For the rest of this article, I will refer to this lack of skill as "The English Brain." (as in language, not nationality, but you already knew that ) This may not apply to all native English speakers, but it does apply to me, and probably many other people.
In English, words act fairly independently. (A rare exception to that is the subject-verb agreement.) One does not have to think about a noun's connection to the definite article, for example, since it is always "the." In some languages, gender and number also affect any adjectives, but not in English! So we can substitute different adjectives and nouns into a sentence and not have to change the other words.
The big man
The big house
The ugly house
The ugly houses
Because of this, when I read (or hear) "the" in English, my brain throws the word away once it notes "definite article." This word doesn't tell me much, and it tells me nothing about the noun (the word itself) it relates to.
When reading along in Dutch (or one of many other languages, Spanish, French, Greek, German, etc.), every time I see a definite article (and perhaps an indefinite article) it creates an example with its noun that I can potentially learn from. Unfortunately, the English Brain is not trained to take advantage of this information, so we often ignore it. Thus, we are left to some kind of flashcard-type study to try to learn articles, which is nowhere near as effective as learning from real examples!
My idea is to come up with a solution that trains the English Brain to actually pay attention to this information coming in. Then we can read and listen to Dutch and learn so much more! What follows is my proposed solution.
Someone can create, or we can create for ourselves, exercises based on text that does not have to be easy text. The student needs to know just enough Dutch to recognize words as articles, nouns, pronouns, and adjectives. For this exercise, verbs are not really important, and the meanings of words are not important, either. The task is to scan the text, pick out all nouns (except proper nouns), and list them all, along with "de" or "het." That's it.
Here is an example.
http://www.wereldomroep.nl/news/interna ... ine-McCann
Portugal sluit onderzoek Madeleine McCann
The solution for the first paragraph is:Lissabon - In Portugal is het onderzoek naar de verdwijning van het Britse meisje Madeleine McCann gesloten. De ouders van het meisje zijn niet langer verdacht, zo meldde de Portugese justitie maandag. Dat het onderzoek zou worden gestopt, was begin deze maand al aangekondigd.
Madeleine McCann verdween vorig jaar mei op 3-jarige leeftijd uit haar slaapkamer in een resort in Algarve. Haar ouders waren op dat moment in een restaurant in de buurt aan het eten. De verdwijning kreeg veel aandacht van de pers, mede door een internationale publiciteitscampagne van de ouders. Die kwamen later ook zelf in beeld als verdachten, maar er was onvoldoende bewijs om ze te vervolgen.
The definite article for each noun is given in all cases, except for "de maand." The "de" was inferred from "deze." Had "maand" been a "het" noun, it would have been "dit maand."
The second paragraph is much harder:
A lot more of these had to be inferred, and some could not be determined from the text (indicated by the "?"). "Het jaar" came from "vorig jaar" and "de leeftijd" came from "3-jarige leeftijd." An indefinite such as "een resort" can be indicated with "?" unless there is and adjective inflected or not, or the answer is obvious, as in the case of "Haar ouders..." The subject "de ouders" was used earlier, and is plural, so no need to guess on that one.
Keep in mind that the goal is not to learn the de/het for each noun in the exercise or to translate any of the text. The goal is to learn how to associate articles and nouns, even when the article is not given, or "een" is used. I would suggest practicing for 15 minutes each day, trying to get faster and faster. Within a few weeks, the skill will be learned, and you can move on to a new drill, where you listen to a sentence and do the same steps as above!
I hope I have done my exercise correctly. If not, it only illustrates the need to have someone check our answers or even prepare exercises for us.
Does anyone think this would be helpful?