I posted the instructions found at the beginning of the Assimil Dutch course some time ago. I’ve found that the Assimil instructions are often rather lacking, and plenty of people post on forums asking: how exactly am I supposed to use this course? How should I go about doing the active phase?
After seeing an excellent response to a question about the active wave, I took a look in my Dutch book to see what it had to say:
Use the following procedure in the second wave of your study:
1. Read the lesson, repeating each sentence once. If you have the recordings, listen to them carefully.
2. Cover the Dutch text and try to reconstruct it, looking only at the English sentences. Make an effort to do this both out loud and in writing. This is the most important part of the second wave!
3. After you are finished, uncover the Dutch text and carefully correct any errors you have made.
After each new lesson, you will be told which earlier lesson you are to review in this precise way. This second wave of your study will lead to an active and, in a very short time, spontaneous knowledge of Dutch.
I can only give some hints, but what you do should really depend on your own needs, not on anything else.
Second wave wants two things, both are very easy to understand:
After two or three months, however long it took you to get to lesson 50, you have forgotten many words and phrases of the previous lessons. So you have to refresh them by going through the old lessons again. Very simple, no problem here.
After the reading and listening of the first wave you start producing sentences, speaking and probably writing. Again, very simple concept. How to do it? Everything is allowed and possible, it depends entirely on you and your needs.
Look at the English text of the first lesson. Try to translate it without looking at the German text. A piece of cake? Not as easy as you expected? Oh man, I don’t remember anything at all? Well, whatever, no problem at all. Of course you use the written text in the book as a tool for correcting your translation, what else? You can use the audio just as well, but this is not as easy, and not necessary. (Just listen to the audio on another day, never a bad idea.) But you have to check if your sentences are right. That’s the most important thing, of course. What if you’ve made a mistake, or two, or it is all nonsense? No problem again, that’s why you do the repetition, look at what is wrong, say the correct version several times, and go on.
Next sentence a complete failure? Well, who cares, you are learning the language, that’s why you do it. If you write your first try and make a mistake, or several, no problem, but in this case you write the correct version twice, or three times, now you’ll know it. For a while
Assimil says you can listen to the audio before starting your active work, so you can do this. Or you try to get it right without a previous short time reactivation, but as repetition is one of your primary goals it is not so important whether you get it right without listening before, these are all minor details.
. . .
You see, what I propose is a little bit different than only remembering the phrase by heart. Learning by heart is not a bad thing, really not, but only if you understand what you remember. So if you have the automatic reaction: Oh, I remember very well what was written on this page, it was the strange and very queer expression “Haben Sie Hunger”, no idea why and how, but this is it,- you get a point in a multiple choice test but not as many language points, I guess.
To make a long post short: You want repetition, and you get it. You want active skills, and you have to work for them. And the exact procedure is not a law, do what you want to do, or have to do. A third wave, or even a forth one, may be what makes the difference between a successful language learner and a less successful one, but I would never confess that I ever needed a fifth wave, not me.
I really liked his answer, as it shines a bright light on an issue I think some people might run into with Assimil courses: they see the active phase as a “test” rather than a process. They go to their active lesson, read the English, and if they don’t come up with the perfect foreign language equivalent right away – panic! There’s no need to be so harsh on yourself. With the active wave, unless you have a photographic memory, you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s fine; the whole point is to see the material again, and to start playing with it in your mind. If you’re moving bits of the language around in your mind, trying to produce something, it’s worthwhile, even if many of your attempts have errors.