An expat’s guide to learning the Dutch language

Learning anything new can be overwhelming, not to mention a second language. Are you deciding whether or not to visit, or move to the Netherlands? Or just want to learn Dutch for the fun of it?

We’re sure we can convince you to take up Dutch and show you that some words and expressions aren’t a huge undertaking to learn.

Learning to speak Dutch online

Learning a subject online is one of the easiest methods. You can learn Dutch by finding an online teacher who fits into your schedule. Take Dutch lessons online if convenience, flexibility and comfort are at the top of your priorities.

Most guides for learning Dutch suggest using the language as often as possible. This could be hard if you live in a country where little to no people speak it.

But that shouldn’t hinder you from your dreams of mastering the language. Online classes offer a virtual environment in which to practice the Dutch language. You set your study hours and how often you have lessons. To be honest, online classes can cost a lot less than in-class learning too.

Online learning is an affordable, flexible, and less intimidating way to master the Dutch language.

How hard is Dutch to learn?

Before you even get started, questions like “Is Dutch hard to learn?”, “How hard is Dutch vs English?” and of course, “Is Dutch easy to learn for English speakers?” may already be planting some seeds of doubt in your mind.

Well, we are here to put your mind at ease as Dutch is considered one of the easiest languages to learn for a native English speaker. So that’s one question down, and two to go. ✅

Dutch and English share thousands of cognates (words that sound and mean the same things). That’s why it’s easy for English speakers to pick it up, and it also opens the doors to learning other Germanic languages (Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, etc).

As you know Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, but you may be pleasantly surprised that some parts of Northern France, Germany, Suriname and Indonesia also speak a bit of Dutch. And once you can speak Dutch, you can be understood in Belgium as Flemish is verrry similar (some say it’s the same language, just with a different accent).

The Dutch language also possesses an alphabet similar to English which will help to pave your way to perfect pronunciation.

Conversing with Dutch natives

Not only other language learners but meeting and conversing with Dutch natives is extremely beneficial. Perhaps they can even teach you some colloquial terms and funny Dutch phrases to break the ice.

Language exchanges, meet-ups and cafes are great places to showcase your new skills. The best part about these methods is they are all free!

Of course, at the moment, none of these kinds of meet-ups are running due to the coronavirus situation in the Netherlands. In normal times, these are great ways to practice your language skills.

Once you meet some fellow English speakers or those learning English as a second language, it can be hard to fight the urge to speak in the language you’re more comfortable. Try hard to avoid this!

Don’t regress, force yourself to use Dutch any time you can to ensure you don’t forget any new words or phrases you’ve learned. We know it can be hard and perhaps even daunting to limit yourself to the few sentences you can string together.

Learning the language itself may be easier, but remembering to speak it is another kettle of fish. Learning a language isn’t just about understanding its roots, it’s also about being brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and actually using it.

Immersing yourself in Dutch culture

The pace of learning a language quickens when you are surrounded by it. Try to make learning Dutch a part of your everyday routine.

It’s all about exposure. If you don’t live in the country, try to watch more of their TV shows and movies, listen to more Dutch music and read Dutch books. It’s alright if the books you start reading are for toddlers, everyone has to start somewhere, right? 😂

Find someone else you know who is interested in learning Dutch and partner up for a study session a few times a week. You really get a sense of fellowship when the two of you are in the same boat.

Taking local classes in Dutch

By local classes, we don’t mean in language schools. If you are lucky enough to be spending an extended time in the Netherlands, take up a hobby or a class that interests you. Chances are, it will be taught in Dutch. This forces you to be exposed to the language without a dictionary or Google translate to help you.

The teacher may be kind enough to help you along with a few English sentences here and there, but the best way is to balance listening with speaking.

As we mentioned before, online classes can also provide the perfect scenario for you to work on all skills – speaking, listening, grammar, pronunciation, and reading.

Are you ready to go?

Many of you might have thought learning Dutch is a formidable task. However, with our guide to the Dutch language for expats, you’ll hopefully feel a weight lifted off your chest.

It is comforting to know that the Dutch language is relatively easy to learn for native English speakers, and you also get an insight into some other languages. What do we mean? Why Afrikaans of course! The two are strikingly similar and going from one to the other doesn’t require much effort.

What are your best tips for learning Dutch? Have you been making progress in learning the language? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2019, and was fully updated in  March 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: Startup Stock Photos/Pixabay

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5 COMMENTS

  1. “As you know Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, but you may be pleasantly surprised that some parts of Northern France, Germany, Suriname and Indonesia also speak a bit of Dutch.”

    Typical arrogant Dutch writings.
    The Kingdom of Belgium has Dutch as an official Language. The fact that Belgian Dutch speakers was ignored in this written article about the Dutch language . Over 7 million Flemings speak Dutch. Could it be the writer purposely omitted Belgian Dutch speakers because the standard Dutch spoken in Belgium is pronounced with the soft G. Which I would suggest is much easier for none Dutch speakers to learn and pronounce.
    No articles written about the Dutch language should ever be written without mention of Belgian soft G Dutch.
    It should also be noted that South Africa was also omitted.
    The bottom line for me is that a non Dutch speaker who wishes to learn to speak Dutch will find it easier to learn the soft G pronunciation of Dutch. The soft G as spoken in Flanders within the Kingdom of Belgium.

    • Telling them that what they’re saying it “Typical ‘arrogant Dutch writings” is kind of a prick thing to say about this ONE artical. Calling people arrogant just because of something as small as that is sad matey, and shows that you don’t care for the native speakers an what they understand as their language.
      As an English speaker with one side of my family being dutch, I know personally, since I want to learn the language just going with the “easier” way for the soft G Dutch, even i wont call that true Dutch. Languages can spread from one country to another but by that happening things tend to change a bit, much like English (though it’s more like words changing than actual sounds).
      Imagine if someone’s learning learning Japanese or Chinese making the excuse to change a sound in the language because it’s easier, it wont crossover very well for the native speakers.
      For people who want to learn the right way to use the language, I’d suggest learning the Language and sounds that that Country uses. Dutch should be dutch, if people want to go elsewhere where it is spoken, learn “that” form of dutch.

  2. That is funny. Since I was born in the Netherlands but have also lived in Flanders I have, according to Dutch speakers, acquired a “soft G”. I have been told repeatedly by Dutch people that I CANNOT be Dutch because of the way I speak!!!!! Of course, they ignore the fact that I have also lived in France and have been living in Canada for decades!!1 Oh well…..

  3. I’m an American. However, my name is Peter Van Keuren, and I would love to learn to speak Dutch, and even though I’m 78 years old, I dream about travelling to The Netherlands before I die, and learning to speak the Dutch language.

    Peter R Van Keuren
    prvk@earthlink.net

  4. Absolutely Daniel! ‘Some say Flemish is the same language.’ ?? That’s is a very odd comment for Flemish IS Dutch.

    And a soft G is also used in large parts of the Netherlands. For some learners this could definitely be easier to pronounce, but for others (such as Spanish or Arabic speakers) the harsh G is usually a lot more doable. I always say to my students that they can choose what works for them.

    Which is why I find it quite peculiar that Dutch people do not acknowledge Adrian’s Dutch because of his soft G. Really? (I myself speak Dutch with a soft G and I am a native who actually teaches Dutch to expats. And nobody has ever doubted my nationality, trust me.)

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