Listening to Dutch B1 – Top five tips help to reach your goal: a permanent residence permit – or simply, better Dutch. Up to 2022, the level of the Civic Integration Exam was A2. Depending on education level, it could be required in less than a year. However, from 2023 on, even highly educated people should count with a year to reach level B1. Integrate learning the new language into your daily life – these Top five tips show you how.
Estimated reading time 7 minutes
Margreet Kwakernaak, author of Dutch for Dummies and 7 other Dutch language textbooks
Listening to Dutch at level B1 – Top tips on vocabulary
Words are the basics of language – vocabulary expansion should be as logical as sleeping
Listening to Dutch at level B1- Vocabulary: acquiring your 4400 words –Top tip 1
Level B1 requires 4400 Dutch words. The Delft method is the shortest route, but there are alternatives. Take a look at Word learning: make it part of your daily life for a slower and more natural way of learning.
Being open to words you come across is the foundation of natural language learning.
As a consequence, even native speakers continue learning new words. Some reach a vocabulary of over 50:000.
The more words you know, the easier you remember new ones. Usually, a native speaker knows the word family already, and that new family member matches like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
That’s why the hardest part is at the beginning of learning the new language: every word is new. However, when you speak a language that is related to the new language, you have an anchor to tie the new words. As you may know, German and English are closely related to Dutch. So, when listening and reading carefully, you’ll recognize parts of the words. Some guessing does part of the rest. Only after you have observed and pondered the new word, do you look up the word. After that, its meaning is no surprise – or it is! You may have guessed wrong- and the better you’ll remember the new word.
Overall, when you think over a word before you look it up, remembering it will be much easier.
In Dutch B – how to reach you read more about the four other language skills at language level B1.
Vocabulary: Use your words – Top tip 2
In the beginning, don’t learn words that do not interest you. Just start with the ones you need most and that interest you most. And, once they are in your written or spoken notebook: use them! How to remember words: the seven steps explains the functioning of your short and long memory and how to use them effectively.
Additionally, it may comfort you to know that you must know 4400 words passively – and not all of them actively. This means that you must have mastered the meaning of 4400 words when reading or hearing them. However, you don’t need that many when speaking at level B1.
Unfortunately, language experts are not clear about how many words you should know when speaking at level B1. The only thing they agree on is that all language skills are acquired through the activity itself: speaking by speaking, listening by listening, reading by reading, and writing by writing. Words and grammar are accessories: they are not the ultimate goal, but help you when exercising the skill itself.
Resuming: activate your vocabulary by using it – if necessary by talking to yourself.
Listening to Dutch B1- Top tips on listening
Make listening to Dutch your second new routine – Top tip 3
Ears and eyes are our best allies in learning a new language – be it Dutch or any other. How does a baby learn to say ‘mama’? A baby listens to the word, watches the required mouth movements, and finally imitates what he is hearing and seeing. That’s the natural way of learning! Takes a long time though, but even with the most advanced methods, language learning takes years.
By the way – why do some students believe that you can learn listening only from listening exercises? Or that understanding means that you understand each word? Outdated language learning methods made them believe that. Forget that idiotic assumption, and keep your ears and eyes open! When you are in the Netherlands, Dutch is everywhere, when you are learning Dutch in a non-Dutch environment, the internet is there, 24 hours per day.
Listen informally, making as many listening miles as you can. You can do that whilst you are organizing the kitchen, running, or some other activity that goes well with listening. Instead of being frustrated that you don’t understand, set realistic goals. The first may be: being able to pick up words like Ja, nee, goedemorgen, dank je wel.
The second may be: picking up international words like : internationaal, president, democratie, unie, socialistische partij, Verenigde Naties, Verenigde Staten, Oekraïne.
Understanding Dutch B1- Verbonden Taal – Top tip 4
You may have noticed that the Dutch that you hear in the streets, on talk shows, and when your colleagues are joking, sounds different from the Dutch in courses. Though educational authors do their utmost to write realistic dialogues, those dialogues hardly ever sound realistic. Mostly they are read from a paper by voice actors who do their best to speak clearly and not too fast.
On the contrary, in real life, you hear people say things like hoelawakhier, hoeissie? and komgoed. On paper, these sentences would look like this: Hoe laat was ik hier? (At what time did I arrive), Hoe is het? (How are you?) and Het komt goed (Everything will be OK). Voice actors in language courses, pronounce each part of a word and avoid verbonden taal (connected language).
At the moment that I am teaching, I will say: de buurvrouw is terug van vakantie, ik heb vanochtend even met haar gepraat. On the contrary, when talking with a Dutch friend, I say Debuufistrugfanfekantie, kebfenogton efe medrgpraat.
Swallowing (not pronouncing) unstressed parts of the word and connecting all stressed parts are common in spoken Dutch. But, how can a newcomer get used to this phenomenon? By listening to common spoken Dutch – in the street, in the gym, your children when they talk with Dutch friends. All places where Dutchmen meet are great occasions to overhear them talking.
Listening to Dutch B1 at the exam – Top tip 5
Up to now, the listening part of the B1 exam does not resemble real life at all. Though exam makers do use real-life interviews as a base, they adjust the texts to the exam.
In the first place, professional language is replaced by more common terms. Exam makers make sure that all words belong to the B1-domain of the 4400 most used words in Dutch. Secondly, the redacted interviews are read from a paper. Though speakers may have a slight regional accent, they pronounce Dutch well. As they speak quietly, the use of verbonden taal is restricted.
Consequently, when you have mastered your 4400 words and done your street homework well, understanding Dutch B1 at level B1 in the exam is no problem.
On the contrary, for the occasion of the exam, you must require some new skills concerning the questions and the answers. Recognizing keywords and analyzing question types, are the most important ones. In one of our next blogs, we will zoom in on specific exam skills.
- Be open to new words
- Make your vocabulary active by talking to yourself
- Listen whenever and wherever you can
- Get used to verbonden taal
- The B1 exam requires both listening routine and exam skills.
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