HOW TO PRACTICE SPEAKING: Learn how to practice speaking Dutch at home!

improve speaking

In a previous blog post and video, we already covered how to improve your listening skills and the difference between active and passive listening. In this post, I want to give you some speaking tips for practicing speaking at home. Yes, it does involve talking to the walls like some crazy person but since you’ve already taken the decision of learning Dutch, it’s also not that crazy. Am I right?

For the last couple of months, I’ve been dropping the occasional “Spreektaal” video, videos in which I talk naturally about a previously determined topic. The way that I make these videos is basically by writing some keywords down that I know I want to discuss and then speaking freely. That’s basically the method that I want to teach you today. Let me walk you through the three-step process of preparing yourself for a good speaking exercise that you can easily replicate at home.

STEP 1: THINK ABOUT A TOPIC / QUESTION

If this is the first time you’re practicing speaking at home, then just think about a simple question or topic that you’ve already covered in class. Here are some ideas which you could use, depending of course on your level:

“Wat zijn jouw plannen voor het weekend?”

“Hoe is jouw agenda volgende week?” 

“Hoe is jouw routine?”

“Hoe is het weer vandaag?”

“Wat heb je gisteren gedaan?”

“Hoe is jouw familie? Hoe ziet jouw vader / moeder eruit? Hoe is hun karakter? Wat doen zij van beroep? Wat doen zij in hun vrije tijd?”

STEP 2: BRAINSTORM 

In this 2nd phase, you can gather relevant vocabulary on the topic you’ve chosen. In this phase, a dictionary is allowed (and encouraged), check out this blog post on how to use a dictionary correctly, where you’ll at the bottom of the page also find some recommendations for dictionaries. Oh and please don’t use Google Translate.

Let’s say that you’ve chosen the topic: “Wat zijn jouw plannen voor het weekend?” Then write down your relevant vocabulary like this:

  • met mijn kinderen spelen 
  • naar televisie kijken
  • met vrienden dineren
  • op zondagmorgen: lang slapen, thuis ontbijten
  • naar een klassiek concert gaan
  • op zondagavond, thuisblijven, mijn kinderen met het huiswerk helpen

STEP 3: SPEAK FREELY

in the beginning, this will be a complicated, difficult jump. Use the notes that you’ve taken during step 2 and try to make simple sentences.

SOME TIPS AND IDEAS

  • Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, you can use linking words like “dan”, “daarna”, or “ten slotte” (finally).
  • You could record yourself and listen back to your own recording to catch any mistakes. The more you do this, the easier it will become for you to spot, hear and ultimately also prevent highly frequent mistakes! 
  • Try to integrate these speaking exercises into your everyday life. Stop for a moment when doing something and think about whether you can describe what you’re doing in Dutch. You could start your day by describing your plan for that day and you could end your day by describing what you’ve done that day using the same notes.
  • You can use this method in a lot of different contexts: e.g. when making a presentation, when describing an article or describing a video (from nedbox.be or one of my Spreektaal videos). Just use the same context, write down the words and then reconstruct the video / article / presentation in your own words.
  • You could also stand in front of the mirror when doing these speaking exercises. Sure, it’s awkward, but learning a language kind of always is.
  • After doing these exercises for a while, you’ll start to get a lot more comfortable speaking Dutch and eventually, you’ll find that your list in step 2 will become shorter since your active vocabulary will grow exponentially. Eventually, you’ll find your own voice. Take your time, be patient, practice every day and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

DON’T EVER DO THIS…

When you want to practice speaking, please do not ever write a text and read it out loud. That’s not gonna help you much with speaking, that’s just gonna help you with pronouncing and, yes, you guessed it, reading out a text out loud. It doesn’t help you training vocabulary actively or thinking about how to use grammar. You’ll never get a feel for how the sentence construction would play out and differ according to each sentence. So if it’s speaking you want, don’t write down a text, but stick to keywords.

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