First summer in the Netherlands, I signed up to a 4 weeks dutch language course at babel.nl in Utrecht.
The schedule was intensive. We had 3 hour lectures and 2 hours self-study per day, 5 days per week. I got a certificate says that I’m at level A2 but I’m not very confident about it..
But the course definitely helped me with learning the language. I took the course 5 months after I got to the Nethelands. I already tried a few ways to learn the language during these 5 months (or even a little bit before), but this intensive experience brought me something different.
First of all, it forced me to give more time to language learning. I’m doing a PhD (along with a bunch of other stuff,) so sometimes it’s hard to convince myself to allocate time for learning languages “properly” (it’s actually not that hard when I use it as an excuse to watch Netflix in different languages).
Second, about this “properly”. In the course, I had a text book, I downloaded podcasts and listening materials, I used apps, I did the exercises, the reading, the in-class conversation, used more dutch in whats-app with friends, etc.. There was a variety of combinations of learning the theory and applying it to daily life. And the (theory <-> application) pair is just like a self-boosting never-ending machine. You feel better and better about both when there’s a balance.
Third, it helped me notice my weakness in other languages. It’s been a long time since I felt a great divide in communication. I struggled so greatly to try to get my points accross in the classes that it helps me to think about what I was doing with other languages and further reflect whether I’m doing it right with other languages. I’ve always been afraid of getting blunt in my senses for languages and stagnate. Now I think the solution is: learning (or polishing) another language!
Speaking of other languages, I was also puzzled at one point, deciding which one is more important in language learning in general: input or output. (The answer is always: it depends.. BUT) Now I think, at least for me, I need more input at first, and make a lot of efforts to output later. (This might even apply to programming languages? :P)
I always knew that doing something intensively is good for life and health. But the hard part is that it also means lots of sacrifices on other stuff you’re doing. There’s always a trade-off. So probably it’s about making the decision of whether you want this to stay with you for the rest of your life. I think I want it and will be doing more courses in the future!
Some photos of babel (they have a nice “campus”) and from my process of learning dutch…