Progression from reading/writing to listening/speaking...
I am an American studying Dutch trying to reach a B2+ level as I will be attending university (in Dutch) in Belgium starting in September of this year. Though I have been studying the language for over a year now, I feel myself hitting a very hard roadblock when it comes to progressing from reading and writing to trying to work on my listening and speaking skills. I will be taking an intensive Dutch course at the end of July, but currently I am not at the level I need to be to begin that course. I can have basic conversations and understand slow, clear speakers when using basic vocabulary, but listening to even the A1+ level listening exercises I become incredibly overwhelmed and have a hard time following the conversations. Has anyone had any experience with this kind of roadblock in their own language studies? Do you have any advice?
I have experienced similar in learning German, and I suppose the best way to approach this problem is to learn the backbone of casual spoken language and take it from there. You say you are currently reading and writing, so I'd likely recommend what I did which was immersion by any means. Listen to Dutch language to get used to the rhythm, even if you can't understand it, work out commonly used slang, connectors- this will help you understand every day speech. When at this stage, you can then try to speak/listen using vocab you are comfortable with and just build on it as much as you can- only learn what is necessary for you (which, granted, may be a lot- given you're taking a course), and the understanding will come with time. Good luck with your course- you'll do fine! - Nevlogeos :)
I recommend listening a lot. I'd say, practice with whatever interests you. If you are an avid news follower, watch/listen to/read Dutch news, if you're into music, listen to Dutch music, if you like reading, read in Dutch, if you like comics, get your hands on some Dutch comics.
Next to that if you're watching people speaking Dutch (e.g. on youtube) it can help to repeat out loud after them, for a number of reasons: to increase your confidence in speaking, to help you remember words/sentences and to train your (facial) muscles producing Dutch sounds.
Some examples of sources you can use:
- Bert en Ernie (or whatever you find funny/interesting) on http://www.2bdutch.nl/videos (you can include subtitles)
- listen to Dutch radio: http://nederland.fm
- listen to Dutch songs on youtube, e.g. Eefje de Visser or Roosbeef
- jeugdjournaal.nl news aimed at kids (10 years old?)
- Alfred J. Kwak a children's cartoon (really good if you ask me)
- listen to news clips e.g. on nos.nl or nu.nl this can be easier than some other sources with people speaking Dutch, since often you will (roughly) know what it should say
- Komt een man bij de dokter… jokes acted out
- other (more difficult) sketch shows you can find on youtube: Benidorm Bastards, Draadstaal, Jiskefet, De Vloer Op (I guess the order is roughly easy to difficult)
- try singing nursery rhymes http://www.kinderliedjes.info/, thanks JaneEmily
Edit: I gathered this mostly from earlier posts, it's mostly aimed at the Netherlands. Some Belgian sources:
- music: Gorki (previously called Gorky), De Mens, Raymond van het Groenewoud, Noordkaap, Clouseau
- Belgian radio: http://belgie.fm
- sketch show: Benidorm Bastards (there is a Dutch one as well I think, but the original is Flemish)
The best way is to listen to as much Dutch as you can (or Belgium as this is slightly different) and you will start to pick it up soon. You will feel that you can't understand a thing but that will go. When I went to Luxembourg I had the same issue with the people there that spoke French, just keep with it and ask them to repeat it if you are not sure. Most people are very helpful when you show that you are learning. Dus ik zou zeggen, wees niet bang je komt er wel.
Like others have suggested already, just enjoy the language, without worrying too much! When you hit a roadblock, just try to find ways to enjoy it in any way possible, without focusing on your progress. Then one day, before you know it, when you go back to those things you found so hard, they'll have become a lot easier. (That's how it is for me anyway :))
(BTW, where in Belgium will you be staying/studying? :))