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Studying Dutch at the University of Antwerp

09 Sep

… can be really intensive. And I must admit that I like it. The course is organized by Linguapolis, the institute for languages and communication, and now I’m attending Level 1. My knowledge of English and German can be very helpful sometimes, however it can also be a hindrance because my mind and tongue try to say those things in English or German (which can be very similar to Dutch in some cases).

Guess from which book this page is

Guess from which book this page is



It’s been just 5 days but I can see that the programme developed by Linguapolis is very sophisticated in terms of instructional design. Not only our instructor is very experienced and hard-working but also the techniques used by her include very important elements that utilize many aspects of linguistic / cognitive capacities of human brain. Among many things these are the points that I deem very important during the process (not only in language learning but for other kinds of learning, too):

  • People are generally more talented (linguistically) than they think. Force them to grasp the meaning from the cues embedded in the environment and the body language.
  • Explicit rules are out of fashion. Just give people what they want: the language they can use to describe something and ask some questions. Grammar comes much later, first practice, then practice and only after that theory. Just a little bit.
  • People get bored easily. Especially when their age are between 17 and 55. But for intensive training you need long lessons. How to prevent distraction and keep concentration? Make big changes.
  • People like games. And competition. And trivias. Use teamwork. Create groups and let them compete by answering trivias in Dutch. And let the fun begin! 😉
  • Human brain is very good with pattern recognition and completion. So first provide a linguistic pattern completely. Then gradually fade out the signal. And let the students find the missing pieces. Yes, this really works in practice.
  • People like to help each other. Let the students help each other. Let them more than want to help each other. This works, too.
University of Antwerp - City Campus 1

University of Antwerp - City Campus 1

And now some demographic and statistical info about my class: 15 people from all of the continents except Australia. My classmates are from Congo, Poland, China, Italy, USA, North Ireland, Czech Republic, Greece, Peru, Iran, Iraq, Romania, Uzbekistan, and Senegal. Ages vary between 17 and 55. We have a pilot in the class (yes, she is a real pilot, those who fly big jets) along with engineers, teachers, musicians, students, etc. I’m glad that most of the are highly motivated, intelligent, speak 2 languages at least and ready to help each other.

Insight inside?

Insight inside?

It is also a great experience to be at the city campus of University of Antwerp which has a very old and grand architecture along with modern buildings full of art. A surprising fact for me was that the author of the famous Drupal content management system, Dries Buytaert is from the computer science department of the University of Antwerp.

Here are some more photos from University of Antwerp, Linguapolis and on my way to my Dutch course:

Do you like opera?

Do you like opera?

With such a nice programme?

With such a nice programme?

A nice strip on the wall at the corner of Paradijs Straat

A nice strip on the wall at the corner of Paradijs Straat

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12 Comments

Posted by on September 9, 2009 in General

 

12 responses to “Studying Dutch at the University of Antwerp

  1. Mehmet S. Catalbas

    September 9, 2009 at 22:47

    Great post, encouraged me in my struggle to learn a new language as well.

    Could you name any books that specifically dwell on language learning (how could you pick up expressing yourself in a new way, how brain functions in the meantime etc.) or recommend best practices regarding that? — Shouldn’t be language specific though 🙂

    “Explicit rules are out of fashion. Just give people what they want: the language they can use to describe something and ask some questions. Grammar comes much later, first practice, then practice and only after that theory. Just a little bit.”

    And still I’m not very well convinced with this argument. (This is the new trend of most language schools nowadays imho.) This should be *still* highly tightly coupled to _your_ way of learning. What if you’re an analytical learner and can’t help yourself out? Can we expect a computer scientist, pilot, housewife learn how to play a guitar using the same patterns a jazz guitarist masters? How would each individual benefit those patterns and how? But this might be a whole different topic…

    And may the force be with you on learning Dutch!

     
  2. myavuzselim

    September 9, 2009 at 23:05

    Ik wens je veel plezier met Nederlands. Groeten.

     
  3. Emre Sevinc

    September 9, 2009 at 23:44

    Mehmet,

    I had both styles applied to me. I had been given explicit rules (when I tried to learn German at high school, as for English, the case was a little bit mixed). Now I have another approach. And I can say that I feel much more comfortable with this approach because it is much more empowering and the results can be seen in short time.

    For your guitar playing analogy, we should be careful because guitar playing is not an innate ability, babies don’t learn to play guitar at their birth. However we all start to learn language so this can be considered an innate ability. Maybe that’s why I like this new approach more because it seems more in line with what we all met as babies thus more smooth. This, by no means should lead to denying theory, grammar, rules, etc. It is a matter of delicate balance.

    PS: I have very analytical friends (one of them wrote an MS thesis in English) who are very good with rules however they may have real hard time speaking the language whose rules they have tried to master for a very long time. So maybe this kind of approach I have mentioned is better for those learners, too.

     
  4. Emre Sevinc

    September 9, 2009 at 23:48

    M. Yavuz,

    Dank je wel 🙂 Ik heb veel plezier inderdaad.

     
  5. Mehmet S. Catalbas

    September 10, 2009 at 00:04

    Emre,

    It is true that they’re trying to imitate the same process we had been exposed when we were all babies. Still, I’m trying to dig deeper scientifically into this one, cause if this is by far the ‘best’ approach there should be researches on it. Also, when we were babies our brains have the capacity to wire up enormous amount of new neurons, not also for language acquisition but frankly for the cognition of everything surrounding us. Hence, comparing it directly with an adult learning experience is also somewhat misleading. But I agree with you, probably it’s just a matter of delicate balance.

    As far as I can see, the two methods we mentioned here are called nativism vs. empiricism in language acquisition theories. Maybe I should start reading up on that 🙂

     
  6. Emre Sevinc

    September 10, 2009 at 00:18

    Mehmet,

    Do not belittle adult brains in terms of plasticity 😉

    I wish our brains were very powerful rule crunching machines who were deeply analytical and taking rules one by one and processing them without any problems. Except a CS professor of mine, I haven’t seen with a brain like that. (Ok, maybe even Prof. Dr. Cem Say is not perfect, who knows 🙂

    Let me give you an example: Have you ever looked at an interlaced image. Some web pages include those images. You do not see the image formed from top to bottom or vice versa but in that fashion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interlacing_%28bitmaps%29

    That means you have a rough understanding of the image very fast and then the details are filled in slowly. So similar to that I say, please give me the big picture first and then help me fill in the details.

    I don’t say the current approach is the best approach, that would be an exaggeration. However I have seen this to be a far better approach then what I had back then, about 17-18 years ago.

    If I had to name the styles I would call one of them symbolic rule based approach and the other one case-based reasoning approach (borrowing terms from AI, unfortunately).

    For the research part, unfortunately I don’t know the best books in the field of second language acquisition, I was more on the side of cognitive science and linguistics in general. But I’ll let you know if I find one.

     
  7. Mehmet S. Catalbas

    September 10, 2009 at 00:32

    Emre,

    I think I got the ‘big picture’ after your interlacing image example 🙂

    I’m also a CS major, so I roughly get your point of naming methodologies as well.

    I’d be glad for a guidance, thanks for the conversation so far!

     
  8. Emre Sevinc

    September 10, 2009 at 08:19

    Mehmet,

    The pleasure is mine and you’re welcome. Thank you for your contributions via comments.

     
  9. Mehmet

    September 10, 2009 at 12:32

    Uzatamadan merak ettiğimi sorayım: Neden Hollandaca?

     
  10. Emre Sevinc

    September 10, 2009 at 18:16

    Mehmet,

    Belçika’da yaşıyorum, o yüzden Hollandaca.

     
  11. jan cif

    August 29, 2012 at 23:19

    please tell me more about your experience in immersive dutch course at Linguapolis?I am thinking to get it..
    met vriendelijke groeten

     

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