Dutch update: 60 hours

I’m now past 60 hours of study time in my 6-week-challenge, and things are progressing steadily. I find it quite fun right now to read books, since the majority of the words seem familiar, but I’m still sticking to parallel texts because there are many words that I need to learn.

As each day goes by, I get a greater sense of understanding of the language. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, but I definitely notice the changes when I consider them on a multi-day scale. I can usually sense a change in my abilities after every 20 hours of study time, so I just try to avoid thinking about it on shorter time-scales.

Currently I’m almost finished Harry Potter #3, but today I’m finding it more fun to read Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea (Aardzee in Dutch), even though I don’t have a corresponding audiobook for that. It’s nice to get some variety, even if the lack of an audiobook means slower progress.

I’m still having some problems with time-wasting activities, such as web-surfing. I’ve stopped following reddit on twitter, so that I get fewer time-wasters popping up in my twitter program. I should probably also turn off the twitter program, but at least I’ve managed to check it less often, and to ignore the toast updates.

My sleep schedule is slowly progressing, so that I have less and less tired time during the day. Yesterday I felt great for the whole day, but today i was quite tired between 10am and 11am, resulting in lower productivity. I also spent some time on paid work, so I lost some study time that way too.

I’ve had several days in a row above 5 hours of study time, but I haven’t been able to reach 10 hours, which is somewhat of a goal for me. With 20 hours available in my day, it just seems like I should be able to hit 10 hours of study time at least once, so I’m still trying. It’d be amazing if I could manage it consistently for a week or so, but we’ll see if that ever happens.

Next update at the end of the week, and hopefully I’ll be past 80 hours by then. 🙂


22 Responses to Dutch update: 60 hours

  1. Bryan says:

    Something that has helped me stick to goals is stickk.com

    Enter a goal on there and you won’t back out on it.

    Btw, if you use GoogleChrome you can get an app called Stayfocusd. There’s probably something similar for Firefox. Load up your time-waster sites on it and give yourself an allotted amount of time you’re allowed to waste on them per day. I gave myself 10 minutes for a few forums and Facebook that I used to spend way too much time visiting.

  2. Claudie says:

    That is truly amazing. You must be really passionate about learning the language, because that’s some heavy amount of studying!
    I’m progressing on polyphasic too, but it’s still tough… and I’m not mentioning the ridiculous amounts of coffee I consume right now.

    • doviende says:

      Come join us in the irc channel #polyphasers on irc.freenode.net!
      Several people have mentioned to me that caffeine interferes with REM sleep, so you might want to ween yourself off of it (although I have no specific references for that though).

      • Claudie says:

        Thanks, I’ll definitely check it out some time. I’m really interested in knowing how others approach this sleeping pattern change.

        About the caffeine — I believe I had heard something similar too… I am a coffee lover so I’ve always had a lot of it, but now I also use coffee to get energetic after my naps. Hopefully, to make my body think it’s another “morning.” Unfortunately, I think I’ve gone a bit overboard with the quantities… I’ll cut them down.

  3. Andrew says:

    Do you spread out that 5 hours, like 20 minutes here, 45 minutes there, etc., or do you try to get it all in in a few large blocks of 1.5-3 hours at a time?

    I’m really impressed with your progress with Dutch, though I’m still waiting for my Spanish translation of “The Bourne Identity” to get here (mail just came, so maybe it’s here now, I’ll go check in a minute) to try this out.


    • doviende says:

      It’s spread out a bit, but usually in blocks of 1.5hrs. Once I start going, then I usually get into the story and I want to continue. The hardest part is always starting. I typically get 2hrs done in the morning and 2hrs in the evening, so I’m trying to figure out how to get more done in the afternoons without getting distracted.

      With Dutch, the known-word counts sound impressive, but I still need a lot of work before I get to that magical point where I can easily read a Dutch book for enjoyment. Right now it’s still somewhat of a “figure things out” scenario rather than just relaxed enjoyment like with German. I also can’t get much from straight audiobooks with no text, if I don’t already know the story…and that’s the point where I have to get to if I want to be able to understand the lectures at the language festival in Belgium in February.

      So, still lots of work ahead of me! 🙂

      • Claudie says:

        The amount of work you put into it is impressive. I’m still new to your blog, so I’m catching up with what you are doing, but it’s without a doubt intense.
        Hopefully I’ll be able to apply some of what you are doing to the language I am studying (Arabic).

      • Andrew says:

        Ahhh! You’ve got a specific goal in mind WITH a deadline to boot! Fantastic! That’s how you go about getting things done (as I’ve been slowly learning over the years, the hard way :/ ).

        Best of luck to you, keep us all updated on your progress. Also, have you considered putting together a general guide to language-learning that details precisely how you go about it and how your particular system works? Maybe an e-book or a series of posts? Just a thought, I’d definitely be interested, I’m sure other people would as well.


  4. Brian says:

    The method that you use is extremely intriguing and I am seriously considering giving this a shot. I am just concerned with having an Eye-ear dissociation..That is being able to read amazingly, but struggling while listening. What are some methods I could deploy to overcome this?

    • doviende says:

      Sorry, I’m not sure I understand…you mean to say that you have some pre-existing problem with listening?

      I’m not really that worried about my own listening skills, because of the prior success I had with German. Through the use of audiobooks and watching German TV, I was able to gain excellent listening comprehension in German in a reasonably short time. It’s very quick when you’re listening to something that you have a transcript for, especially when there’s a translation nearby so that you can check the meaning.

      This is what I’m doing now for Dutch. I’m listening to the Dutch Harry Potter audiobook at the same time as I read the Dutch version of the book, and I have the english text nearby in order to check things without using the dictionary. In this particular case, I’ve used software to line up the matching sentences in the two texts, which makes it even easier, but the method is still workable with hard-copies of the books.

      I’ve found that listening is helped quite a bit if you can read the transcript while listening. This enables you to a) learn the proper pronunciation of each letter in the writing system, and b) the various combinations of them that may make different sounds (such as “sh” in english), and then c) whatever you might miss in the audio due to fast speaking or mumbling, you get from the written part so that you can match it up. Basically, the written portion makes the audio more understandable, and vice-versa.

      • Brian says:

        I understand now. For some reason I didn’t realize that an audio book was also involved. I thought it was purely text, side-by-side. Do you mind if I ask what software you use to line up the texts?

      • doviende says:

        I use software called “hunalign”. First I use Emacs to separate the text into one sentence per line, and then i run it through hunalign to match up the equivalent sentences. If there are mistakes, then I go back and edit the original text slightly (adding or subtracting newlines) and re-run hunalign. Afterwards I post-process the hunalign output using a short script that converts it to html tables.

  5. durak says:


    I’ve already said it many a time (not here):
    try proper L-R (LISTENING-reading) and see what happens.

    Ten hours a day for seven days is much better than 5 hours a day for a month.
    There are conditions, though:
    1. you must have BURNING desire to learn the language.
    2. the books you’re L-Ring must shatter your soul.

    Good luck,

    • doviende says:

      challenge accepted
      10hrs per day for 7 days, starting today.

    • Judith says:


      Could you recommend some soul-shattering books? I know only one that might qualify. Oh and Nabukov is too disturbing. Thank you for your help!

      • durak says:

        I’m not sure if you mean me…

        I cannot recommend anything – my soul is not your soul.

        What appeals to me is beauty, mystery, and wisdom. Franz Kafka would be a good example.

        I like
        Le petit prince, Camus – all his books.
        Winnie-the-Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Andersen, Wilde.
        The Old Man and the Sea, stories by Hemingway.
        Anna Karenina, War and Peace by Tolstoy.
        Karamazov Brothers, The Idiot by Dostoevsky.
        Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.
        Suna no onna by Abe Kobo.
        Books by Bertrand Russell.
        Etc, etc, etc.

        I don’t like Harry Potter, Tolkien, Dan Brown, Coelho.
        I can listen to their books, just to learn a language, if I have nothing else available, but I get tired quickly.

  6. Judith says:


    Yes, I did mean you, and I thank you for your recommendations. I am planning to give L-R a serious try later this year, probably with Russian, to make the experiment less biased. Your input is welcome.

    — Judith aka Sprachprofi

    • durak says:

      Oh, Russian!
      No shortage of parallel e-novels here.
      Plenty of audiobooks, too – they record virtually everything.
      Lingvo is a wonderful Russian mouse-over pup-up dictionary, it is multilingual and you can add your own dictionaries in ANY language.

      If you do try L-R, a piece of advice.
      Concentrate on LISTENING, doviende seems to concentrate on reading, and that slows his progress.
      And get enough sleep.

  7. durak says:

    I’ve just remembered – you’re a fan of Esperanto.
    There are some parallel Russian-Esperanto e-novels, for example:
    М. Булгаков – Мастер и Маргарита
    М. Булгаков – Роковые яйца

    • Judith says:

      Thank you for your recommendations. It’s good to know that there are Russian-Esperanto novels out there. In my experience, Esperanto translations tend to be more literal than translations into other languages; this would be an asset here.

      Part of the reason I want to do Russian (as opposed to, say, Hindi) is that there are so many ready L-R materials for it. I haven’t yet found “The Little Prince”, which would be awesome to start with, but odaha.com at least has the Russian text and if I’m lucky the audio is floating around somewhere as well. I’m also a fan of Camus and haven’t seen much of him in languages other than French; for French there’s the awesome version of “L’étranger” that he reads himself. I wonder if you’d like “La joueuse de go” by Shan Sa; that’s a book full of beauty and wisdom that I will read again and again.

      • durak says:

        I made a French-Russian-English parallel text of Le petit prince. There are some good recordings in Russian, too.

        I don’t remember in how many language versions I have it. Polish, Japanese, German, Chinese, etc. I mean parallel texts in vertical columns.

        Of course, I can share it with anyone.

  8. Judith says:

    I’d be grateful for any materials you’re ready to share. I can send you some parallel texts I created for Chinese, Modern Greek or Dutch if you like. My e-mail address is yutian punkto mei ĉe gmail punkto com.

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