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I recently read the book "The First 20 Hours" by Josh Kaufman, and I wanted to apply his method of rapid skill acquisition to learning conversational Dutch. I'm trying to take that skill and distill it into it's base parts. Unfortunately, I don't have much experience learning a new language, successfully anyway. While my experience with high school Spanish provides a little insight into how to learn a language, I don't think that the overall approach was particularly sound.

So here is what I'm thinking so far, and I would really appreciate it if someone with more experience learning human languages might be able to assist.

  • Memorize the most commonly used 2,000 words of Dutch. (I found the most commonly used 10,000 Dutch words and reduced this list to the first 2,000 entries). I plan on doing this by using Anki flashcards.
  • Learn to pronounce some of the longer and more difficult words. I'm planning on downloading the audio files for these words from Google Translate and attaching them to their respective cards.

Where I'm starting to become tripped up is in the grammar. Obviously learning how to conjugate verbs, the past v. future v. present tenses, possessives, etc. is all important in being able to have a basic conversation in any language. I'm just not sure what the most efficient way of doing this is, and I'm pretty sure that the "academic" method I learned was not very effective. I also tried the Rosetta Stone program with limited success (I may have been falling into the pitfall of trying to 'perfectly' learn each series). Any input on this would be very much appreciated.

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The book you mentioned is interesting. I guess I have to be familiar with its ideas before I can answer you. Basically you're asking how to apply the book's decomposition technique to learning conversational Dutch (or generally to any similar language). – Mohamad Fakih Jul 6 '13 at 14:23
While reading the book might help, I don't think it's a prerequisite. The basic idea of the book is that most skills follow "power law of practice", in which the most fundamental sub-skills of a skill are learned within the first 20 hours, making this the most difficult barrier to practice. Effective practice within the first 20 hours places an individual on a basic level of proficiency, so I want to make sure I'm using my time wisely. Anyone who has learned another language likely has some input on this subject as to potential obstacles and how to break the problem into subproblems – BrotherJack Jul 6 '13 at 14:42
If you found my answer useful, could you please select it an the answer? – dwwilson66 Aug 9 '13 at 14:11

While I've not read the book, I understand the concept similarly to how @BrotherJack expressed it. Fundamentals in the first 20 hours, and the rest is just practice. :)

I think back to all the languages I learned: English, German, Italian, French and they all start the same.

  1. Alphabet and pronunciation(s) of individual letters; this allows you to properly pronounce the words in the language.
  2. Conjugation of "to be", which is usually an irregular verb and can be very confusing to the novice: am, are, is, are, are, are vs. sit, sit, sits, sit, sit, sit.
  3. then, conjugation of regular verbs...but more from a structural rules perspective. Like with sit, knowing the rule that the word remains the same but you add an s to third person singluar works in many cases.
  4. Tenses come next...past, present and future are good enough for the first twenty hours of study.
  5. Interspersed, you'll learn verbs and nouns as well as numbers, articles, pronouns, basic/common verbs, conjunctions, prepositions -- the little building blocks of grammar between nouns and verbs.

This has always worked for me, it seems to be the way most language is learned in a classroom scenario, so something must be working. That being said, a lot depends on your REASONS for studying the language. Travelling? Make sure you throw in things like "Where's the bathroom?" and "How much is the bill?" Professional? Make sure you get a lot of business/medical/technology terminology, as appropriate to your needs.

Starting with the basics, you learn the building blocks of the language and grammar, and in 20 hours of study, you'll have a good grasp on that. From there, it's just a matter of building vocabulary and learning the exceptions to all the building blocks.

Of course, I've heard (anecdotally) that Rosetta Stone's "level 1" Dutch is about 22 hours of CD-ROM material. Personally, I'd go that route. Someone else has already planned the curriculum for me...and that's good time management. :D

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