I'm sure many of you who started to learn Dutch online probably began by using a very good and famous app called Duolingo.Even I myself was once addicted to Duolingo. I tried to upgrade my French which I learned back in high school – but due to a lack of French holiday or French friends I dropped off yet again.
I even had some students of mine who learned Duolingo for a year to build up their vocabulary before they contacted me for speaking practice.
However the downsides of Duolingo remain:
- You have no real interaction.
- The words you hear are read by a voice synthesizer
- You don't immediately build a warm relationship with it
- It teaches you weird phrases like: Ik ben een banaan!! Yes very useful indeed *Sarcasme* 😛
- The vocabulary you learn is limited to the creator of the course
- There is only 1 Dutch course on Duolingo
So is learning Dutch online without actual contact with a native speaker possible at all?
According to Marc van Oostendorp, a linguist at the Dutch Meertens Institute, you can only learn a language in interaction. Dutch children who often watch English cartoons do not change overnight in bilingual kids. English is just one-way communication in this situation.
These apps still have their place in learning Dutch online
As someone who used to work as a systemadministrator, I'm still a big fan of gadgets,apps,software and digital books. Anything that can enhance my skills and ease the process of learning a language or expanding my knowledge will get credits from me. While I still believe that real interaction with a native speaker is the most important in learning to apply a language, I think that these apps are still very important tools which will help you with learning. While I'm not a big fan of duolingo, I do highly recommend Memrise which I will explain about in a second.
Memrise is an app, which lets you practice a new language, but it works more with your short and long term memory, and teaches you to memorize new words or characters using tricks. You should see it as follows: First a seed is planted, so you learn a new word. Then you going to use the new words in different ways and repeat, to make the seed grow. And if you have repeated the words often,it should be in your long term memory if it is good. The seed has then become a plant.
Memrise works much more effectively. All new words or phrases that you learn, will make the app display all kinds of tricks and mnemonics, so you can associate these with the words somewhere. So maybe you're longer concerned with every word, but it is more likely that you will truly remember these. This app is something intense, but it will make you do your work better.
Although memrise looks like a language learning app as there are so many. There are some big differences:
- In most language learning apps are there one or several languages which you can learn. The course material is then a large part of the app. Memrise really only provides the way of exercise.
- The actual lists of vocabulary are made by the community and you can choose the lists themselves and downloaded from the site, app or create your own course (vocabulary list) which I highly recommend you do (makes it more relevant for your situation). For example if you had a session with me and learned some new words during conversation, you can put those words in Memrise and practice or drill them so they become part of your long term memory.
- The best is the review part. Because anyone can create wordlists, you can simply make a list of words (or other things) that you need to learn. You can then make the list private or public so that you or other students can also benefit from it. (Unfortunately, you can not make word lists in the app, but only on the website.)
Like I mentioned before Memrise compares the learning of new words with the growth of a plant. First you get to see some of the words from the list (the plant), and then the program lets you practice them (the 'grow').
After a few hours or a few days (depending on how often you've already practiced) the app sends a notification to (water the plants) to make you repeat the words again. This allows the words to arrive in your long-term memory. If this is successful, the plant is fully grown.
Another great feature of memrise is that users can create mnemonics: reminders in the form of memes. It helps to remember difficult words more easily and learn faster. I grab the app if I have to kill time and two weeks later I still know what I've learned.
With memrise I'm sure you found a non-frustrating way for memorizing vocabulary when learning Dutch online.