from the Surinam language.

YOU’VE GOT SKILLS, BRO!

Other popular ways of greeting are  ‘Yo!’ and ‘Later!’ ‘Later’ being the same word in English, is pronounced differently in Dutch, meaning ‘See you later!’ The exclamation ‘Dat is echt ziek!’, literally translated is‘ that is really sick’. Nobody got sick, on the contrary, something is really great. Just like ‘yo’, ‘later’ and ‘bro’ Dutch teens copy more American slang like ‘chill’. The new class schedule is ‘chill’. That there’s a dropout is even more ‘chill’.  Anything can be ‘chill’. So many things get the label ‘chill’ even I catch myself using this Americanism.

The word ‘skeer’ really made me raise my eyebrows, what on earth does it mean? My youngest son explained, it’s somebody who’s broke. But it can also be used for an action that is considered poor, ‘doe niet zo skeer!’, ‘don’t be ‘skeer!’

‘Boeie!’ is an interjective that appeared for the first time in the Dutch dictionary the ‘Van Dale’ in 2006 and was chosen twice as the kids word of the year, in 2006 and in 2018. When the boys  call out ‘Boeie!”  it concerns something that is completely uninteresting to them. It’s derived from ‘het boeit me niet’, meaning ‘I’m not interested’. On the other hand, when a teen tells you ‘je hebt skills’, then you know that whatever it is you are doing, you are doing a nice job, ‘you’ve got skills, bro!’

Written by Nathalie Ezendam Keller

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BITING THE BULLET

Learn how to use Dutch in the real world - Flowently

BITING THE BULLET

My student Gabor, from Hungary, is just starting to get familiarized with Dutch expressions. He’s been living in Amsterdam for ten years and has taken several Dutch courses. He is at an Intermediate level but has forgotten quite a few grammar rules and speaking Dutch is a huge challenge. Obstacles that keep him from conversing in Dutch are obvious: few Dutch speaking colleagues at work, his English speaking girlfriend, and locals conveniently switching to English. My advice to Gabor: bite the bullet and start a conversation, in Dutch!

GOING BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

For our second language session Gabor and I meet up in the cosy cafe De Bali in the centre of Amsterdam.Over a cup of coffee we tackle modal verbs and their rules, why and when the  verb comes at the end of the sentence and what happens if you don’t start the sentence with the subject. We refresh Gabors  knowledge of regular and irregular verbs by doing  exercises in the study book and, of course, practicing in real life with the friendly waitress. ‘Mag ik iets bestellen alsjeblieft?’ Can I order something please?’, asks Gabor  ‘Mag ik een kopje thee?’ ‘May I have  a cup of tea?’.

STEP BY STEP

Gabor becomes a bit tense when I ask him to write down fifteen  simple sentences with modal verbs. I ask him to think of and write down simple English  sentences and questions about daily life situations. Afterwards, we will translate them into Dutch. The relaxed atmosphere at the café contributes to a nice learning environment for Gabor. The lady sitting at a table next to us, compliments him ‘Nou, ik vind dat je het heel goed doet , hoor!’. ‘Well, I think you are doing very well!’

FEELING HOME

In between sessions, Gabor likes to study at home. He has written a text in Dutch about his experience of Amsterdam. He writes passionately about his new home town, the lively Albert Cuyp market where he and his girlfriend buy their fresh groceries every weekend. Biking through the little streets of this multicultural, cosmopolitan city, is one of his favorite pastimes. Gabor also likes to taste different specialties from local and international restaurants. He loves strolling past the rich architecture Amsterdam has to offer which shows a long and interesting history. Amsterdam is his home now. All he needs is a little bravery to actively take part in conversations in Dutch with the locals to make it a satisfying experience. And I am happy to help him achieve this.

Written by Nathalie Ezendam Keller

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FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT

Fake it till you make it - Flowently

MAGIC AND THE FLOWENTLY METHOD

I wish Flowently was around when I was learning Dutch. Their method focuses precisely on the aspects of the language that caused me trauma when I came to this country.

Take the nightmare called Dutch sentence structure. Normally, you go subject-verb-object, as in English. But once your sentence is longer than four words, you may have to do this weird inversion thingy – flip the words around in a part of the sentence. How do you know which sentences need this flipping flip? Which part of the sentence needs flipping? And where, in God’s name, do extra phrases go?

I always thought learning Dutch sentence structure was like climbing to Machu Picchu. You go through hell but end up in heaven. But now I realize you can avoid the struggle. Flowently you to what they call ‘your five friends’. These are 5 tiny words you can use to avoid all this flipping madness. It’s genius!

HOW TO BE POLITE AND SOUND FLUENT

The entire system of instruction is like this. Anja Vreeburg has broken down the key elements of the language into simple patterns and tricks you can use to fake it till you make it. You practice a series of ‘magic phrases’ that recur habitually in everyday conversation so you can sound fluent even when your vocabulary is still at the level of pathetic. From the ubiquitous ‘tsjonge jonge’ to the handy ‘mag ik erlangs?’, these clichés can form a skeleton on which you hang your own meanings and purposes.

Their booklet ‘Learn Dutch on the Go’ is a wonderful condensation of basic rules of grammar and a goldmine of linguistic tips and tricks. It includes pronunciation exercises and offers formats for conversation in varying settings, from business meetings to conflict situations to going to the doctor. It even teaches secret phrases to express politeness. 

SPEED UP YOUR ‘REACTION TIME’

With this basis, you proceed to an excellent book called Taaltempo: training in conversational skills, written by Pauline Kuiper-Jong. This takes you, step by step, through the various formats of everyday speech in the form of questions and answers. Once again, my own experience of learning Dutch is what makes me enthusiastic about this book.

In learning a language, the writer says in the blurb, it seems that, even after years of study, learners have difficulty with ‘reaction-time’. The gap between question and answer. I know this problem well. You tend to formulate your sentences based on the conventions in your own language. With these drills, you practice saying things using the correct Dutch phrasing and idiom.

I cannot recommend this approach enough.

Written by Niala Maharaj

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MY VOCABULARY WAS LIKE THE HULK’S

MY VOCABULARY WAS LIKE THE HULK’S

Niala Maharaj discovers foreign language anxiety

‘What’s wrong with you?’ a friend asked as we came out of a bakery.
‘What?’
‘You became another person in there, a shy, timid woman talking very softly so no-one could hear.’
‘What?’
‘I’ve noticed it before. You always do that when you have to speak Dutch.’

HULK ANGRY!

I hadn’t realized that my personality changed when I was speaking Dutch. I’d always been a confident, educated woman of the world. But, because my area of work was linguistic I was painfully aware that I was making grammatical mistakes in Dutch. My vocabulary was like The Hulk’s – basic, unnuanced, unsophisticated. ‘Hulk angry!’

This was my peculiar neurosis, I thought. Some scaredy-cat personality hid inside of me and sprang out the minute I said ‘Dag’. It drove me to tears sometimes. How could I be so stupid? I, who had three master’s degrees and had been publishing in leading media. The Dutch language had stripped away all my pretensions and exposed me for the bumbling idiot I secretly was.

Then a Dutch acquaintance talked to me about her daughter-in-law, a Hungarian Ph.D candidate. ‘Once she begins to talk Dutch,’ she said, ‘you see her shoulders shrink into a crouch and she becomes another person…’

XENOGLOSSOPHOBIA

I googled ‘foreign language anxiety’ and discovered that this was a well-known phenomenon. There was even a name for it: Xenoglossophobia.

‘Perhaps no other field of study poses as much of a threat to self-concept as does language study,’ stated one report in the Journal of Applied Psycholinguistics. Foreign language anxiety blocks the student’s learning skills, so it becomes a vicious cycle of failure, causing the sufferer to avoid speaking. That makes matters even worse!

‘People who exhibit this kind of communication reticence,’ the study states, ‘can also sometimes be perceived as less trustworthy, less competent, less socially and physically attractive, tenser, less composed and less dominant than their less reticent counterparts.’ Try applying for a job with that profile! The vicious cycle spins yet again as social isolation and career failure eat away at your self-confidence. And, according to the report, one of the groups of people most prone to xenoglossophobia is those with high academic achievement!

RELAXED, SOCIAL, PRACTICAL

The Flowently method of language learning is deliberately designed to prevent xenoglossophobia. For example: Dutch grammatical jargon is replaced by English terminology. It’s much easier to understand a rule concerning a ‘noun’ than one about a ‘zelfstandig naamwoord’, isn’t it?

The methodology is based on 20 years of experience in teaching Dutch to foreigners. Anja Vreeburg has broken down the language’s conventions so you learn the language comfortably, naturally and in the way that best suits you. See more here. Do you have any questions about the Flowently way? Send us an e-mail info@flowently.com.

Written by Niala Maharaj

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I WISH I HAD KNOWN THIS BEFORE (ABOUT LEARNING DUTCH)

I WISH I HAD KNOW THIS BEFORE (ABOUT LEARNING DUTCH)

Let’s take a look at Miguel who is from a South American country and has been living in the Netherlands for over twenty years. Miguel took learning Dutch very serious and passed all possible Dutch language exams, including the B2 state exam. Bravo! His understanding of Dutch is not only very good but perfect. There is only one problem, the very moment he starts speaking Dutch, people look at him and ask ‘can you please say that in English?’ which is very disconcerting.

DUTCH DRAMA

This sounds funny, but it’s actually quite a serious matter. In all the language courses Miguel attended, no one ever taught him the importance of correct Dutch pronunciation and how to achieve this. Learning Dutch for him was more a theoretical study in the books instead of practical useful. When Miguel got to know details about ‘the Flowently learning Dutch method’ he cried out ‘ I wish I had known this 20 years ago!’ Just think how different his life could have been, missed career opportunities, his isolation, not being able to take part in society, professionally and socially.

MISSING CAREER OPPORTUNITIES

Let’s take a look at Carolina. Twelve years ago she fell in love with a Dutch man, got married, moved to the Netherlands and had two sons. Carolina’s husband speaks Spanish fluently now, because at home they speak Spanish. Well done! The children are going to a Dutch school, their Dutch and Spanish are both very good.

ACCOUNTANT SPEAKING LIKE……….

Carolina has been working as an accountant in international companies for all these years, speaking English at work, and is ready for her next career step; to open her own consultancy firm. That means she’ll need to pick up her phone herself, have meetings with clients, write letters and emails, all in Dutch. Her understanding of Dutch is better than perfect, but the moment she starts speaking Dutch, however, it is hard to take her seriously. Besides grammatical mistakes in almost every sentence, her pronunciation is not good (this is an understatement) and will not leave the impression that you are speaking with a professional trustworthy accountant.

LEARNING DUTCH VERSUS UN-LEARNING DUTCH

Un-learning poor language habits is a very difficult and confronting process. You’ll need to go back to the very basics to correct the essentials of Dutch pronunciation and grammar. For some people, this is too hard after all those years, and they give up after some time. It’s sad, to be the outsider who cannot speak Dutch at the family party, while communicating with neighbours or Dutch colleagues. It is hugely frustrating if you cannot live up to your full potential in your new country or be the smart and funny person, you actually are.

LEARN DUTCH IN A REALISTIC AND SOCIAL CONTEXT WITH FLOWENTLY

How to avoid situations that Miguel and Carolina are facing? Contact us and we will tell you more about our special method to improve your conversation skills and get you speaking Dutch like a Dutch person in no time! Don’t learn Dutch the way Caroline and Miguel learned it, use your skills to the fullest extend.