My Dutch Language Learning Story (I Finished My Tree)
My story begins like everyone else's completed-a-tree post on Duolingo: I have finished my Dutch tree! :)
However, there is much more to my story than what meets the eye…
Let us rewind the clock back to the beginning of November 2013. I decided to start learning Dutch because I would be moving to the Netherlands from the US in nine months to begin a M.Sc. program. My thought was that if I would be living in a country for at least two years, it would only be beneficial to me to start learning the language as well.
And so begins my journey...
In November 2013, before I learned about Duolingo (and at that time Dutch was not released yet), I went to my local library and found that they had the Pimsleur Method CDs available for learning Dutch. I checked it out, and began learning. Two months later, I completed the units and had about 500 words in my vocabulary with basic formal grammar. I could not read or write, but I was able to speak and listen to basic formal sentences, and ask for and receive directions. Here, I learned that the best way to learn (at least for me) was not to translate in your head, but to feel the language, internalize it, and hear it for how it is. Life was good, but I wanted to challenge myself and learn more.
At the end of December 2013, I learned about a website called "Memrise." There, I started and completed “Dutch - 1001 Most Common Words.” I now had the basic formal grammar from Pimsleur, but with an expanded vocabulary of 1001 words (the course was really 985 words long). Life was still good, but I wanted to challenge myself and continue to learn more.
Soon after I finished the “1001 Most Common Words,” my school in the Netherlands posted to the international student forum that Duolingo’s English to Dutch lessons had been released. I signed up the day of release and began on my English to Dutch tree...starting with “Basics 1.” I have been on Duolingo every day since Dutch was released into beta (though my streak says differently). With each day, I watched my gaps in the language get smaller as my Dutch proficiency improved.
In August 2014, I moved to the Netherlands to begin my studies the following month. Still working on Duolingo, I was now being immersed into the language everywhere I went. And…I could recognize some words and phrases and get around! Talking to people proved to be another sport all in its own. Why? When I visited with people, they would switch to English the second it showed that Dutch was not my mother tongue. It was understandable, and I was fine with that.
However, I still wanted to challenge myself and continued to learn more. So, at the end of September 2014, I decided to test my proficiency. I bought the book titled, “Het Achterhuis” (The Diary of Anne Frank). I started reading it. To my surprise, I could understand some of what I was reading, but still noticed that there were gaps in my learning that needed to be filled. Therefore, I bought a Dutch to Dutch dictionary to force myself further in learning the language. To summarize, it helped quite a bit in filling more learning gaps, but I knew that these gaps would still exist.
So while working on Duolingo, reviewing my wordlist on Memrise, reading “Het Achterhuis,” interacting with locals, and going to school, I started to watch TV and listen to the radio (NPO and 3FM). I would find myself some nights sitting in my chair with my eyes closed, listening to what was being said and making sense out of it. Awesome!
In October, I discovered that the DLI Language Courses have Dutch available (similarly with Assimil). However, I have set both of those language learning programs aside for a future date.
So that brings me to today (mijn 26ste verjaardag). As a gift to myself, I made it a goal to complete my tree (as I had one lesson left). While listening to the Top 2000, I am now proud to say that I have completed my Dutch tree!
Looking back on my journey from just over a year ago, I am amazed at the progress I have made. I can safely say that (thanks to Duolingo and the other methods I have used) I am now at a A2+/B1/B2 proficiency (depending on the day and context). It’s been a great 13 months!
So what’s next? I plan on keeping my English to Dutch tree gold; As a new year resolution, I will start and finish my Dutch to English tree; And finally, I plan on starting the DLI Language Courses and possibly the Assimil language program all while working on my M.Sc.
Thank you Duolingo and the Dutch Team for all your hard work! I (along with others) really appreciate all the time you have put into this program and course.
With this all said…my story in learning Dutch is still not over, but has just started a new chapter…
First of all, great job!
Finishing the tree is quite a task, but I'm also really impressed with the energy you've put into studying Dutch.
I'm glad to learn that Dutch universities/schools are aware of our course and notifying foreign students about it. I thought about promoting our courses some way, at least at the uni I attend, but I was afraid it would seem like advertising :)
Truly thanks for sharing your experiences and good luck with your future language studies!
Congrats! You should check out my post about having finished my tree.