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Inhaling Belgium

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Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 1 of 116
01 May 2013 at 6:58pm | IP Logged 
EDIT 25.1.2015: Super Challenge starts here.

........................................................
How glad I am to have found this forum! After having gone through a lot of useful informaton and resources provided here, I feel ready to start my own log.

Though sharing your passion for foreign languages, I have given other projects in my live far higher priority after school time. Using English for my work on a daily base, I feel quite secure in this wonderful language. Other languages, well...I have some sort of on-off relationships with French and Dutch, and quit learning Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek about 20 years ago. Sometimes I have felt miserable about having given up this passion.

This is now about to change. In a few weeks time, I will move to Belgium, starting a new career, and I have decided that this will be my chance to finally achieve advanced fluency in both French and Dutch, while pushing my English a bit as well. This will be a unique possibility to absorb those languages and a new culture; I am so excited!

Inspired by the "Super Challenge" in this forum, I have compiled a list with some ambitious goals that I would like to attempt before eventually leaving this fascinating country. I hope they'll take my a huge step forward.

Here we go:

French
1) learn 6'900 new words
2) learn 6'000 phrases
3) study 1'443 pages of text books and exercise material
4) read 30'000 pages
5) listen for 30'000 minutes
6) write 300'000 words
7) have 20'000 minutes of conversation

Dutch
1) listen for 20'000 minutes
2) read 10'000 pages
3) write 100'000 words
4) do grammar exercises for 60'000 minutes
5) learn 5'000 phrases
6) 10'000 minutes of conversation

English
1) listen for 30'000 minutes
2) read 10'000 pages
3) learn 1'000 new words
4) learn 2'000 new phrases
5) do grammar exercises for 3'000 minutes

Wish me luck!

Edited by Suzie on 25 January 2015 at 12:16am

3 persons have voted this message useful



Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 2 of 116
01 May 2013 at 10:48pm | IP Logged 
French

As I will move to Wallonia, French will be my main TL over the next weeks. Therefore, the start of the 6 week challenge is perfectly in line with my goals....I am happy to join.

Still struggling at a lower intermediate level, I have focused on doing vocabulary today, and on listening to an episode of Grey's Anatomy, with French subtitles added. Otherwise I wouldn't understand anything....Every now and then, I look up a new word, add it to my list, and drill some flash cards before returning to the video. I am wondering if I understand more after having completed the whole season....

I have also tested Anki today. It seems to be a nice, flexible software; however, I am not yet sure whether it really fits to me.


1 person has voted this message useful



Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 3 of 116
03 May 2013 at 10:30pm | IP Logged 
The day before yesterday I started the 6 Week Challenge, and it motivates me quite a lot to intensify my French studies. In the past two days, I drilled lots and lots of flash cards, watched several episodes of Grey's Anatomy, wrote a short text in French, and even had a one-hour conversation - with myself!

Everything is still hard work though.

French and me...
I want to let you know what I meant with "on-off-relationship"in my first post, and why I claim to love languages, but never bothered to become fluent in French.

We've had a complex relationship so far, and it's my goal to make this a love story with a happy ending.

At school, I learnt English as a first foreign language and Latin as a second one. When I was fourteen, I started to take evening classes in Italian, which I really loved. At that time I discovered that I have some natural skills to learn languages.

At the age of fifteen, I had the choice to take French classes at school. I didn't. I wanted to become a scientist at that time, and by thinking - hey, shouldn't be any problem to teach French yourself! - I took science classes instead, purchased French study material, started learning, and actually succeeded...After two years I could attend a student exchange programme in France, being able to communicate with native speakers. That was so awesome!

Thrilled as I was, I now wanted to study French instead of science, and as a first step I wanted to join the other students in the Advanced French class, but wasn't allowed to do so. So I chose Advanced Chemistry classes instead of Advanced French and took a beginner's class in French to improve my grammar and conversation skills. Yeah, I really liked chemistry as well. It took me years to realise that even though I loved languages, I loved science even more. I somehow also realised that it might be easier to live as a multilingual scientist than being a linguist with science as a hobby.

During university, I actually forgot most of my French. Nearly ten years later, though, I started a new job in a partly francophone environment, recovering my language skills. But before achieving the fluency I had always dreamed of, I quit the job, changing to a Japanese company instead. That was six years ago. During that time, family matters dominated my private life, and again, I forgot a lot....

Just some months ago, I realised that my choice not to start French class at the age of fifteen influenced my life as no decision has ever done since. Had I started French, I would have taken Advanced French a few years later, never taken chemistry, never become a scientist.

This is why I am so excited to finally not having any other chance than learning French and becoming fluent! I finally can have everything: both science and French!


Edited by Suzie on 04 May 2013 at 9:33pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 4 of 116
04 May 2013 at 9:30pm | IP Logged 
I signed up for a "Half Super Challenge" today!

I realised that if I don't understand what I'm told, then it really doesn't matter how well I speak. As I would like to improve my oral comprehension as quickly as possible, I think the best I could do is watching 100 films (or in my case: numerous episodes of dubbed TV series with subtitles..) as quickly as possible. The thing is....I expect the first weeks of July to be quite intense. A new job, a new home, so many things to organise, and then this language...Some years ago I worked at Geneva for a couple of weeks. I knew the people, I knew the job, I had a pleasant and relaxing time. But the language...Wow, it was so exhausting to be exposed to French!

So I am fearing that - having also access to German TV and BBC, I will avoid to watch francophone television at night just because I am too tired to concentrate. And I hope attending the challenge will motivate me to switch to the right programme.

I also drilled some flash cards today, and started to read a "Lernkrimi" for learners at A2. Having had estimated my French skills as B1 before, I am now realising that it is A2 really. Hope I can revise my self-assessment very soon.





1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 3104 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 5 of 116
04 May 2013 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
Whereabouts in Wallonia are you planning to move? I had more or less the same experience
as you; I took French in school but found out when I went to spend time in Belgium that
it didn't really suffice for much (and given that I'm Dutch and most of my time was spent
in Brussels, I could get away with that). I'm also a scientist and have a bachelor's
degree in chemical engineering :)

My experience is that once you remove all other languages from sight and just speak
French, that solves the problem.
1 person has voted this message useful



Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 6 of 116
05 May 2013 at 9:25am | IP Logged 
Hi Tarvos, fellow chemist!

I'll work in Hainaut, but I don't have any apartment so far, so I might well live in Wallon-Brabant or close to Brussels instead.

Removing all other languages from sight....well, my French is not at all sufficient to work in my future job. Only English was a prerequisite; the fact that I speak both some French and Dutch was considered....nice to have. In reality, however, there will be a lot of French at work, at least during the coffee and lunch breaks.

So, Brussels! Every time I've been to Brussels I felt that even though it is claimed to be a bilingual city, it's far more French than Dutch spoken there, at least in the city centre. I never succeeded so well with my Dutch there...Now you are mentioning the opposite - did you work in the centre, or in the outer Brussel region?

And with Dutch as your native language - do you think "Flemish" as such exists? I have heard so many varying and contradictory opinions on the differences between Dutch and Flemish; I am curious to learn your view, having lived in both the Netherlands and Belgium.







1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 3104 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 7 of 116
05 May 2013 at 10:11am | IP Logged 
Suzie wrote:


So, Brussels! Every time I've been to Brussels I felt that even though it is claimed to
be a bilingual city, it's far more French than Dutch spoken there, at least in the city
centre. I never succeeded so well with my Dutch there...Now you are mentioning the
opposite - did you work in the centre, or in the outer Brussel region?


I worked for a Flemish scientific governmental organisation. In other words, my job was
basically to do research for the Flemish government. So yes, my job was in Dutch when I
interned there for those two months. I didn't live there in the years before, but I
commuted back and forth because I was in a relationship at the time.

There's indeed a lot more French going on in Brussels, I think about 80% of the city
works on that, but anything in stores and such you can do in Dutch usually (especially
at stations) although most people will hate the shit out of you if you do. I always
attempted French first before I switched. With my ex-girlfriend (who is not Belgian)
the common language we had was English, so with her (and her international friends) I
spoke English. When I lived there I lived in a tiny-ass attic apartment in Brussels,
and there my flatmates were French. So I did, eventually, learn.

Overall, I would say that French is more useful, but in all official departments you
*should* be able to get by in Dutch. But yeah, they don't always like it.

Quote:
And with Dutch as your native language - do you think "Flemish" as such exists?
I have heard so many varying and contradictory opinions on the differences between
Dutch and Flemish; I am curious to learn your view, having lived in both the
Netherlands and Belgium.


Well, this is a contentious question. Keep in mind I am Dutch here. The situation is
this: Dutch has a Taalunie which is officially composed of three membership states:
Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname (Antilles are counted as Netherlands as they are
officially a part of our kingdom I think. And what happened to Aruba I don't know).
Thus, we have a central regulatory unit, and in writing, all Dutch is one and the same.

HOWEVER: The regulations do stipulate that Belgians (and Surinamese, but I have no
experience with that variant) can use their own local words instead of the Dutch. So in
formal writing you will encounter a lot of sidewalk/pavement situations. These words
are what give you away as a Flemish person in writing. The grammar nor the spelling
change, it's a matter of vocabulary. The pronunciation of the standard language by a
Belgian will also vary (Dutch also has a standard pronunciation, and so does
Surinamese). This vocabulary-modified variant with a Belgian pronunciation you could
call "Flemish", but that doesn't reflect the situation very well.

The problem is really that Belgium adheres to a lot of "tussentaal" when they speak.
Actually in the Netherlands this happens as well, but to a much lesser extent, and it's
all connected with the fact that in both countries using dialect is common. In the
Netherlands this has evened out somewhat (although you will still hear dialect in
certain areas amongst older generations, and the native pronunciations are retained,
making it very easy for a speaker to distinguish the origin of that person). In Belgium
dialects have a stronger position, and what people speak at home, even youth, is nearly
always dialect within town but tussentaal (a sort of lightly modified standard
language) to everybody else. Even in this tussentaal you will find deviations from the
written language, like the use of gij/ge/u vs jij/je (this latter one is a part of the
area above the rivers, as we call it - Brabant shares its use of gij/ge with Belgium).

However, Flemish itself is a misnomer because what people actually speak is their town
dialect (Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Dendermonde, Sint-Niklaas, Hasselt, Overpelt,
whatever). That is a Flemish dialect, but it's not unified at all. Those actual
dialects are incomprehensible without exposure, speaking a standard Flemish or a
tussentaal is not, provided you know when they're using their sidewalk to your
pavement.

So Dutch is a centralised language, officially, but in common parlance pronunciation
and accent and grammar vary so widely (across BOTH countries I should add - there are
plenty Dutch dialects that are incomprehensible if you have no exposure) that you can
encounter a wide, wide range of speakers. Fortunately, the tendency with outsiders is
to use a standardised Dutch with local pronunciation, as an outsideр you will rarely
hear dialect, it's not intended for use with people from out of town (and I don't hear
it either unless it's family or good friends or I've lived in town x for 25 years).

So no, Flemish as a separate language does not exist. Flemish dialects do. Whatever the
Belgians may tell you.

Edited by tarvos on 05 May 2013 at 10:19am

14 persons have voted this message useful



Suzie
Diglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 2626 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 
 Message 8 of 116
05 May 2013 at 10:38pm | IP Logged 
Tarvos, thank you so much for this so detailed, clear and interesting answer! I had never heard of the term "tussentaal" before. What you described, is roughly in line with what I experienced myself. I learned Dutch during a semester at Gent, and I am still told by all Flemish I meet that the core of my spoken Dutch is still "Gents" indeed. Where Dutch have this guttural "ch", it seems to be softer throughout Belgium, but at Gent is only aspirated. It took me weeks of intense training to learn that.

Funnily, our professor claimed that the main difference between Dutch and Flemish is the use of words adapted from French. She explained that the Flemish, intending to demarcate their language, replaced French words with newly created Dutch words (e.g. instead of "étalage", they use "uitstelraam"), whereas the Dutch use far more francophone words.

Some years later, I then heard the exact opposite from a Dutch teacher from the Netherlands: that - due to the strong bilingual influence in Belgium - Flemish contains more francophone words...so weird....but I guess the correct situation is described by a combination of the two?

My last days were quite intense...this night I even dreamed in French. Since Wednesday, I've had four hours a day of training on an average, mainly watching Grey's Anatomy and drilling flash cards. feeling more comfortable and confident after 9 hrs of watching, I tried to listen to some training material from Berlitz tonight. Wow. I indeed understood something, but when it came to the section when questions were asked on the presented text, I failed completely. And intense it was...after only 15 minutes, I felt so exhausted and needed a break before continuing. After repeating the phrases on and on, I finally managed around 50 %. Fine, intense is good. Challenge is good. Sometimes. I'll keep watching videos with subtitles, having an enormous amount of videos at home, and use the Berlitz audio material from time to time.


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