Have you ever wondered why it seems so easy for children to pick up a new language? They do not study a lot, they just play and most important of all, they pick up Dutch like crazy!
No wonder that many people feel jealous when they look at children. Learning a new language effortlessly seems to be a special privilige that only the very young can enjoy. But… before you start feeling depressed about being old, cheer up! The secret that children use is actually quite simple. If you use the same secret that children use, then probably you’ll notice a radical difference quite soon!
Have you wondered how it actually works to pick up a new language? This is what most people believe…. once you are in a new environment where people speak a new language, then you’ll probably notice things. You see them and you will hear them. The rest is simple. If you simply say what you have observed all the time, then soon enough you will understand and speak a new language. This does not sound like rocket science, right?
Imagine that you live in the Netherlands and that often you are in a Dutch working environment and you hear that one colleague says: wil je koffie? Then probably it is not too hard for you to imagine that it means: do you like coffee? Now all you need to do is to repeat what you just heard and voila! Here is your first Dutch sentence that you said and it did not take too much effort, right?
The secret of babies…
If you like, you could call this the natural way of learning. This is also how little babies learn. They are constantly exposed to strange sounds that they do not understand, but then one day. little by little they start to talk a real language!
But why does it seem easier for babies and for little children? Are they more intelligent than you are? The answer is yes and no….
First of all, you know much more than a baby or a little child. You simply have more knowledge. But… babies and little children have something that you might have lost, at least partially…. and that is an open mind!
Learning with an open mind is something that makes all the difference! When a baby hears sounds, the baby does not judge. For a baby, every sound is okay and totally acceptable. A baby just listens with open ears and simply absorbs the information that is all around. It does not matter whether the language is Dutch, English or even Chinese… What a baby does is simply listen and then starts to work in a really smart and intelligent way. The mind of the baby simply scans all the sounds, just to see if there are logical systems for grammar and vocabulary.
The baby simply sees all the information that is there, finds the logical system and simply copies it. The result is amazing and it often looks like magic. But… actually, it is not!
This is the problem if people are older… instead of being really open to the information around us, we start to be more selective. First of all, we do not perceive everything that is there. Maybe you have also heard of filters. It means that not all the information comes in. Somehow, you already got some ideas of how a language should work. If the new information is in harmony with what you find acceptable, then you will receive this information. But… if somehow it does not fit in your system, so to speak, then even without knowing, you’ll block it out.
If you block it out, you cannot learn it, it is that simple.
But then, a second complication comes in. Soon enough, your mind will also produce thoughts about you as a language learner. Before you know it, your mind may suggest that for learning a new langauge, you are too old any way, or that learning a new language is simply not your best point. If you believe those thoughts, even for a short moment, you’ll notice that your learning slows down. So now you have an extra reason to believe all the negative things that your mind tellls you about you!
The process of learning a new language is quite gentle…
The mind somehow likes the idea of adding the fact, that somehow we cannot do it. Maybe it does not like ideas that are too new or unfamiliar. Then it likes to discourage you on a personal level. Can you see that this mechanismtotally undermines all your talents for learning a new language? Just for your information, babies do not have this problem!
But… luckily there is good news. Contrary to what you may have believed, learning a new language is not about working hard and studying like crazy. On the contrary, often it can be a process that is quite gentle. One of the most important things that you have to do is to open your mind… reconnecting with a kind of childlike state if you like :)
If you learn like this, it does not make sense! :(
When you open your mind, you’ll see, hear and notice more things. All of a sudden, more things become totally possible. You’ll start to learn in many more different ways and probably, you feel a lot better too!
Here is one thing that often happens, unfortunately. Most people forget how important it is, to open your mind first, before you start learning. Here is a strange thing… you can work like crazy with a closed mind, but guess what is going to happen? Probably not that much… It does not make sense to remember new things if your mind consciously or unconscioully rejects it.
So here is the most important tip: always make sure that you notice that your mind is open, whenever you would like to learn Dutch. By the way, you’ll notice it immediately. Once your mind is open, all of a sudden you notice that many more things make sense. One other important indication: you are not complaining. You just feel curiosity to discover new things!
Play and have fun!
So here is another indication that you have opened your mind while learning Dutch. You are very much in the moment. You are playing with new things and you are having fun. Instead of worrying for a future or thinking about a past in which things were not moving forward at all, you just notice how much you are learning and discovering right now and that everything is okay the way that it is right now…. This is learning with an open mind, and why not… you may even like to call it a flow state!
So, if you like to learn Dutch a lot faster and if you like to speak Dutch with more ease then always open your mind first! Sure… most people never do it, but… you’ll immediately notice the difference!