There are a few things to consider before learning Dutch, one of them being your budget. But if you’ve been spending your money on bitterballen rather than books (if so, we can’t blame you), then this is your sign to start studying!
- 1. Take a free Dutch language course from your local library or municipality
- 2. Watch Dutch movies and use the Language Learning with Netflix extension
- 3. Follow a free online course
- 4. Listen to Dutch music and podcasts
- 5. Discover Dutch YouTube channels
- 6. Learn grammar online — no textbook needed!
- 7. Use Dutch language learning apps
- 8. Read Dutch children’s books
- 9. Self-study with Dutch books from your local library
- 10. Join a Dutch language learning discord
- 11. Play games on Dutch servers
- 12. Switch the operating language on your computer or phone to Dutch
- 13. Pretend you don’t speak English
- 14. Read the news in Dutch
- 15. Surround yourself with Dutchies
- 16. Participate in Dutch language cafés and exchanges
1. Take a free Dutch language course from your local library or municipality
Though renowned for switching to English when a non-native speaker takes the jump and starts practising their Dutch conversation skills, the Dutch really do want you to learn their language! That’s why many Dutch public libraries and municipalities offer free courses for internationals living in the Netherlands.
You can learn Dutch for free at almost any library in the Netherlands. You don’t even have to hold a library card! They offer various courses, language learning activities, advice about study books, and conversation practice (taal in de bibliotheek).
2. Watch Dutch movies and use the Language Learning with Netflix extension
Have you set your subtitle language to Dutch, been fascinated by ‘The Resistance Banker,’ or perhaps laughed at ‘Just Say Yes’? Then you’re well on your way to learning Dutch using Netflix. But you haven’t mastered the art of Netflix and
chill study until you use the Language Learning with Netflix extension!
This extension for Google Chrome will show your subtitles in two languages so you can compare the Dutch audio and text with a translation in your language. Language Learning with Netflix also lets you watch the subtitles one at a time and change their playback speed. Finally, it offers a pop-up dictionary — and will even suggest the most important words for you to learn! You can look at the Language Learning with Netflix Catalogue to see which movies have high-quality Dutch subtitles.
Let op! The extension is now called Language Reactor while its catalogue has kept the same name (Language Learning with Netflix). Don’t worry though, everything is still compatible!
3. Follow a free online course
Are you at one of those stages of learning Dutch where you need a more structured plan of action? Then consider taking a MOOC (massive open online course). For learning Dutch, the University of Groningen offers a three-week introductory course where you’ll learn to speak, understand, and write basic Dutch.
The course is well organised, accessible, and offers heaps of learning material: videos, quizzes, flashcards, and printable materials. Plus, it only takes three weeks — so it’s an easy, quick, and completely free way to boost your Dutch.
4. Listen to Dutch music and podcasts
Get ready to move your body from links to rechts ‘cause we’re going to listen to some Dutch bangers! (And please Google the song if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of being trampled by a cheery mob of drunk Dutchies at a street party.)
In all seriousness, Dutch music is a great way to practice your listening skills — for example, you could memorise your favourite lyrics from Dutch rapper and pop artist Snelle (and, for added bonus, watch his documentary on Netflix). Or, if you’re trying to practice your conversational skills, then spice up your commute or chores with a Dutch podcast.
5. Discover Dutch YouTube channels
Here’s another way to make your procrastination productive — yay! (or not, depending on your mood.) There are many YouTube channels out there for those trying to overcome the struggles of learning Dutch.
But if you want to watch something and feel a little less like you’re studying, then there are also regular YouTube channels run by Dutchies that spreken Nederlands in their videos. These include Boos, SerpentGameplay, and faenomenal.
6. Learn grammar online — no textbook needed!
While it might be more fun to learn about bizarre Dutch idioms or cool untranslatable Dutch words, grammar is your fundamental building block for learning a language! Often though, grammar books are expensive and don’t exactly make for the most entertaining reads.
Instead of investing in a brick full of bijzinnen and scheidbare werkwoorden, use the power of the fantastic interweb. 😆 We recommend checking out DutchGrammar.com for simple, clear explanations.
7. Use Dutch language learning apps
Have you ever wondered how to say “yes, the rhinoceros is my pet” in Dutch? — No, really? Well, perhaps then “the girl ate my sandwich” — in the Netherlands, that could actually be useful. Anyways, Duolingo is going to teach you this and many other seemingly random sentences. As one of the world’s leading language learning apps, Duolingo is often the first place people turn when trying to learn Dutch fast and easy.
But Duolingo isn’t the only language app out there! So if you’re not a fan of rhinoceroses (or don’t see the point in knowing how to say it in Dutch), then consider checking out one of these:
- Memrise is similar to Duolingo but often has more relevant content, and their free version is fantastic!
- Babbel has a free trial period that lets you get started with Dutch.
- Learn Dutch. Speak Dutch by Mondly requires just five minutes of practice a day.
- 6000 Words allows you to learn with fun language games.
8. Read Dutch children’s books
When learning a new language, it sometimes feels like you’re a kid all over again. Or at least as if you have the vocabulary of a child, which can be — frustrating. However, a great way to embrace these first stumbling steps on the journey to learning Dutch is by reading children’s books! Storybooks aimed at kids are written in a simple language but often contain practical vocabulary.
Importantly, then they’re relatively easy to find for free! Check out if there’s a little free library in your neighbourhood or if you’re meeting your Dutch partner’s parents, then chances are your new schoonmoeder will be eager to give you your partner’s old Jip en Janneke books — dankjewel!
9. Self-study with Dutch books from your local library
Just like they offer free language courses, Dutch libraries will also happily supply you with self-study books for learning Dutch! The specifics vary slightly per library: some offer you a basically free (but limited) library card as a language learner, and others just let you visit the language learning centre to check out books.
10. Join a Dutch language learning discord
A good way to stay motivated and make learning fun is by joining a Dutch language learning server on Discord. Discord is an instant messaging system where you can join a particular group (server) that meets your interest and then chat with like-minded people all over the globe.
The Nederlands Leren/Learn Dutch server has over 5000 members, many of whom are native speakers and are happy to talk to people learning their language. You may even find some new friends in real life!
11. Play games on Dutch servers
Language learning really can be all fun and games! Above, we saw that there are a bunch of chat servers you can join for learning Dutch. These are great for becoming part of a language learning community, but you could also join a Dutch gaming server if you’re interested in gaming. That way, when you play your favourite video games, you’ll hear and communicate with real Dutchies!
This way, the main focus isn’t on learning Dutch, but if you’re gaming with a group of people who chat and speak Dutch, you’ll likely learn it as a byproduct!
12. Switch the operating language on your computer or phone to Dutch
It almost seems too simple but changing your language settings on your computer and phone is a good way to immerse yourself in the Dutch language! You’ll learn some words that you’re used to seeing every day, and your brain will pick up on Dutch easier as it recognises it more.
Most likely, you’re so used to your laptop or phone interface that you won’t even have to translate Dutch — you’ll know what it means just from its icons and placement.
13. Pretend you don’t speak English
Since almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English, living here can be an international’s dream — except when you’re learning Dutch (ja, echt). Often, Dutchies will switch when you try to speak Dutch, simply because their English is way better than your Dutch. It’s well-meant but doesn’t really help you in your language learning journey.
You can either be persistent and gently remind them that you’re trying to learn — or simply pretend you don’t speak English. “O, sorry, ik spreek geen Engels — maar wij kunnen Nederlands praten?”
Pretending you don’t speak English can also be a mind trick for yourself to avoid speaking it at times when you could’ve used your Dutch. We all know that saying something in English can be easier or faster, but the chances are that you do know how to say it in Dutch — so be patient with yourself and use the everyday Dutch phrases we know that you know! 😉
And if you forget a word, don’t worry! People are much more communicative and willing to understand you than you think.
14. Read the news in Dutch
News pieces communicate information in a clear and organised manner, so once you’ve graduated from children’s books, reading Dutch news could be the next step! If you don’t feel quite confident enough to read the main news websites, you can start by browsing the NOS Jeugdjournaal, which is the public broadcaster’s online news for kids. It’s free, has interesting articles, and is written in easily understandable Dutch — triple win!
Other Dutch news sources such as RTL Nieuws, NU.nl, and the regular NOS are also free to read online. You can also pick up a free Metro newspaper the next time you’re at the station and read it while you commute!
15. Surround yourself with Dutchies
Even if you live in the Netherlands, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be immersed in the Dutch language. That’s why you should take an active role in finding Dutchies who’ll practice with you! Making Dutch friends or finding a Dutch partner is a good way to practice your conversation skills — and asides from maybe buying a coffee, it’s completely free!
So text your friends in Dutch, chat with them during a borrel, let them have a laugh as you try to pronounce Dutch tongue twisters, and listen as they passionately discuss Dutch memes. The more you immerse yourself in the Dutch language, the more you’ll learn — and maybe it’s easier to blunder in front of friends than in a class.
16. Participate in Dutch language cafés and exchanges
If, on the other hand, you got to know your Dutch friends and partner in English and now it feels weird to speak Dutch together (we know the struggle), then consider finding a language buddy! In many places in the Netherlands, you can attend a language café or exchange — completely free.
Volunteer groups often arrange language cafés, universities, or social clubs, so keep an eye out for what’s on offer in your city. You can also look for someone to do a language exchange with. This way, your language buddy will teach you Dutch, and you can teach them whatever language you speak!
As you’ve seen, there are many ways to learn Dutch for free — 16 to be exact! (that we could think of). All it requires is commitment, patience, and not being afraid to make mistakes.
Do you know of other ways to learn Dutch for free? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July 2021, and was fully updated in April 2022 for your reading pleasure.