Finally you made it… you found a Dutch person who does not switch over to English. He or she speaks Dutch all the time, but now all of a sudden, there is a new problem: @#$! why do Dutch people speak so fast?
So what to do next? Maybe you already got your first sentences ready:
Langzaam alstublieft (slowly please)
Praat langzaam alsjeblieft (speak slowly)
Kunt u het herhalen? (can you repeat it?)
If you are lucky, then the Dutch person will slow down, at least for 1 minute. But then, before you know it, you feel lost… Damn…. why do Dutch people always speak so fast?
It this has happened to you, then congratulations! It means that you are moving forward when it comes to speaking Dutch. But… if you cannot understand Dutch people when they speak too fast, you’ll still have a problem. It is one of the first obstacles that you’ll have to overcome…
There is much more than only speed….
So what would be the best solution? It would be fantastic if somehow you could slow down people for good, right? It would be nice, if somehow you could compell them so that they don’t have any other option than speaking Dutch to you in a very slow way. So that you can pick it up, learn from it and boost your Dutch even more… But… you may already have guessed it… very likely, this is not going to happen… People in general – Dutch people included – love to speak fast, and they are not going to slow it down, because this is how they like to speak. Certainly if they feel excited about certain things…
At the same time, it can be frustrating… you may feel that if people speak fast to you, that it really stands in your way. A very logical thought is often this: I know that I can speak and understand Dutch, the only problem that I have is that they speak it too fast, and then I cannot follow it…
Sounds logical right? If people speak too fast, then you cannot hear what they say. It is the end of your conversation. But… if people really spoke slowly, then you would clearly hear all the words, you would feel at ease and you could have great conversations. There is only one problem…. Too often, it is not true 🙁
Just check it for yourself… even if Dutch people speak very sloooowly and you can hear all the words, then chances are high that it still does not make a lot of sense… even if it is a so called simple conversation… Then to make things worse, there is one other bitchy thing that often complicates the situation…. Here it is: even if Dutch people try to speak slowly and certainly if they try to speak in an easier way to you, then chances are high that Dutch people will make their sentences more difficult!
Speaking slowly can be easy for a Dutch person, certainly if it is only for one sentence or two… But… to make a Dutch sentence easier for an English speaking person is not something that an average Dutch person can do. They simply have no clue of how to do it… For most people, speaking is just like breathing… it is an automatic process and you do not know exactly how you do it. Just check it for yourself… could you make a sentence that would be easier to understand for let’s say a Chinese person?
Here is another thing for you to consider… the speed may not be the biggest obstacle at all… In most cases it is simply a lack of vocabulary or understanding certain grammar constructions. People have freedom of speech, so they can literally use any word that they want… Even for the simplest conversations, you need to master many skills… Just knowing a couple of words and some sentences is often not enough….
Here is another tricky thing… most people that follow traditional language courses simply memorize sentences. They remember some sentences that you can use for introducing yourself and buying some cheese. But… in case that you have not noticed it already, the conversations that you have in real life are often quite different from the dialogues of your language book. Words can be different, grammar constructions can be different. If memorization was the only strategy that you used having a conversation in Dutch, then you’ll fail miserably… Often within a couple of seconds!
Here is one important thing: if this happens, always realize that it is not your fault. It would be a great idea to simply expect it before hand. This will make everything a lot easier. It is always a good idea to stay relaxed and to just go on, even if you only understand 30% of the conversation. Fake it until you make it can be a great strategy…
At the same time, there is one great error that people often make… They simply assume that if you only speak with people again and again, then it will improve automatically. In a certain way, it is true, a next conversation can always be better than the previous one and then as long as you continue you’ll reap the benefits of something that you could call continuous improvement. But – and this is important to understand – nothing will really change if you do not change your way of thinking first!
There is one false assumption that most people have…
If you are like most people, then probably you underestimate the effort that it takes for having a conversation, even if it is about a simple subject. If you like to speak Dutch with ease, you’ll easily need at least 2000 words and you’ll need to master grammar. On top of that, you also need to be able to think in very structed ways and you’ll also need imagination and creativity.
Speaking a language has little to do with only memorizing stuff… Sure… it would be easy if you remember many things, but… the key thing that you’ll always need is insight. Only if you see (or hear), what really happens in a language, then you can learn more and make a lot of progress.
So here are a couple of quick tips. First of all, simply expect that you’ll get stuck in many conversations. If this happens then don’t stop. Don’t feel bad, just know that it has to happen, certainly in the beginning. Have as many short conversations as you can, and give yourself a pat on your shoulder. You rock now, and you are doing a great job! At the same time, make sure that you gain new pieces of vital information that are missing. Remember: having a conversation has nothing to do with memorizing and reproducing a whole mp3! It is a lot more!
Even if you miss things, relax! You are on your way to greater Duch!
Allow yourself to ‘fail’ many times…. keep focussing on what you learn, and once again if,you really decide to dive into the language then one day, the penny will drop. All of a sudden, things that you’ll hear will make more sense! The secret is very simple… in order to master a new skill you’ll need practice. The more practice you have, the more you’ll learn, even if you don’t notice it…
Once again, the golden rule is this: even if you think that you fail, just do it again! Somehow, once you have stopped counting how many attempts you have made already, then somehow, a shift will occur. Quite often, this shift happens all of a sudden… You’ll understand more and you’ll speak more and then before you know it, you’ll also speak Dutch at an incredibile speed and then surprise, surprise, one day you may find it difficult to slow down 🙂