Dealing with doubts about Dutch

I’ve been having trouble keeping up my motivation in the past few days. My mind has been clouded by negative thoughts such as “I’ll never understand spoken Dutch better than I do now, so there’s no point in trying”.

It’s funny what the mind will come up with in the face of a challenge. I know from my own prior evidence that all I have to do is keep going and I’ll get there, but somehow these thoughts start coming up when I can’t see immediate progress from the activities I’m doing. I find that at these moments, it’s vital for me to have some other pre-defined numerical goals. For instance, I won’t stop reading until I’ve read 1 million words, and I’ll do at least 200 hours of study by the time the 6 week period ends.

These sorts of goals are independent of my current skill in the language, so they’re immune to any negative thoughts that may arise. As Khatsumoto says, the only way to fail is to stop, so I try to keep this in mind and focus purely on my numbers.

I think one of the major factors in this unfortunate mindset is uncertainty. I’m not sure how much spoken ability I’ll have at the end, which makes me want to drop some of my input time and focus on output, but then that makes me then worry that I won’t be able to understand spoken Dutch enough. I solve this by throwing out any new plans that interfere with my satisfaction, and to me the primary satisfaction will come from being able to first understand anything said in Dutch, which means I need to stop worrying about my output and just trust that it’ll come later after my understanding is increased.

Anyway, I’m over half-way to my stated time goal of 200 hours now. I’ve clocked 108 hours of Dutch study time so far this month, which is 54% of my goal, accomplished in 59% of the time…so I’ve still got some work left ahead of me.

Ok, time to get back on the clock. I’ve still got 3 hours left in my day, so it’s time to make them count 🙂


6 Responses to Dealing with doubts about Dutch

  1. Dustin Johnson says:

    I feel your pain, I’m in the same boat with Russian. I can watch a show/movie, or listen to an audiobook, and get the gist of what’s going on. It’s not enough to truly “enjoy” it though, and I constantly think of how much more I would understand it in English. It’s incredibly frustrating, and it makes me toy with starting another language over from scratch where I feel I won’t have this problem (like Spanish). It’s a dumb thought though, because I’d end up reaching the exact same slow progress in any language. So… at least I know I’m not the only one and I’m going to take your advice of creating numerical goals rather than progress goals.

    On a different subject, how do you go about learning vocabulary? Do you do any direct vocabulary study, or do you just read and eventually pick up words? I’ve been using Anki and doing sentences, but I’m not sure if there’s a more useful method to increasing vocabulary.

  2. doviende says:

    Ya, you just need ways to keep reminding yourself that the only way to fail is to stop. As long as you keep going, it’ll work. The problem is that you just can’t comprehend the exact changes in your mind on the timescale required.

    This is another reason why it’s so much easier to learn a third language after success with your second one. You have direct proof that it works, even if it seems hopeless at this particular moment. I’m trying to keep my German successes in mind as I work through Dutch, to remind myself that I’m taking the same steps now that led to success in German, so they’ll likewise lead to success in Dutch.

    As for your vocab question, I’m just in the process of writing a full post on the matter. stay tuned 🙂

  3. Olle Kjellin says:

    Excuse me for a personal question out of curiosity (and envy), but you don’t have to anwer it: When do you have the time to work for a living? 🙂

    • doviende says:

      A very good question, and I’m happy to answer it. During 2008 and 2009, I made several changes to my lifestyle in order to live more frugally, and I formed new habits to put more of my income into savings. For a good portion of that time, I was putting around 50% of my earnings into a savings account.

      In early 2010, I decided that I had enough saved that I could quit and leave for Europe, to travel a bit and concentrate on language study. My goal is to put in as much time on intensive language study as I can, in order to learn languages and to learn how to learn languages effectively.

      Currently I do still work, although it’s only a few hours per week. This earns me only enough to pay my rent here in Berlin, and I pay for food and other things from my accumulated savings. I still live quite cheaply, cooking for myself and avoiding luxury purchases, which is allowing me to extend my language study time even further, and do the crazy experiments that I write about on this blog.

  4. Claudie says:

    Regarding the way you’ve been feeling about your progress in Dutch: stay strong! As you say yourself, the only way to fail is to stop.

    I know a few languages and, at least for me, there is a very sudden jump from “ok” skills to “great” skills. Usually, when I feel the way you do, I take a break for a day or two from the language. Then I come back to it and realize that I actually know much more than I thought — it’s just that my brain needed some time to process and classify it all. Perhaps that might help you too?

    Also, for the spoken ability, I think it’s really just a matter of actually practicing it with other people. Not having another option, but to talk in the language is a very powerful force.

    Apart from that, I join Dustin and Olle in asking both about the way you study words and how you find time to do other work 🙂

  5. Andrew says:

    I have found that the more specific the goal you have, the better: this means if you can set a precise numerical value on it (such as 1 million words, being able to speak with a native for 30 minutes non-stop which is my goal, etc.) that is IMMENSELY motivating, and if you can set a deadline on it, that’s equally as powerful: I swear dude, specific number + deadline = success, that really is the way to go about accomplishing things (not just language-learning).

    Keep it up, keep track of your success so you can see it go along (that’ll keep you motivated in the short-term), and keep us updated.


    P.S. My Spanish copy of The Bourne Identity was apparently “lost in the mail” according the the seller :/ so I have ordered another copy that should be here in a few days (from a different seller, of course, and I’ll be getting a refund from the first one since it was through Amazon and they’re awesome about that sort of stuff). I will not give up.

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