Best way to begin learning?

Ideas for learning Dutch. What have you tried? What worked for you? What did not work for you?
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Mother tongue: Serbo-Croatian
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Fifth, sixth, seventh, ..., languages: some German
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Best way to begin learning?

Post by cruyff7 » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:15 am

Hallo! Thank you kindly for taking some time out of your day to read this and hopefully shed some insight on my 2 questions. Much appreciated, really. (I apologize in advance for the Tolstoy-like length of this :o )

For the sake of simplicity, I'll break this up into two little components:
My background:
I speak English, French, Serbo/Croatian and Russian fluently. I am comfortable in German; I'm not completely fluent yet, but am comfortable enough to carry out a normal conversation. This means that I'm conversational in 5 languages, 3 of which are from different roots. I don't have much trouble learning grammar, and pronunciation isn't much of a problem either (with proper practice, of course). I'm a Neuroscience major in University, but I do admittedly have a little passion for learning languages.

My questions:
Although I speak other languages, I think I would trade all of that knowledge to be able to speak Dutch. I truly mean that. I am not of Dutch heritage and technically have no reason to feel as strongly about the language/country/entire culture, but I do - I think it is the most beautiful language I have ever heard. I am extremely motivated and am willing to work as hard as I need to ultimately master this language.
I have read in several places that is it is pretty difficult language for a non-native speaker to master, but I was really happy to come across this forum and see whether any of you lovely people wanted to share your perspectives.

So, I would love to know:
1. How long (and please feel free to be as *brutally honest* as you want) do you think it will take me to learn Dutch? I will have enough time to devote 3 hours to studying every day for 4 months out of a year, and roughly 5 hours/week for the rest of the year.

2. What do you think would be the best way to start learning this language? I know some people start off from a different approach then others, so I was wondering whether anyone has a particular method/some tips that work particularly well for when learning Dutch?

Any answers to either question are more than welcome - again, please feel free to be as honest as possible. I definitely don't get discouraged easily.
Hartelijk bedankt!

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Re: Best way to begin learning?

Post by Quetzal » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:48 pm

Well now, that's something we don't hear every day... the most beautiful language you've ever heard? I'm guessing you're talking about the Dutch of the Netherlands, most foreigners do, in which case I'm marveling even more at that statement... no offense intended to my dear northern neighbours, of course. :p

My first reaction to your post, to be honest, is "learning German and Dutch at the same time is *not* a good idea". Knowing one helps enormously with the other, of course, but as you might expect, there are huge amounts of "false friends" and subtle differences in grammar. If you're a native speaker or native-level speaker of one of the two you should have an easy time with the other, but for everybody else, you'll just start mixing them up.

I would think Dutch is still easier than German, and even German is not exceptionally hard as languages go (from an Indo-European perspective, anyway), but yes, there are many things about Dutch that are tricky, and of course lack of exposure is a problem for everyone who doesn't live here, more so than for more prominent languages like German. The big one is probably word order, which will take rather a lot of practice even after you get the basic rules. Morphology on the other hand is fairly easy, so I suppose compared to most languages there's little rote learning of conjugations and declensions; the time saved there should probably be spent on writing/speaking exercises.

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