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Teacher to the rescue: “How do I practise my Dutch?”

The question I often get from my students is: “How do I practise my Dutch?” This is usually followed by the observation that the Dutch are comfortable at speaking English and usually don’t think twice about switching to it.

So, apart from spending all of your childhood learning English — how can you get to that level?

READ MORE | How to learn Dutch: the ultimate guide (by people who learned!)

Find people to speak with

My advice is to ask one or two Dutch neighbours, colleagues or friends, in particular, to practise Dutch conversation with. They then know not to switch to English and they will probably be very helpful — and hopefully patient — to help develop your speaking skills. 

Don’t consider this as Dutch classes, but purely as informal chats about day to day stuff. Even if these chats are as little as fifteen minutes a week, they will really help you. You’ll see your Dutch improve in no time!

Flex your language muscles as often as possible

Speaking Dutch is like riding a bike! Image: D.Travnikov/Depositphotos

When I see students making steady progress at reading and listening, they often struggle speaking even a few sentences. 

That is mainly because learning a foreign language is like riding a bike — to use a typical Dutch metaphor. 😉 You can read books that tell you how to ride a bike, look at other people riding bikes, but you won’t be able to master it unless you actually get physical — and get on that bicycle! 

Don’t overthink the grammar

Definitely study the grammar and vocabulary, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes when putting it to use. Read Dutch texts out loud, even if you don’t understand the meaning of every word. This will help your mouth and brain get used to the actual movements when performing the sounds. And when you hit a proper Dutch ‘g’-sound, you are nailing it!

Put yourself in situations where you need Dutch

People can’t help but smile when you practice your Dutch. Image: Crew/Unsplash

The ironic — and somewhat sad reality is that students who diligently study Dutch grammar rules for hours on end, and learn twenty new words every day, are often not the ones who end up speaking Dutch confidently in public. 

The ones, however, who were forced into a situation in which they needed to understand and speak, in a romantic relationship or job, for instance, were the ones making fast progress and were able to expand their conversation capacities quickly over time. 

But even if you aren’t dating a Dutchie, and English is the main language on your work floor, it proves the point that practising your speaking with a native, a private teacher or fellow student should be at the top of your list. Yes, even higher than studying grammar and vocabulary!

So, even if you’re taking lessons and you use Duolingo every day — we all know that dreaded owl — the best (and only) way you’ll become fluent is by talking, speaking, chatting.

What tips do you have to practice your Dutch? Tell us in the comments below!

Image: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

Lucy Deutekom
Lucy Deutekomhttp://www.letstalkdutch.wordpress.com
Lucy is a Dutch teacher based in Amsterdam who loves teaching Dutch to newcomers and expat and always finds it refreshing to learn a newcomer's perspective on typical (and often quirky) Dutch habits. From that starting point, she wrote the fun and easy to read 'Let's Talk Dutch: the Way of Life in the Netherlands Explained Through Common Sayings and Expressions'.

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