Basic Dutch: Speak Dutch to me, please!

10 September 2013, by
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Direct Dutch Institute recommends speaking Dutch as often as possible - even if all your Dutch colleagues speak English and even if you only know a few words of Dutch. To help you get started straight away, here are some phrases to deal with the Dutch in day-to-day life.


In this article: How to convince the Dutch that you’ll never learn their language if they keep answering in English!

Before you knew it, September arrived. Time to shake off the sweet summer sand, get back to business and reflect on all the good resolutions you ought to pick up again.

Imagine that you have just decided it’s time to get more exercise and make an effort to speak Dutch more. Obviously, you go for best of both worlds.

You glance over your Dutch vocabulary and set out to your gym, looking for some sporty locals to practise both your muscles and your speaking skills with. Soon you find yourself a friendly and (not too dauntingly) fit fellow gym member and you ask him / her: Hoe laat begint de zumba / power yoga / body pump klas?

While you are congratulating yourself on your very Dutch pronunciation of zumba / power yoga / body pump, your new athletic friend might very well answer "In 20 minutes!"

How to keep your conversations in Dutch

The Dutch are often so eager to speak English to you that there is hardly any opportunity to practise your new-found language skills. Nevertheless, resist the temptation to slip comfortably into English and keep your conversation going in Dutch.

Here are some phrases to make sure that 20 minutes later you will be sweating it out, still gaspingly practising your Dutch. And don’t worry, these phrases also work perfectly well in any other, not gym-related, context.

Nederlands, alstublieft! (Dutch, please!)

For some reason, the Dutch can’t wait to speak English. It is debatable whether this is a sign of their contempt for their mother tongue, the pride of their allegedly open and tolerant culture or just their language skills.

What isn't debatable is that you have to be explicit if you want us to turn back to Dutch - possibly several times.

Korte zinnen, alstublieft! (Short sentences, please!)

Now that you have convinced your conversation partner to speak Dutch to you, you have to make sure that you understand him or her.

The Dutch really like building up multiple sentences using quite confusing grammatical constructions. Ask for short sentences, keeping in mind that (in a simple sentence) the verb is often the second word and avoid a lot of confusion.

speak dutch please
Photo by Flickr user Victor1558

Nog een keer, alstublieft! (Once more, please!)

Repetition is the best way to learn. The best way to learn is repetition.

Een ander woord? (Another word?)

Don’t give up when you come across a word you don’t know and just ask for a synonym. You only need about 70 words to make yourself understood in a language. Maybe you have just happened to have learnt 70 different words for the same things...

Langzaam, alstublieft - niet harder! (slowly, please - and not louder!)

No harm in kindly stressing that you have no problem with your ears, but that you would appreciate being able to distinguish separate words within the rattle.

Probably, your friend isn’t aware of the fact that he is talking too fast for you, especially when he gets the hang of the conversation and slips back into his natural pace.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask him to slow down several times and realise that you will be able to have a "natural" conversation eventually.



Marloes van Rooijen works for the Direct Dutch Institute, one of the oldest language institutes in The Hague, which recently created the Spreek Nederlands! Met mij! (Speak Dutch! To me!) button.



If you grow tired of constantly asking to be addressed in Dutch, don’t hesitate to contact them & ask for a free button. Just wear it & point to it whenever someone addresses you in English!

Spreek Nederlands Met mij


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Marloes van Rooijen

Marloes van Rooijen works for Direct Dutch Insititute. At Direct Dutch, we want our students to home...

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