Forget about fluency and how languages are taught at school: as an adult learner you can take a whole new approach

John Gallagher in Psyche:

One of the first things I learnt to say in Dutch was ‘we beat them to death with sticks’. Not exactly standard fare for the first week of language classes, but then again this wasn’t an ordinary language class. As a historian working with 16th- and 17th-century documents, I was taking a specialised class to learn to read the Dutch of the period – so, instead of learning how to talk about hobbies or ask directions to the train station, we jumped straight into texts from the so-called Golden Age of the Netherlands.

As someone who had learnt a few languages before, this was a whole new experience for me. I was used to the kind of language learning that might be familiar from school: an orderly progression through the basics of grammar, the steady building-up of vocabulary, some basic dialogues on tape or practised with a classmate. But, with Dutch, I had to change my methods and find new learning aids that worked for this project.

More here.