Mastering a language

I know that this topic has been touched many times across this forum and many others but I’d like to start this thread because I’m looking for some advice and practical things I can do.

I’ve been learning Dutch for a little under three years now. As the first language I’ve studied in which I’ve made good progress, it’s really satisfying when I can read and listen to most things things effortlessly and finally, that I am able to speak at a high enough level where I can get my ideas across most of the time. I’ve only done around 18 hours of speaking, so I know that I’ve got a lot more room for improvement in this aspect of the language, but I’m more than willing to make that effort.

Now, I would like to move the language to a whole new level. I would like to develop a much greater precision so that I can use it in a professional setting. I still listen and read, learning new words and idioms, but I don’t feel like I’m progressing much any more.

What should I do to really develop a near-native ability in the language? What have others done to achieve the same? I’m not able to go to the country because of a lack of funds but I do know that that would be most helpful. Should I, at this stage, do a thorough grammatical analysis of the language to try and iron out some of my weaknesses? Perhaps books on idioms? Translating?

Thanks for any suggestions.

I’ve watched thousands of hours of Dutch television. That’s not what I’m after. Thanks anyway Vonk.

How much listening have you been doing? I feel listening without visual cues is really helpful and I particularly try to focus on colloquial terms in the languages where I cannot go to the country as they are the ones you mostly miss out on. I have a kind of recording device inside my head that enables me to remember stuff I have heard and spew it out later. What kind of learner are you - right brain or left brain? Auditive, visual etc?

@Imyirtseshem What native speakers normally do a lot in their native languages and what you almost don’t is actually… speaking.

@Imyirtseshem: I agree that it would be very interesting to hear some thoughts on the point you’ve raised. It’s always been my goal to master a language (although I suppose that it’s more like a never-ending journey) and not just to be able to communicate my thoughts in a “crude” (for a lack of a better word in my repertoire - you see, just what we’re talking about!) way. I’m fully aware that we’re in the minority, because a large number of language learners are satisfied as soon as they’re able to get their message across. Rarely do they focus on the finer details and nuances of the language, because simply “it’s not necessary” or “it doesn’t improve further their ability to communicate”. I can’t help gritting my teeth when somebody claims to be a fluent in a language, but can’t get their spelling right or makes common mistakes all the time. I don’t want to sound superior or preachy, because I make mistakes too (although I work actively on perfecting my languages), but it has never occurred to me to say or think “I know English” and just rest on my laurels. Being a perfectionist is a mixed blessing, I guess, because I sometimes get frustrated at not being fluent enough. By the way, I love reading about grammar and it certainly helps in perfecting one’s language (you can learn a lot about different nuances of certain tenses, moods, aspects etc), but how can this knowledge be transferred into active skills? Do you also suggest that reading and listening extensively (and being attentive to all details) is not enough at this stage?

I believe any kind of activity with the language that somehow pushes you outside your comfort zone is bound to help you improve. I have yet to reach a C2 level in a language other than English (which I studied at University level) so I’m at a loss as to how to go about reaching such a level on your own.

I believe you should taylor your studies according to what sort of professional activity you’re aiming at. If it’s translation, practice translating, and try and learn the tricks of the trade with other translators.

In college, I studied lots of grammar, phonetics, literature, and it was very enriching. You could do all of that on your own, if it’s your kind of thing.

If you’re interested in coloquial everyday communication, you can just dive into a Dutch forum or discussion board about your favorite subjects. Given time, that will definitely give you a great familiarity with the informal variety of the language, unless you choose a very formal discussion setting.

Anyway, using the language everyday as you’d use your own is a great way to improve. Read a lot and write a lot, interact and learn, keep listening intensely and extensively, choosing gradually harder materials.

As far as speaking goes, you need to practice regularly. Just go to one of the conversation exchange sites or arrange conversations here at LingQ. English is one of the easiest languages to find an exchange for, I suppose.

To master a language may be impossible however the pursuit of mastery is laudable and requires a lot of speaking, and if we want to master writing, a lot of writing. After you accumulate your language potential through lots of reading and listening and the odd bit of grammar review, you really need to use the language a lot, in order to raise it to the next level, in my experience.