I reached out to an American expat group to inquire about the best ways to learn Dutch. Some were interpersonal tips (e.g. speaking with Dutch friends, music, volunteering, reading books in Dutch) and some were major life decisions that I’m not interested in pursuing (e.g. getting a job at a cafe, dating/marrying a Dutch person, having kids in the Netherlands).
But here are some helpful tips that I’d like to reference, even if I haven’t vetted all of them yet:
- Understanding Dutch’s tricky word order
- An anecdote of how someone learned Dutch in less than a year
- Watching TV (Lingo, Klokhuis, Jeugdjournaal, Zondag met Lubach)
- Reading Volkskrant or children’s books (Jip & Janneke, Pluk van de Petteflet, Nijntje, Freddie Langelaar)
- Tutorials from Learn Dutch (“1000 most common words in Dutch” course has 40 lessons)
- Podcasts (for the future): The Dutch Online Academy, Echt Gebeurd, Mangiare, Vroege Vogels
There were also the following points:
- Learn in a classroom environment until A2 level(in which case a tutor from Verbal Planet may be helpful)
- Listen to how the language is spoken to understand native usage of words and structure (instead of transliterating everything from English)
- To engage people in Dutch, tell them “Ik woon in Nederland en wil graag met je Nederlands praten” and ask “Hoe zegt je _____?”
One person, Shelby, had a very empowering message:
There were a few things that helped me learn. I learned Dutch to conversational fluency in a year or two. The things that helped me most were:1) first learning the very very very basics. Learn "I am" (ik ben) "I have" (ik heb) etc. I didn't focusing on learning so many of the rules or anything at first, just the simplest things that could be combined easily.2) finding people who spoke EXCLUSIVELY Dutch to me. I was lucky because my mother in law actually knows absolutely no English. This forced me to learn more because I couldn't rely on her understanding of English to help me communicate. I also had a few people that I asked to only speak Dutch with me from the first time I met them. This ensures us not slipping into English as easily because we set a norm for ourselves and followed it. By having these people you're forced to speak Dutch with, you push yourself forward, even when you're nervous. I have found that of the people I know learning Dutch, the ones who take longer generally do because they get too nervous or doubt themselves. That's perfectly understandable! So by creating situations you can't back away from, you create situations on which you need to adapt and learn, and thus move forward.3) don't get bogged down with being perfect or even good. My Dutch was soooo bad when I started. Like, barely understandable, totally butchered. But because I had done the first two steps (learned the very basics so I had some words and phrases that were comfortable and had people who only spoke Dutch with me) I eventually get better and better. It was often through correction, even from strangers. Let go of the ego and be genuinely appreciative when someone corrects you, they're just trying to help. Yeah you might not be in the mood that day or you might be self conscious and don't want them pointing out your mistakes. But you made a mistake. It's not like they didn't notice. What's the point in pretending it didn't happen? Why not learn from it instead! It's ok to suck at Dutch, YOU'RE LEARNING. We all suck at everything when we're learning, that's WHY we're learning. Embrace the suck! Make mistakes! Laugh about them! Tell the stories of your mistakes to your Dutch friends so they can laugh too!Remember, you're LITERALLY rewiring your brain to understand a secret code. That's AMAZING. You're basically a code breaker.Now, for some little things that helped in addition to these things:I watched exclusively 24kitchen for like a year. You can follow without understanding the language, and they often have Belgian cooks which 1) means subtitles! And 2) gets you used to understanding different accents. Plus who doesn't like food shows?I also got a job that didn't REQUIRE me to speak Dutch, but most of my colleagues were Dutch and most of the customers were Dutch and I just jumped in, even if I sounded silly. I tried throwing in as many Dutch words as I can.Oh and lastly, BIG important one: DON'T fall back on "sorry, my Dutch isn't great, can we speak English?" before the conversation has started. ALWAYS start in Dutch and go as far as you can before switching. If the other person is switching to English but you feel like you can still go on in Dutch, don't switch back! Keep going!And remember, you're amazing, your brain is a powerful tool of learning, and you CAN do it!
❤️ 🇳🇱✌ ️❤️