A language is a magical tool enabling communication and shaping our lives. Yet, language can be a barrier to our communication as well. How to learn Dutch was also a question originated from my struggles in settling in The Netherlands.

If you are also struggling and looking for guidance on how to learn Dutch, then you are on the right page. Please relax and read the guide I prepared for you.

 No Rush. Take Your Time…

During the process of settling in The Netherlands, I was not focused on the language initially due to my busy work life. I found out that I can get around with my English. This is also possible because cities like Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam are very expat friendly. Overall the whole nation can communicate in English. And let’s not underestimate the power of internet, as well as the colleagues and partners who speak Dutch and are willing to help in case you need translation.

 It is a personal decision to say ‘’Yes’’ to learning Dutch and I am not going to discuss the ‘’Why’’ so much here. You can also decide to learn a certain level of Dutch depending on the length of your stay. I believe it is really needed to learn at least the beginner level to be more efficient in your daily life. This will also help you to learn about the culture. Learning Dutch will help you thrive better in this little and connected society. And it will also make breaking through the cultural boundaries possible.

 I can also totally relate to the situation where you feel that you don’t have enough time and resources to invest in a full time Dutch language learning program. Then what? I will share some tips on how to learn Dutch next to your day to day activities like having a job, creating a business, raising kids and social life.

Where Do You Start and How to Learn Dutch?

 As with every distance you want to go, your actions will be the main indicator of how soon you will achieve your goal. Do you need to learn the language to pass the state exam (NT1-2) in order to start working? Is it for citizenship (inburgeren)? Or simply to adapt to the Dutch way of living? Based on what your answer is, you will need some structured approach to your learning journey.

In any case, there is a new world to enter to and it is going to be exciting as well as scary!

 Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at any skill, and the earliest hours are always the most frustrating. There are also a lot of things you can already learn in your first 20 hours dedicated to learning anything new. I recommend taking a look at this TED talk and book of Josh Kaufman.

Suggested Resources & Methods

Below I list some suggestions on what some possible directions are which you could further investigate.

1. Course Center 

Course Center is the classic option for people who want to learn a new language in a classroom. Nowadays these courses are also available in virtual classroom format. As an upside to this, you can ask to join these virtual courses if you are not able to find a proper Dutch course in your home country. 

You can also join some social activities within these course centers such as ‘’Dutch movie club’’ to boost your motivation to learn Dutch. My in-classroom experience was with Direct Dutch in The Hague. I was able to join the beginner level class back in 2016 and it helped me to take the first steps to learn the basics. Due to my personal circumstances I had to drop and try to get use of more flexible ways of learning Dutch.

2. Libraries

In almost every district there is a library offering language related services. These include free language courses and ‘’taal café’’ gatherings to practice speaking. I tried both options. During time of pandemic, the library organized Zoom sessions to continue with these educational activities. In Addition to the libraries,‘’municipalities’’ are also providing similar assistance. I highly recommend this option provided by volunteers willing to help free of charge.   

3. Online & Videos 

Compared to 5 years ago we have many more options of finding online resources for learning anything we want. I recommend these two online/YouTube channels I follow.

Dutchies To Be – Learn Dutch with Kim : I like to learn via Kim’s channel because she has videos for every situation that I find difficult or confusing with learning Dutch. She is also very friendly and positive. 

Learn Dutch with Bart de Pau : Bart is also very committed to teaching Dutch. He also understands the challenges of learning a new language and especially the obstacles faced with Dutch language. 

4. Audio

Nowadays while driving, doing the house chores or walking we keep ourselves busy with podcasts and audio resources. In learning Dutch, there are also many audio resources that you can google and find the best for yourself.

 I recently found an educational podcast like DutchPod101 which contains a lot of useful information about learning Dutch. I also got help from a very effective go to audio course named Michel Thomas method. This method is very useful as it teaches you the basic level Dutch without taking notes. You learn and practice during the course and learning becomes easier than following a book. I highly suggest giving it a try.

5. Watching TV & Platforms 

Watching TV with subtitles or even without subtitles is another popular technique for learning Dutch. This is of course advised by the teachers and experienced learners already in other blogs as well. I will list a few of them but you can find many more for sure.

  • NOS Het JeugdJournaal – The News channel for children
  • Het Klokhuis – Children’s educational program
  • Cooking programs, other shows depending on your interest
  • Talk shows
  • Netflix!

6. Children’s Books & Song Lyrics 

Children’s books and songs are very practical resources to learn from and practice  for a beginner. You can follow the basic sentences easily and then gradually you can increase the level of the books you read. Next level would be Young Adult books. Again, libraries have many Dutch books that you can choose from both for yourself and for your kids.

7. Practice as Much as Possible

Practice is the key to get the most out of your learning investments. You can practice with your Dutch Partner and/or friends and colleagues. For example, while shopping you can speak Dutch as much as possible. The saying ‘’If you don’t use it, you lose it’’ is so true for this matter! Not only speaking but reading the newspaper, shopping brochures or any advertisement will be of help to learn and practice.

8. Hire a Private Teacher

A Private Teacher is also an option that I have experienced and found very helpful. You can also check the FB pages of the Dutch learning groups and ask for a teacher recommendation.

Expected Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Dutch is grouped within the Germanic languages, which means it shares a common ancestor with languages such as English, German, and Scandinavian languages. This makes it sometimes easy and sometimes very hard to understand the logic of the Dutch language.

 You will feel the obstacles and maybe start complaining like me about the difficulties with the pronunciation and the construction of Dutch sentences. Please keep calm and carry on 😊 Even a good speaker is aware of those difficulties. If you don’t believe me you can check this short video of Making it in Holland.

If most of the time you are with people that speak English, then you will need to make an extra effort to find people and circumstances to practice your Dutch. There could be circumstances that a Dutch person will switch to English to get to the point.

You need to be alert and open to hearing how Dutch people communicate in their daily life. Take it easy but be consistent at the same time. Practice, practice and practice.

Please leave your comments below, or even better please share on the IWNG FB page about your experiences and recommendations on how to learn Dutch! 

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Yildiz Middel

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