12 March, 2010

Not Good Enough, plus the usual freakouts

I've now been attending classes for two weeks. I'm mostly positive about the experience so far. I'm still enjoying the classes, and still really like my teacher although now I'm plagued with enormous self doubt and confidence issues. I'm hoping it's all temporary, and that this time next week I will be all *bouncy bouncy* again about it all.

This week we were given not one, but TWO surprise tests! So I had one week of warm fuzzy learning, and the next filled with big angry tests. All at A2 level (obviously as that is what I am supposed to be learning!).

Wednesday was listening and reading. My two strongest points. We listened to different conversations, then needed to select multiple choice answers from the related questions. It was mostly quite easy, except for one set which was information on the radio (about roadworks). I could understand once I listened to the snippet for a second time, but at first it was somewhat difficult. The other sound bites were for subjects such as work instructions, and then we would need to answer a question like How often should the woman clean the floor? Daily, weekly, or monthly... so on and so forth.

For the reading test we were all given texts to read, and again would need to answer the multiple choice questions related. It was all quite simple and I felt confident with my answers (which were all correct, incidentally! *brag brag*).

Thursday was an entirely different scenario, however. The tests were for writing skills (including spelling!). Of all things Dutch, writing is my weakest point. The spelling is not so difficult as the rules are all consistent, but composing a sentence with the nouns, adjectives and verbs in the right order is almost impossible for me. Just thinking about it raises my blood pressure.

Then came the homework. Because we had not done any work on the Welkom in Nederland book during the class, an entire chapter was assigned as our homework for the week. I'm still not sure when I'm going to be able to finish it all! As soon as I arrived home I sat down with Maarten (we're still doing well with the motivation!), and started to go through. To be perfectly honest, it was all a bit much for one evening. So many new words and new scenarios. There was information on Dutch celebrations (feest dagen), birthdays, formal and informal communication etc etc. Basically expectations on how I must behave in Dutch society. Note here I said must, not should or could, because it really is that rigid. By the end of the chapter I was feeling quite stressed and upset. Not just because of the new words and having to remember so much in a short space of time, but because of the behavioural expectations!

I went to bed feeling inadequate and teary. Really like I would just never be able to grasp it all. I'm an eternal pessimist and always think the worst, especially of myself. I'm continually thankful for Maarten's positive balance in my life. He can almost always find the good in a situation and person. I just regret that I found him after the worry lines and grey hair had set in!

But then on a higher note, Friday evening Maarten and I went to dinner at his parent's home to discuss and plan their upcoming Australia trip (they are having a six-week holiday after we get married), and I tried to communicate as much as possible in Dutch. I thought I did reasonably well. They could understand me at least! I really just need to get this vocabulary down. I feel like I can only say the same ten sentences over and over.

What about you? What tricks do you have for learning words? I find I really struggle remembering particular words so am wondering if flash cards will really work for me. I have a large list of opposites that I am going to put together to begin with. There are a couple of hundred words there, some that I already know, but many that I don't. Your suggestions would be most handy!


wilber said...

Hi again,

It sure is tough! But I guess as they say, ‘Nobody said it was gonna be easy’.
But they also say, ‘Don’t let it getcha down’. Whoever ‘they’ are?!?

I agree it seems overwhelming to try and memorize SO many words. So, I try my best to kinda forget about ‘memorizing’ a boatload at once. I try to choose a few that make some kind of sense in things I speak of everyday and use them around the house, in ‘normal’ conversation, repeatedly. Hopefully that way it might sink in, as some kind of repetitive use kind of thing. (I have tried to imagine how my very young grandchildren learn their language skills)
It is far from ideal, but it mostly works, For me, at least. Although, it is far from perfect. I forget words all of the time!

Also, you might ask yourself, exactly what the class expectations really are. In other words, are they really as ‘strict’ as you perceive at the moment? Or, are you feeling that it is more strict that it might actually be. I am in a different school, so only you can answer that one.

Either way, remind yourself that this is not life or death.

Relax, take a deep breath and do you best. That is all you can do.

You might also think of it this way; it is not everyone who took the initiative to pack off to small country to brave the differences and learn a difficult new language and culture, etc.
So think of yourself as ‘special’. It can’t hurt.

Please tell me that when I try to converse in Dutch and get stuck and ask, ‘Hoe zeg dat?’ and then 30 seconds later I have no idea of what I was just told, that I am not alone.

Best of luck!!!

More later,

Connie Koorevaar said...

Yup, I second, third and fourth everything Bill said. Not to mention having read the silly Welkom in NL book, it's a bunch of poop....it's clearly not meant for Westerners. The "normal" rules are very flexible and we'd chose the right choice 100% of the time, so don't get hang up on the "rules of behavior" outlined by the book.

Again, I understand your frustration!!! It's so hard to learn a language when you're not brought up in it from babyhood. Just remember that it's going to take extra practice and the willingness to through embarrassment to the wind and JUST USE IT. The more you do, the better it will become and also the less you'll worry about using it and making mistakes. The quicker you will learn to "verbeter" how you say things so that people will understand. It's a vicious cycle if you don't try. :) :)

Take care!

Silvia said...

Don't doubt yourself. You're great. X

Anonymous said...

My advice is read and listen as much as possible. You'll begin to see the same words over and over and they'll eventually sear themselves into your brain. And I ALWAYS ask my Dutch friends and my in-laws (my husband does this naturally - sometimes I'd like to ask him to cut me some slack lol!) to correct me and for the Dutch equivalent of words and phrases I want to use. Try to repeat in conversation what you read and what you hear. I personally can't stand memorizing vocabulary and I always forget those words immediately after the test or whatever it is I was learning them for. This is the way to really get the vocabulary ingrained in you.

Valentijn said...

I find normal usage is much easier than trying to memorize over and over. I watch American TV shows and read the Dutch subtitles to pick up a lot, and read dutch books designed for adult newbies. It's surprising how often I'll notice a word I've "sort of" learned, and it'll get reinforced, either by the context it's in or because I look it up again and go "ohhhh!" I don't have much time for rote memorization, and don't think that works very well either.

I am SO glad my Dutch classes don't directly include social aspects! From what I've seen they're very condenscending and treat non-western foreigners like stubborn children that must be taught how do things the (one and only) proper way. Even when we do talk about it in class the non-westerners sort of freeze up and recite the "proper" answer. I think our teacher deliberately had us listen to a segment in class (we always do it at home instead) just to provoke some thought about the "official" stance... And called on the American lawyer (me!) for a contrasting opinion after the people from Muslim countries politely agreed they should only be Muslim in their homes, not at public schools, even though Christians can still be Christians at public schools.

Unknown said...

Valentijn, I agree 100% with what you say about the condescending attitude. In the end with my class we stopped with Welkom in Nederland altogether and it was assigned as homework. My teacher wanted to work on stuff that was more relevant and interesting for all of us. We spent most of the classes we were supposed to be learning Welkom in Nederland doing Staatsexamen stuff. It was fantastic!

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