Immersion advice needed!

A quick report on my Dutch Challenge.

And can I pick the brains of language tutors - but also anyone who has ever done an immersion course?

(I have already posted this on the English forum but I think I should have posted it on the Open Forum. Apologies if you have already read it!!)

The Challenge
I successfully finished the 90 Day Challenge on Christmas Eve, (it turned out to be an 80 Day Challenge not a 90 Day one, but I gather this is solved). Horrendous problems with my mortarboard - which I wanted to an extent that was completely childish!! Alex promised it for next week - but has delivered on his promise a week early. Does this come as a surprise? No, certainly not! We are so lucky to have those guys in Support!

The Challenge was incredibly hard work as, for a fortnight in the first month, I was away on holiday with a very dodgy internet connection .

Catching up on lost listening was a complete nightmare. Beware of this, new Challengers!

But was the time well spent? An enormous YES!

I started with really poor listening skills despite doing quite a lot of Skyping for the two months before I started the Challenge.

When I started, I followed Sylvia and Faulya’s podcasts with difficulty But the around 90 hours of listening I did during the actual 90 days of the Challenge have made a really massive difference, not just to my listening but to my attitude to language learning.

First, the progress. Nearly four months after I started the Challenge, I can listen to the Dutch Youth News and get most of it. Yes, OK, the presenters speak more slowly and the language is less complex to allow for its young audience (Unfortunately the kids all speak at the speed of light!).

But I know that listening to this regularly is going to allow me to make the transition to the mainstream News programmes. Don’t know when… but for the first time since I started Dutch, I really do know it’s going to happen. Sometime!

Second, Confidence! I now know I’ll have a fighting chance of understanding at least some of the other side of the conversation.

Now, when I ring my boatyard to ask about progress on winter jobs, it never occurs to me that these conversations will be in any other language but Dutch! OK, they are short and I’m prepared…. but they happen!! Now the biggest problem is the fact that the guy who runs the boat yard loathes the telephone and whispers down it.

Here’s another example…. When I went to Arnhem for three days when I was half way though the Challenge, I managed to get by without using English at all - except in the evenings when I met (for only the second time!) my bilingual Dutch penfriend of three and a half years who was also my first long distance Dutch teacher!

What was so interesting was I went, knowing that I could do it!

And I think this attitude came out of the whole ethos of LingQ. All those people who swap tips and engender a “can do” attitude!

So a huge thank you to LingQ!

Now guys what am I going to do next???

A second Challenge isn’t very appealing because the Advanced Dutch LingQ library is hugely unattractive to me! I read the Bothers Grimm, The Three Musketeers and Don Quixote when i was sixteen. Once was quite enough. Max Havelaar is too advanced for me. The problem is that I really want to read modern fiction. And that’s difficult to import and then LingQ. Or at least I find it so. This doesn’t mean I am giving up on LingQ

So I need another approach that will allow me to keep up the momentum. Here’s what I plan.

Total Immersion NOT in my L2 country

I have decided to do a week’s total immersion course in Dutch - not in the Netherlands but here in Whitby in England. And I want some advice about how best to use my time.

I plan to insulate myself from Monday to Friday (OK, not a full week) from all English. No newspapers, books, television, radio, emails, phone calls, visit to friends. Not even visits to the shops. I can walk on the cliffs and probably not see anyone, let alone anyone I know…

I have lined up my Skype tutor to give me some extra time - we talk for half an hour (my limit) on most weekdays. He tells me that I need some other Dutch voices. Silvia has kindly offered one or two evenings. My pen friend will help - and he speaks really guttural Dutch. (Understanding him properly is my ultimate goal!!).

I will watch Dutch television, listen to Dutch radio. I have Dutch talking books. I have Dutch novels. So I will be able to watch, listen and read.

Now do I need to spend time in this week on writing???

Both my penfriend and my Italki tutor think my grammar is not bad, but I’m horrifically sloppy.I suspect Silvia might agree. Now i’m never going to work in The Netherlands and i’m never going to take an exam!! This is a hobby! So i didn’t think I’d include writing.

But am I right?

I should say that writing was how I learned my initial Dutch and I like it. But is it really necessary for the next leap forward. Views would be really welcome.

So what balance of speaking / listening / reading??

I thought an hour and a half of speaking in 3 slots.
I thought maybe three hours of listening, broken into lots of slots
I thought may be three hours of reading ditto

I thought lots of proper breaks for coffee, etc.

I’ll listen to Dutch and Belgian classical music stations when cooking etc.

Now I should say that I am no spring chicken - very far from it. So I don’t have the stamina that I had in my twenties and thirties or even my forties and fifties. Is this ambitious enough, too ambitious… or what?

I can’t believe this won’t move me forward! But what do you professionals think?

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“Max Havelaar is too advanced for me.” Try it! I try to read Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby.

My Dutch just isn’t up to it yet. I just don’t have the vocabulary. I’ve tried the first chapter and it was unbelievably hard work when i was looking up so many new words. More than ten thousand new words in the whole book. Just too much!

You could do an hour of speaking, with tons of listening( Insert how much time you would like to do), and with some reading. On other days you change these proportions to your liking, so it isn’t the same set amount everyday to prevent burnout or stray from the path.

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I really like the idea of varying the proportions of time according to the day. Thank you! I too slightly worry about burnout!! Just have to see how it goes…

Another thought: at home you live in an English ‘immersion’ environment. Would you be happy to have as little input from external sources as we can sometimes have when we potter about?

Your Dutch challenge will be to provide yourself with “active immersion” but keeping it a pleasure by lots of little breaks.

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You could also pick the time of day when to do more challenging activities, that time of day when you feel more on the ball. That helps so much. With writing, it is a great way to experiment with new structures, vocab and it’s a great memorization technique.
Even a quick email or facebook update does the trick. Let us know how it goes, I am so curious, I studied Dutch at college so clearly I am interested in your updates !

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Yes, I completely agree that I need to exclude all English stimulus even though I am at home.

I think this might be easier for me than most. I’m a singlehanded sailor, so I’m used to extended periods depending on only my own resources. If I cut out English for the five days - that’s basically cutting out my social life - this will probably be a lot less of a problem for me than it might be for some people.

I agree too about the lots of little breaks - and the importance of enjoyment. I’m planning at least a quarter an hour every hour… with some longer ones. And I think delicious food (how trivial can you get!)

Yevgueny suggests writing down how each day has gone and I think this is a really good idea (I’m planning to do it with my fountain pen!)

If I allow half an hour for this, it’s eight hours to fit into a perhaps sixteen hour day. Even if I knock off proper work and listen to a Dutch music station for a couple of hours before bed, that’s still a lot of breaks!

I really, really value these suggestions. I feel if I plan this really carefully, it can happen successfully. Hopefully mid February!

Good idea… I can email my pen friend (and first teacher) every day. The bonus is that he always corrects what he gets in Dutch.

I’ll certainly keep you posted on progress! I will admitted to being slightly terrified about what I am planning to bite off. But going public will ensure it happens!

I would suggest not being over ambitious! Try to make it a lifestyle habit. Keep going at a steady pace. I’ve seen too many young, ambitious, talented members here start a project and give up far too easily! I would say, be realistic! You know deep down inside what you can and cannot do. Don’t start and give up! Be realistic, determined and keep to your guns! Don’t be one of those people who can tell you a million ways how not to do it, be one of those you tell you how they did it! It’s OK to think about what you want to do…until it’s time to start doing what you were meant to do. You need to get going and not look back!

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