After I graduated, over15 years ago, I’ve followed countless courses both on- and offline. Even as achild I liked learning new things in my spare time. As an adult it’s different.When your a grown-up, you’re more serious and sometimes you choose with a goalin mind. In the past few years I followed offline courses in sewing,silversmithing, photography, meditating and more. This past Summer I waslooking for something new to learn. I have so many things on my list and Icouldn’t choose. I suddenly found myself looking at language courses. I havealways loved languages. In high school half of my subjects where languages. Notstrange if your goal is to do something with languages and tourism. Now writingis my job. I can speak pretty decent English. I can take care of myself in bothGerman and Spanish. Italian has always appealed to me, but I’m afraid it’s tosimilar to Spanish and I’ll get them confused. Portuguese might be toocomplicated? I’ve studied Japanese for half a year and I know from experience youneed lots of hours to have a chance of learning this complicated (for usWesterners) language. Maybe I should give Danish a try, or have I watched toomany Scandinavian thrillers? I decided to go for Danish. It’s a complete freshstart and if I listen to the characters in the TV series it seems doable andlogical. Good choice?
For a minute I considered getting better at Spanish or German as it bothers me I don’t speak either language very well. In German I can understand people speaking perfectly well and reading in German isn’t a problem but I’m horrible at speaking or writing the language. My Spanish is less well developed but I can easily have simple conversations in Spanish after a few days in the country. With both languages however I have no idea at what level to start again. I have tried starting again before but I started under my level and was soon bored. With a new language you don’t have this problem.
On the one hand starting from scratch seems like a daunting task, on the other hand it’s great to start fresh and with an open mind. As a 40 year old I also found it quite exciting to see how my brain would react to language learning at this age. Would it be just like in high school and would I be memorizing words by heart? And would I remember those words? I’ve always had a really fast short term memory but if I didn’t bother to keep up things would be lost within a week.
If you’re someone with feeling for language then you can probably link the sound of Danish to a number of languages you speak or have heard regularly. It definately makes it easier. I found I hear some German, English, Frysian and other local dialects. The logic is largely the same as Dutch and English. The verbs are easier because they only have one form for each person. The difficulty lies mostly in the fact that the pronounciation of the language has changed significantly over the last 70 years but they did not change the way they write the words they changed. The result is it feels like you’re learning 2 words for every one word: the word you write and the word you pronounce. That can be quite a challenge.
My course is almost finished. This week I have the final class of 12 classes in Beginners I. My brain surprises me continuously. It’s not as difficult as I thought. It’s not that much different from 20 years before. The most difficult part is I forgot how to study. It’s not in my rhythm anymore. I find the pronunciation the most difficult part. And there are some things that you just have to learn by heart like which nouns have ‘en’ as an article and which words ‘et’. Most words are ‘en’ (75 %, so that’s your best guess). After 3 months I’ve made quite a nice start. If I look at my fellow students, all of them between ages 30 and 65, then age doesn’t tell you much. It’s more about affinity, passion and determination.
If you’re looking for something to train your brain, I can definately recommend starting to learn a new language. You have to really like it though. If language is not your thing, there are countless ways to train your brain like for instance computer programming or something like an art history course. When we’ve finished college or university, we often forget our brain. We are often told to take care of our bodies: eat well and do sports but dementia and forgetfulness keep getting a bigger problem. It’s never too early to start!
What I’m going to do when this course is finished? I just signed up for course II because after I got a taste of it, I like it so much I want to continue to learn!
What would you like to learn?