Dutch update: 2 weeks

I’ve finished the first 2 weeks of my 6-week-challenge for Dutch.

I’m at 46 hours of Dutch study time total, and I’ve finished reading the first two Harry Potter books while listening to the audiobooks (using Dutch-English parallel text format, constructed from ebooks using hunalign). In the past 7 days I’ve averaged about 5 hours of study time per day.

At the start, I had a lot of trouble with the listening, and found it difficult to figure out which word currently matched up with the audio. Whenever I glanced over at the English translation, I’d lose my place easily in the Dutch. I didn’t understand anything if I just listened to the Dutch, except maybe the occasional word that was really close to either English or German.

Currently, I find it quite easy to follow along with the audio, and it’s quite easy to scan through the Dutch to find my place again after I look away. If I only look at the Dutch and no English, then I understand enough to follow the story, although I miss a lot of details still. I’ve got a moderate sense for Dutch spelling now, but there’s room to improve. I still accidentally spell words in more of a German way sometimes.

To test myself, I just opened up an adult novel (by Dean Koontz) and did a quick word comprehension test on a random page. There were 11 words that I didn’t know out of a section of 296 words, giving 96% word comprehension when reading (I’m sure listening would be much lower). This is just the individual words that I know, not necessarily their full meaning in that context. To confirm, I tried another book, this time by Tad Williams, and flipped to a random page in the middle. I missed 13 words out of 212, which is 94%.

I’m rather amazed at these numbers, but I guess it makes sense after starting with excellent vocab in both English and German. I think I recognized most of those words as Dutch words though, not through guessing from a German word. It appears that I’ve actually learned a lot from reading a total of 170000 words of Dutch in the two Harry Potter books so far.

From here on, I guess it means I should focus more on an Extensive style rather than the slower Intensive style of reading. I need Extensive reading to continue to develop my intuitive sense for the language by seeing large quantities of content, rather than focusing on every minute detail. I also need to pay much closer attention to the audio to train my listening abilities, which are still lagging far behind my raw scores for visual word comprehension.

To test listening comprehension, I listened to 3.5 minutes of Harry Potter that I hadn’t looked at or heard yet, and counted unknown words with my clicker. I counted 79 unknown words, and the total word count for that section was 592, so 86% word comprehension approximately. I’m rather surprised that it was this high already, so this is rather encouraging.

My plan is to continue with input only, until I’m past 100 hours of study time. After that, depending on how I feel, I may start to blend in some output exercises.

I’ll have another update at the end of week 3, stay tuned!


4 Responses to Dutch update: 2 weeks

  1. Andrew says:

    I’m amazed by those numbers as well, that’s astounding the amount of progress you’ve made in the amount of time you’ve made it in. I’m still waiting for my Spanish translation of The Bourne Identity to arrive in the mail (I’ve already got the English version) and then I’m going to try this extensive reading method of yours, should work even better for me since I can already read and speak quite a bit of Spanish as it is. I’m genuinely excited, thank you for the work you’ve done here and on HTLAL in regards to testing all this stuff and then publishing the data and results on it.


  2. ruthklapwijk says:

    Hey, I just found your blog through a tag, and this is really interesting! You seem very organized with your studies and goals.
    I’m Dutch, so no need to study it 😉 but I’ve heard that it’s quite hard to learn.
    I love learning languages, and I’m currently studying a minority language in Nepal after having studied Nepali.

    Enjoy the Dutch language!

  3. Mithridates says:

    Dutch, hmm? Here’s something I created today you might like:

    Found it by chance and while making it I remembered that Dutch is your current focus.

  4. Teango says:

    Great effort and fantastic results, Doviende! I imagine you’re more than ready to escape the owl-feathered halls of Hogwarts and delve into other new novels now. Which texts do you think you’ll try out next?

    Getting listening skills up to the same level as your reading is going to be tough now, but the good news is that you won’t need to align parallel texts anymore (hooray!) and can dive into native materials unaided. I think if you can get your hands on a wide variety of narrators and genres in Dutch for the remainder of your input stage, it will really help push the percentages up that increasingly steep last stretch.

    Good luck with the next leg of your Dutch journey, and I look forward to your update. 🙂

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