PM's Target Belgium - Dutch B2 May 2021, French C1 someday

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PeterMollenburg
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PM's Target Belgium - Dutch B2 May 2021, French C1 someday

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:57 am

Well, here it is! My first new log after many years of my dedicated French only mission (with sprinkling of some other languages that didn't last). My old log: PM's French Adventures in the Matrix.

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EDIT: I changed the title of this thread on 15/03/2020 after deciding to drop Norwegian (at least for a good while, ? years?). See page 3 of this blog for details
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A BRIEF BACKGROUND
Early 40s, male, nurse, married to another nurse, Australian, Dutch heritage, raising our children in French only (my wife in English -i.e. one parent, one language at the moment), very keen to live in Europe (but also keeping stong ties to Australia) which has become a family objective, no longer have faith in the accepted norms of society ;) An obsession with West European languages.

TARGET EUROPE?
To live and work as a nurse in Europe with my family - targeting 2022.
Targeting Belgium initially, potentially Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, France (New Caledonia even?) later, who knows.
Spent considerable time in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe with my wife in 2011. Not since returned to Europe.

OBTACLES TO LIVING AND BEING EMPLOYED IN EUROPE
Languages
Languages - French B2 certified (and since gone much beyond B2), no longer an obstacle, can always improve/refine
Dutch - needs much revival, reached B1+ in 2011
Norwegian - currently A0

Obstacles - Visas
Hold EU passport.

Obstacles - Work qualifications/ nursing.
Australian nursing degree not recognised in continental Europe.
Flatly not recognised in France (but can be after working in another EU country)
Initally wanted to target nursing in France, have gradually discovered would rather stab myself in both feet repeatedly and deal with the consequences, as it would likely lead to less frustration and depression than nursing in France.
May need to work in ONE EU country for 3 years continuously before being permitted to move and work as a nurse in another EU country (yet to clarify this).
Belgium puts their nurses through 4 years university education now (was 3 years up until 2018?). Australia 3 years. I'm considering post graduate qualifications here in Australia before going to EU as will diminish risks of being deemed grossly unequal to Belgian standards requring several costly months of education = financially unsustainable (I have to have my Aussie nursing qualifications assessed via Belgian authorities).
Age discrimination - however, nurses are in great shortage in many countries, so hopefully age won't matter.


THE LANGUAGES
High school German (learned little, but loved it. Had to move high schools due to family relocating).
High school French (learned literally a few words because I hated it).
Dabled on and off in French, Spanish, German and Dutch in my 20s and 30s with Dutch reaching highest level followed by FR/ES/DE in that order.
Came to love French, which I once despised and ironically I dind't like Dutch much either when I first heard it spoken.

French
Ah beloved French. Once detested by Mr PM Mollenburg for a good duration of my adolescence, now reveered with much adoration. I take pride in the fact for having trained myself to attain an accent as close as possible to native French (Parisian), but of course it's not perfect and I probably still retain a small accent, as well as having my children consistently communicate with me in French (my daughter 100% of the time). For me, I feel I will improve on my accent further once surrounded by native speakers, as I adapt my production to my input, especially when I'm hearing it spoken in the living home of the language. I will pinpoint the differences in my speach and iron them out. Anyway, I passed B2 at over 80% in 2017 (I think?) and failed C2 a couple of months ago with a pretty abyssmal score (due to my writing predominantly)...

On that note, I went to a French festival yesterday with my family. French music (concert) with some well known French artists, face painting and arts and crafts for kids, French cheese, wine and other such things. In a beautiful big park with large tress, big lawn areas, little ponds etc. A fun day. There, I ran into some Alliance Française teachers. One of them I was inquiring about 2020 childrens classes (in French), said I had a little accent, but she couldn't quite pick it. I said I was Australian. She said, 'No!' and shook my hand and said 'Bravo'. I took this positively, despite my perfectionism wanting to eliminate any trace of non-French accent from my voice box. I then said I wasn't that great, as I failed the C2 in November. She said herself, and pointed out two other French teachers (native speakers) have C1 level, and said, no, C2 is like waaayyyy up there, in terms of academic writing and don't beat yourself up over it. It made me feel better and realise I perhaps should have indeed sat the C1. Of course C2 is possible, but, yeah it made me feel better. Ah, well. No plans to sit any French exam again soon, but you never know. In the meantime, some grammar and vocab study, as well as a good amount of reading, listening and watching on a regular basis.

Dutch
Although my father was born in NL, as relationships were not great between some family members while I was a child and growing up, I never had any exposure to the language. I started to teach myself some perhaps around 2003 at a guess, perhaps reached A2/B1 and stopped. I started again five or six years later and continued with my wife in 2011 in NL. I think I was a solid B1. I'm trying to bring it back now and introduce my children to the language as well.

Norwegian
In line with some of our philosophy behind home schooling, I'm going with my daughter's interest here. She has been keen to learn Norwegian for some time now. Admittedly this marries nicely with my curiousity with the language and appreciation of a democracy that seemingly runs closer to the true definition of a democracy than many other countries throughout the world. Since I'm keen on attempting to get my nursing up and running in Europe, the situation in Norway looks much better than the vast majority of other European countries in terms of working conditions.

Others
My wanderlust went into overdrive in the new year. I opted to study not only French, Dutch and Norwegian, but added Spanish and Arabic as well. It didn't take too long for me to feel like this was too much and cut it back again to FR, NL and NO.

STUDY PLAN?
Focused Grammar/vocab study
Well, I will aim for regular desk study time each day, working my way through courses, word lists and the like. I will share that time between the three languages.

Children's learning
Outside of that, I read regularly in French and Dutch to my kids (I have found French still takes the prize for most time here, as we have many more resources and it's more tiring to read in a language that isn't as transparent yet). I am not up to reading competency yet in NO, but it will feature eventually with the kids.

We are not too keen to use TV too often with the children, but it is present. French will likely also remain the most frequently watched langauge with an aim to increasing Dutch and later Norwegian exposure.

Speaking with the children
It's always been French up to now. I'm trying to introduce Dutch but I"m struggling. I guess it's not such a bad thing to say that I keep reverting to French :lol: Honestly though, my Dutch is not that great yet and it was easier to start with French when my first born was only a baby (I didn't need to explain complex things), and I was studying only French, nothing else.

My entertainment and other activities
French dominates, Dutch second place, Norwegian comes last and as it should as there is little benefit me watching a NO series for example when I struggle to pick out any words. Although, when it comes to listening, I'm currently way ahead in Norwegian over the other two langauges, as it makes sense to work on Pimsleur Norwegian while having a shower, preparing breakfast etc when I cannot really get much out of TV and other more speedier listening styles.
Last edited by PeterMollenburg on Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:04 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby PeterMollenburg » Sat Feb 01, 2020 10:09 am

January '20 in retrospect

Total language learning time: 104 hours, 31 minutes

That's the second best total learning time I've had since getting super serious about learning languages back in 2014. I think three (languages), therefore is a good number for me, and my assumptions that adding new languages other than continuing to go it alone with French appear to be correct - I don't think I'd reach the same numbers with French alone. The total figure above does not include a few hours at the beginning of the month dabbling in Spanish and Arabic on top of the 3 main languages before deciding five languages was too much for me right now.

French
46 hours, 13 min

Plenty of reading with the kids and a good deal of watching of my own series or things with the kids here and there. The odd podcast. Of course fitting in two other languages and having time for other things in life means I'm not doing intensive study as much as I'd like, but I'm not concerned by it. When I do, it's either plodding about with French in Action or reading articles from Bien-dire in order to pick up vocab or idioms I'm not familiar with. Always room for improvement. I said it once that I really like the sound of my own voice when speaking a foreign language and this is emphasized now when I sit down for a French intensive learning session and read articles and feel like my French sounds bloody beautiful (to my ear) and that all the work I've put in has paid off. It's such a beautiful sounding language when one speaks it smoothly and sounds French and one is reading perhaps a nicely written/constructed piece of writing.

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Some weeks ago now my new French-Dutch dictionary arrived. A combination of Le Robert and Van Dale, it's perhaps my favourite dictionary of my big paper dictionaries, and whenever reading with the kids in Dutch lately I'll look up words occasionally using this dictionary and find the French translation. It's also nice that there is IPA for the Dutch entries if I want to double-check the pronunciation and/or stress of unfamiliar words in my lesser known language. It would be great if it had IPA for French too, but as I'm comfortable with the pronunciation of the language for the most part, I don't need it myself. I'm trying to use more paper resources lately where I can. I'm conscious of 'modeling' behaviour around children for one (I'm uncomfortable with the idea of young kids having mobile phones), and I just think it's better for adult brains too to use traditional books in place of electronic devices. Still, I do use plenty of modern technology, but I'm trying (to turn the clock back? :? ).
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Dutch
31 hours, 40 min

I've been plodding along through Hugo's Dutch in 3 Months. As I've completed this course once or twice in years gone by, it's not really difficult. It's a matter of remembering what had been gradually fading away in the memory banks. It's great diving back into a language where everything makes sense, no phonemes pose any problem whatsoever and any study is pretty smooth sailing. Of course there's been one or two grammatical rules I've had to focus on a little bit more, but generally when I do sit down to use the course, I'm moving through it much faster than the 3 months pace, but that's to be expected.

I'm also revising vocabulary with VocabuLearn and reading plenty of Dutch stories to the kids, building up our Dutch library gradually.

Norwegian
26 hours 38 min

None of my language learning activities have been overly consistent, but most days I've done some kind of Norwegian learning. I continue to use Pimsleur Norwegian Level I and Sverre Kouman's 'Learn Norwegian'.

With the latter, I've been going over the first lesson several times, writing what I think I hear, checking against the text, writing the IPA, checking with the IPA in the textbook, and writing translations. Although many of the Norwegian sounds have taken a little bit of getting used to, none of them appear to be particularly problematic as such.

However, one of the sounds: /ʉ/ I'm finding tricky to pinpoint, but I'm expecting I'll nail it in due course and have trust in the process.

What is rather tricky indeed is the tonal system. I'm not convinced I can hear tone that well at all and have been known to have difficulties with it in my adulthood. Again, I expect in time, i'll get some kind of a handle on it. I do like the sound of sing-song tones when listening to the language, and hope that I can sound like that at some point.

Oh and I have kicked back and watched some Norwegian series. I don't count much of this time for learning time, as I simply am not picking up much at all from the listening, but it's nice to just zone out a little sometimes and treat myself to an interesting TV show here or there in a new part of the world, while admittedly, just reading the English subtitles (without them, pffft, i'd be completely lost!).
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby Expugnator » Sat Feb 01, 2020 12:45 pm

You're bold to start with the most challenging textbook for Norwegian, PM. It's also the most complete as well.

I personally like Hugo's Norwegian in Three Months.

Funny how Norwegian seems to have been granted with one textbook of each style, which will probably hold back you textbook mania :D

(EDIT: replaced "at a time" with "of each style" for clarification).
Last edited by Expugnator on Sat Feb 01, 2020 2:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby tungemål » Sat Feb 01, 2020 1:36 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:...
However, one of the sounds: /ʉ/ I'm finding tricky to pinpoint, but I'm expecting I'll nail it in due course and have trust in the process.


In Norwegian there is an important distinction between Y and U, and in my experience just about no foreigners are able to pronounce the Y which is a rare sound.

The U /ʉ/ is not like a German or Spanish U, but I think it sounds the same as British u-sound in "too", "sue" and so on. (Not the American pronunciation).

The Y is sometimes compared to German Ü but this is not accurate I believe. I perceive German Ü (and the French vue) as similar to Norwegian U, and the Y is even more in front.

I would compare the vowels to the German ones like this:

Å - O
O - U
U - no equivalent, but almost Ü
Y - no equivalent, but almost Ü
I - I
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Sat Feb 01, 2020 5:07 pm

Swedish perspective here. I'd say there's a distinction in quality between long and short vowels as well (also in Norwegian). A lot of language courses and/or teachers seem to forget to share that piece of information. To my ears, there's a big difference between the two.

Maybe the Norwegian ʉ is the one which is most similar regardless of length (other than the length itself).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian ... ogy#Vowels
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Norwegian
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_phonology#Vowels )
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Feb 03, 2020 4:19 am

Expugnator wrote:You're bold to start with the most challenging textbook for Norwegian, PM. It's also the most complete as well.

I personally like Hugo's Norwegian in Three Months.

Funny how Norwegian seems to have been granted with one textbook of each style, which will probably hold back you textbook mania :D

(EDIT: replaced "at a time" with "of each style" for clarification).


Some questions if you get a chance to answer them, Expug. Thanks for dropping by, too.

1. Why do you say it is the most challenging textbook?

(I landed upon this textbook for a couple of reasons, the main one being I liked the rather detailed explanations of Norwegian pronunciation).

2. I also own Hugo's Norwegian in Three Months. A quick overview/review/impression on your account might be nice, as I could consider using the course at the same time as Learn Norwegian or jumping over to Hugo for while then coming back to Learn Norwegian. As per usual, I have read the amazon reviews and leafed through the course itself. Did you find Hugo better to start with?

I also own the Assimil course. However, as it does not focus solely on the Oslo dialect, but rather a collection of various dialects (or really pronunciation variants), I thought it was a bad choice to begin with but a great course later on perhaps.
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:15 am

tungemål wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:...
However, one of the sounds: /ʉ/ I'm finding tricky to pinpoint, but I'm expecting I'll nail it in due course and have trust in the process.


In Norwegian there is an important distinction between Y and U, and in my experience just about no foreigners are able to pronounce the Y which is a rare sound.

The U /ʉ/ is not like a German or Spanish U, but I think it sounds the same as British u-sound in "too", "sue" and so on. (Not the American pronunciation).

The Y is sometimes compared to German Ü but this is not accurate I believe. I perceive German Ü (and the French vue) as similar to Norwegian U, and the Y is even more in front.

I would compare the vowels to the German ones like this:

Å - O
O - U
U - no equivalent, but almost Ü
Y - no equivalent, but almost Ü
I - I


Thanks, tungemål. The Learn Norwegian textbook that I've been using has quite a bit of information on pronunciation as far as textbooks go. Often I have found textbooks brush over things pretty quickly with sometimes rough approximations of phonemes without the use of IPA that just don't really cut it for my liking. This one is thorough and certainly provides, in my opinion, what seems to be sufficient information to get the beginning student of Norwegian into the position of pronouncing Norwegian very well, depending on capability and motivation of the student. And it is loaded with IPA, has a good deal of decriptions on tone and stress and continues the use of IPA and tone/stress markers for several lessons into the text. Further in, a simplified system of pronuncation 'indicators' take over from the IPA.

Due to my experience with French (as you mentioned 'vue'), I don't find the /y/ sound difficult in any way. The /ʉ/ feels like it is just a slight tone (or is it pitch?) or two lower than /y/ (i'm no 'linguist', nor have I ever seriously studied music, so that's my best way of describing it) and that's what I have found tricky somewhat as it's so close to /y/ but isn't /y/. However, in the last couple of days alone, I feel like this sound is settling in as I practise more and hear more examples.

In general, I find when I learn new trickier sounds that they remain in a position somewhat akin to extremely slow setting concrete for some time until I've done enough shadowing, repitition, reflexion, drills, reading descriptions of tongue/mouth position etc for the me to feel that it's time to 'lock in' the sound and let the concrete gradually harden as my confidence regarding the particular phoneme increases. However, I remain open to modifying any potential incorrect production and thus I am always on the look out for subtle differences between myself and natives with regards to any phonemes, which I attempt to correct through the course of my learning and exposure. For Norwegian it seems, I have to be even more flexible and expect to hear quite varied pronunciation throughout the dialects that criss-cross the country. This is perhaps both a tricky aspect and an aspect that provides some flexibility within certain parameters.
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Feb 03, 2020 7:21 am

jeff_lindqvist wrote:Swedish perspective here. I'd say there's a distinction in quality between long and short vowels as well (also in Norwegian). A lot of language courses and/or teachers seem to forget to share that piece of information. To my ears, there's a big difference between the two.

Maybe the Norwegian ʉ is the one which is most similar regardless of length (other than the length itself).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian ... ogy#Vowels
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA/Norwegian
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_phonology#Vowels )


I shall keep this in mind Jeff (the long/short vowel distinction). Fortunately on the bottom link for Swedish phonology the /ʉ/ sounded as I expected, so I must be getting somewhere! Cheers ;)
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby Expugnator » Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:43 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:
Some questions if you get a chance to answer them, Expug. Thanks for dropping by, too.

1. Why do you say it is the most challenging textbook?

(I landed upon this textbook for a couple of reasons, the main one being I liked the rather detailed explanations of Norwegian pronunciation).

2. I also own Hugo's Norwegian in Three Months. A quick overview/review/impression on your account might be nice, as I could consider using the course at the same time as Learn Norwegian or jumping over to Hugo for while then coming back to Learn Norwegian. As per usual, I have read the amazon reviews and leafed through the course itself. Did you find Hugo better to start with?

I also own the Assimil course. However, as it does not focus solely on the Oslo dialect, but rather a collection of various dialects (or really pronunciation variants), I thought it was a bad choice to begin with but a great course later on perhaps.


Sorry for the delay, Peter. I didn't want to reply in a rush.

1. It's the most challenging because it is the most comprehensive one. It shows detailed IPA, it has long dialogues. If you're coming to Norwegian with no passive vocabulary background, you'll find too many words per new lesson. That is demotivating for me. it doesn't explain grammar that clearly, some issues are simplified while others are overlooked. It's the type of book I prefer to reserve for when things are getting serious. I can get an overview of the A1 (and A2) level(s) from books I wouldn't fear "wasting", books I know I'll go through which will just give me the minimal information for that level. That allows me to get to the most serious textbooks and take the most out of them, instead of expecting them to tell me about everything under that CEFR level.

2. Hugo is way better than the average TY/Colloquial in my opinion. It just looks more serious and it empowers the learner. It gives you translation, pronunciation, relevant exercises. It won't expect you to learn early vocabulary through dumb exercises that imitate crosswords. The dialogues are more relevant and realistic too. It's much lighter in information than Klouman's, another reason it works as a great intro.

Assimil Norwegian is one of the Assimils I dislike the most. The various accents don't bother me, it's their vocabulary choice. It goes way too much into the humor/obscure vocabulary for my practical taste. If I take a random lesson from the second half of the book now it will probably still look harder with a higher new-word density than a page from a novel by Tom Egeland.
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Re: PM's Target Europe (French, Dutch, Norwegian)

Postby Mista » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:22 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:
tungemål wrote:The Y is sometimes compared to German Ü but this is not accurate I believe. I perceive German Ü (and the French vue) as similar to Norwegian U, and the Y is even more in front.

Due to my experience with French (as you mentioned 'vue'), I don't find the /y/ sound difficult in any way. The /ʉ/ feels like it is just a slight tone (or is it pitch?) or two lower than /y/ (i'm no 'linguist', nor have I ever seriously studied music, so that's my best way of describing it) and that's what I have found tricky somewhat as it's so close to /y/ but isn't /y/. However, in the last couple of days alone, I feel like this sound is settling in as I practise more and hear more examples.


The Norwegian "y" is in fact so special that they can't classify it properly with the standard set of parameters normally used in phonology. The main difference between "u" and "y" is in the type of rounding. "u" has normal rounding of the lips, but to pronounce a "y", you have to round your lips outwards. One thing that makes this a bit easier than some other weird language sounds, however, is that the difference is clearly visible when you watch someone saying the sounds, so if you have access to a native speaker, I recommend that you ask that person to pronounce those two sounds while watching closely, and then try to imitate. If you don't, maybe you can find something useful on a video.

The French "u" has the same lip rounding as the Norwegian one, but is, as you have already pointed out, more fronted. The "y" and "i" in Norwegian has approximately the same fronting (but with a difference between long and short vowels). The lip rounding found in the Norwegian (and Swedish) "y" is, as far as I know, a very special Scandinavian specialty, not even found in Danish or Icelandic (any more).
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