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Language Learning (Or - How To Make Me Feel At Home)

I have set myself a little challenge. Well, that is not quite true – two of my friends kind of talked me into it without realising it.

Regular readers of this blog (and people who know me personally) will know that I love words and language.

There are different ways of learning languages. You can learn a language as a native speaker, you can learn it because otherwise you won't get any sandwiches (or anything else you might be offered that you don't understand the word for) you might even miss out on useful information, you can learn it via textbooks and recordings, or you can learn it through a mix of the second and third options.

In my case – I learned English as a native speaker, the “sandwiches” method is how I ended up learning Dutch, the textbooks and recordings were how I learned French, and the mix of “Sandwiches” and textbooks and recordings was how I learned German.

The language I found the most difficult to learn was French (it is also the language I have forgotten the most of). This is because I couldn't get used to the way I was taught it. Remember – I learned Dutch through having to associate things directly with words (and the English translation wasn't provided half of the time). So, if you stand me in front of a “Hond” and ask me what it is I will be able to tell you it is a dog, if you ask me to get you something out of the “koelkast” I will automatically head to the kitchen and locate the fridge (the literal translation being “Cool Cupboard”), etc. Try the same thing with French and I can tell you a “Chien” is a dog but if you want something from the fridge you had better get it yourself or we will be here all day.

As my French lessons were served via textbooks and recordings instead of practical experience and real life connections I couldn't really make it stick. What I found the most difficult were the French tenses – and that was before we were told to “take the infinitive and add and remove different bits of it as appropriate”. Please – just give me the Dutch “Ik heb, ik had, ik heb gehad”, or even “Ik ben, jij bent, jullie zijn, hij is, zij is, zij zijn, wij zijn, U bent”, I can cope with that. Given a bit more time I could probably dig up the German versions of those from my memory bank as well.

Anyway – back to my little challenge.

This challenge kind of started as a result of me successfully guessing the English translation of a word I had never heard before in my life. (I have to confess that the word was connected with something I had just eaten – which made it that bit easier.)


I suppose the best way of learning a new language (apart from having no other option if you want to understand a word of what your Mum and her Dutch family and friends – as well as any other Dutch human you come across – say) is to be interested in both the language and the country in which it is spoken. The best way to do that is to have close friends who come from that country and speak that language. Oh good – I think I should have fun with learning this particular language. I am interested in the language and the country and I have close friends who come from the country (in fact – one of them seems to spend most of their time in the country in question).

So I decided to treat myself to a free audiobook which claims to teach the language I decided to learn in easy bite-sized chunks. From what I have listened to so far it seems relatively idiotproof – it even gives some explanations of contexts, etc. I am looking forward to carrying on with it.


I am not going to name the language in question – because I know that my friends read this blog and I want to try to surprise them if I can.
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