As I prepare for next week’s JES event (esperanto homepage here), where I’ll be partying with Esperanto speakers for the week surrounding New Years, I’m also getting my materials together for my next big challenge, which I’m starting as soon as I get back home to Berlin in early January. My aim will be to learn Dutch in 6 weeks of intense study. Some other people will be taking part in the challenge, organized in this thread on HTLAL, and anyone else is welcome to join us.
It’s sort of crazy to attempt something like this, but there are several factors that make me think this is possible (to some extent). One is that I have lots of background in related languages now, particularly German. Dutch has many close similarities to German; much of the vocabulary has a close German equivalent. I should be able, through the use of large amounts of listening and reading, to comprehend quite a lot of dutch in a relatively short time span.
Remember, though, that the most important time measurements in language learning are minutes and hours, not days or months. I hope to be able to keep my average daily study time above 5 hours, and work hard to do more than that, hopefully up closer to 8 on some days. An average of 5 hours over 42 days would be 210 hours of study total. In comparison, a typical university course with 3 hours of instruction per week over a 13 week semester would be 36 hours, maybe up to 50 hours if you add in some homework. Therefore, I will be attempting to do the time-equivalent of 4 university courses over 6 weeks.
I hope to be much more successful than most university courses, however. This is because I’ll be focusing first on just listening and reading for at least the first 100 hours. I’ll probably put in only 1 or 2 hours of grammar-specific activities in those first 100 hours, and I’ll do absolutely no speaking in that time. My task will be just to get the sound and feel of the language into my head. After I’ve progressed a bit, I’ll move on to practicing my output by writing and speaking. This will only be after I’ve done lots and lots of listening and reading, so it’ll be in the latter half of the project.
By the end of the challenge, I hope to accomplish two things:
- I want to pass the Arguelles “Airplane Test”, which he describes as “taking a novel that I had not read in translation before with me as my sole companion on an intercontinental flight, and reading it with interest, enjoyment, and understanding the whole time.” (my version of this will be to pick up a new Dutch novel, and spend a whole day reading it without a dictionary, enjoying the content, and getting a significant portion of it read)
- I want to be able to have an easy conversation in Dutch, in person, with a native Dutch speaker.
To that end, some time in February I’ll record some sort of video of me speaking some (hopefully) reasonable Dutch. I’m not really sure how this’ll turn out, since so far my output skills have been my least developed, but a big portion of this project for me is to learn how to develop those sorts of skills quickly and efficiently. I plan to get even more practice in this by doing a similar 6 week project after Dutch, which I’ll announce close to that time.
My current status in Dutch is very meager. I’ve never studied it at all, and I currently can’t read it or understand it spoken. If I go very slowly, I can sometimes figure out some of the words by thinking of their German equivalents, but it’s not enough to understand the whole meaning of a sentence. When I listen very carefully to spoken Dutch, I can hear some of the related words when they happen to sound like their German counterparts, but that’s not always the case even when they’re spelled similarly. I currently can’t produce anything at all in Dutch, either spoken or written.
I’ll be posting a couple of progress reports each week, starting in early January. Until then, I’ll be practicing “All Esperanto, All The Time” until the end of 2010. Wish me luck!