Let me guess, you arrived in the Netherlands all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to learn the native tongue of the land that you swiftly fell in love with. You started buying books, downloading apps and even took a “Nederlands cursus” or two — but then life happened.
The passion died, and with it, your Dutch skills. But never fear, here are seven ways you can re-spark that flame. 🔥
Not all approaches to learning Dutch have to be so formal. In fact, language schools such as Talencoach enjoy introducing their students to the fun side of Nederlands during courses such as their Brainwash programme. Find out more.
1. Ditch the grammar for a second
One of the biggest turn-offs in your relationship with learning Dutch is likely the grammar. Wrapping your head around the rules of the game can be a bit overwhelming at first, so sometimes it’s best to forget them for a while and just start playing.
We don’t mean that you should learn Dutch without the grammar — that’s impossible! But it is possible to keep things simple. Does the verleden tijd (past tense) confuse you? Then stay in the now and stick to the tegenwoordige tijd (present tense)!
Not sure whether a word is de or het? Use one and see what people say!
@dutchreview Someone send help! 🆘 #dutchreview #netherlands #holland #expatinthenetherlands #learningdutch ♬ الصوت الأصلي – البرنس 🎶
Dutchies will understand you, even if it’s not perfect. What’s most important is that you’re saying something, and you’re saying it in the Nederlands.
2. Allow yourself to mess up
Going hand-in-hand with the above tip, you need to allow yourself to mess up — majorly. In fact, the slip-ups can add some fun to the process. Ever accidentally ordered the entire Smullers menu because of your failed attempt at speaking Dutch? Well, you’re missing out.
It’s important to remember that the more you make a fool of yourself, the more you’re learning. After all, speaking bad Dutch is better than speaking zero Dutch.
3. Remind yourself that Dutch isn’t that hard
The Dutch language is often talked up as the big, bad, guttural bully when it comes to learning a language. This tends to get everything started on the wrong foot — you’re enemies before you even get to know each other.
But ultimately, it’s a language. You can learn it, and it has some similar-sounding siblings, such as English and German, that will help you along the way!
4. Learn some swear words
Who said you need to start with your name, age, and where you’re from? Master some Dutch swear words! Get the verdomde passion flowing!
Did you know that the Dutch like to swear using diseases? For example, if you would like to let a particularly rude cyclist know how you feel about them you may say “Tief op!” — meaning “typhus upon you.” It’s both Shakespearean and to the point. What more could you want?
Consider swearing the gateway drug to your successful relationship with the Dutch language.
5. Do a language exchange
Learning Dutch doesn’t have to be a lonely task. You can add some fun to your efforts by arranging a language exchange.
You can use sites such as Conversation Exchange or Tandem to find a Dutchie who is looking to practice another language. Not only do you learn Dutch from a pro, but you also get to know someone new — and all for free!
However, if you are willing to spend some moolah, sites such as iTalki allow you to choose from a number of Dutch language tutors. You pay an hourly rate and chit-chat away at your own pace.
You can also team up with others who are in the process of learning Dutch and practice together. If you are taking lessons, try to opt for a course that offers free conversation classes once you’re finished. It’s a great way to continue to learn the language and make some new friends!
6. Know the difference between learning and studying!
You may take the above suggestion and think — no way am I actually going to learn anything from swearing at cyclists! If you do, then you need to remind yourself that leren (learning) and studeren (studying) are two very different things.
For example, in reading the above paragraph, you may have just learned two new Dutch words, are you studying? No. Has your knowledge of the Dutch language been ever-so-slightly expanded? Yes!
Ready to rekindle your love affair with the Dutch language? Talencoach can re-light that fire! Contact them to sign up for the Brainwash programme or one of their many Dutch language courses and get the passion flowing. 😉 ❤️
7. Throw yourself in the deep end
Got some Dutch friends? How about you just throw yourself into the thick of it?
No, you don’t need to understand everything — you don’t even have to respond. Just find the nearest borrel, sit back, drink some beers, and (perhaps after some liquid courage) you’ll find yourself speaking (and learning) some Dutch!
However, you need to learn to be confident without alcohol too. 😉 If you’re really dedicated to this method, try living with some Dutchies!
Yes, there are houses that specifically request * NO INTERNATIONALS *, but you will also find houses that are looking to add a bit of culture to their home — so turn on the charm, hit the hospiteeravonden, and find yourself some Nederlands huisgenoten (Dutch housemates).
TIP: If you do want Dutch housemates, avoid housing sites specifically made for internationals. Instead, use Dutch sites such as Kamernet and join local Facebook groups to find more Dutch housing opportunities.
8. Get yourself a Dutch lover (ooh la la)
One way to rekindle that love for the Dutch language is by waking up next to a Dutchie in the morning.
Perhaps it may start as some fun back and forth about how to pronounce specific words, but as things develop, you may find yourself sitting on a dakterras with a group of their friends, and even further along the line — their parents!
READ MORE | 6 things to know about dating Dutch people
Nothing will give you the drive to learn a language quite like sheer necessity — and love, of course! But if you plan on sticking around for a bit, you’ll find Nederlands is needed if you’re going to truly get to know the world in which your beloved Dutchie lives.
9. Redefine your definition of success
We hate to break it to you, but sometimes the real vibe-killer is you.
If you hold yourself to ridiculously high standards, you’ll continuously talk yourself down and may even deter yourself from continuing to learn Dutch.
Remember to hit mute on that nagging voice in the back of your head and pat yourself on the back instead. Success doesn’t start and end with fluency, so make sure to acknowledge the little wins.
@dutchreview It's always hard the first time. #fyp #dutchreview #expat #dutch #nederlands #nl #learningdutch ♬ original sound – DutchReview
Did you order a coffee successfully in Dutch — even when the barista went off script? That’s a victory, baby! Frame that moment in your mind, stick a gold star on it, call your mom and let her know whatever you need to do to keep yourself feeling positive about your progress!
Do you have any tips on how to keep the passion alive when learning Dutch? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2021, and was fully updated in November 2023 for your reading pleasure.