Taking the advice of polyglot Steven Kaufmann, I’ve decided to immerse myself as much as humanly possible in French and Dutch. I will be predominantly focusing on French the days I don’t have classs (thursday-sunday), and after just 5-6 days of this approach I’m already «hearing better». The words manage to find their way into my brain much more fluently than what has been the case before.
Normally I buy the newspaper «De Morgen» (Dutch) every day I’ve got class, I try to discourage people speaking English to me and actively seek out new words and new ways of expressing myself. I’ve got to admit that though both of the languages I’m learning are very close to my identity, French is a much more exciting language than Dutch.
French is in many aspects much more «colorful» than Dutch, since it doesn’t rely so much on borrowings from English. French is in that regard an «intact language», it’s got it’s own identity whereas Dutch deliberately tries to absorb as much English as possible. I’ve seen it a billion times in Flemish newspapers, journalists are taking use of English idioms so much that you get to the point where you wonder if the person writing the given article even is a native. Where’s the culture gone off to?
Anyway, I’ve used a combination of listening to French radio (news bulletins & jazz), watching French TV, speaking French with my mother in law and reading as much French as I can manage (Le Monde & «The Linguist» by Steven Kaufmann) and each night going through the words I’ve learned that given day. And it looks like it’s paying off! The «buzz» that I experienced at the beginning is diminishing, from just understanding random words by themselves I’ve progressed to understanding entire sentences, conversations and so forth. Needless to say I’m really enjoying the growth of my fluency.