How the 500-euro syndrome can have an impact on your Dutch

How the 500-euro syndrome can have an impact on your Dutch

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Have you ever realised that there could be a relation between a certain euro bill and your ability to speak Dutch fluently? What if speaking a language is just like having money? The more you have, the better it is supposedly. Albert Both from Talencoach explains why this isn’t always exactly true, especially when it comes to language.

It is better to have 500 euros than, let’s say, 10 euros, right? If this is the first thought that comes up, then make sure that you read this article, because...surprise, surprise... nothing could be further from the truth.

Have you ever heard of the 500-euros syndrome? Probably not, because it is not a well-known phenomenon yet. It is a term that I coined, pun intended, some time ago, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Actually, it’s so simple that you’ve probably never thought about it.

The 500-euros paradox

So here it is, imagine you have a 500-euro bill in your hands and that you are somewhere in the Netherlands. How much can you buy with it? Contrary to what you could logically expect, not that much. Sure, if you like to buy drugs and weapons, then you could find something to your taste. However, here is the weird truth: your bill of 500 euros would be worth nothing.

If you like, you could test it out for yourself. Just go to Albert Heijn and see how much you can buy. Soon enough you’ll discover that no one wants to accept that big bill that you have. Although you literally have a lot of money, you can’t buy anything.

To make it even stranger, you would be better off if you only had a bill of 10 euros, as you could consider yourself poor with such a small amount of money, at least you could buy something. And something is better than nothing, right?

No direct relationship between education and how much you really talk

Now think about it again. Don’t you think that it is ridiculous that, with a bill of 500 euros, you cannot buy anything and that with 10 euros you can buy a lot more? But, what if you could have many bills of 10 euros? Let’s imagine that you had fifty 10-euro bills, that would be great, right? At least you can actually spend these smaller bills.

You’ll probably agree that it is better to have many small bills, rather than one bill of 500 euros, right? So, let’s go to the next step; did you realise that the same principle is true for knowledge?

Certainly, when it comes to “knowledge”, many people tend to walk into the same trap. "More" and "big" always seems better and that is why people take learning very seriously. Many people believe that if you’d like to have a decent job, then the least you can do is go to university. That is why many young people eagerly spend a couple of years attached to something so serious because once you graduate you can impress the right people.

However, imagine that you studied economics. Would that mean that you would be successful if you had to run your own little shop? You would expect that with all the great and intellectual knowledge that you acquired, great business success was virtually guaranteed, right? Well, you probably already know that your academic title is not a rock-solid guarantee for business success.

The same thing is true for someone that studied sexology for many years at the university. This might look like a weird example; however, it makes things crystal clear. How you perform academically does not always equate how you perform in real life. Obviously, there is no direct relation between scientific knowledge and a happy love life.

So, what should you do if you’d like to speak a new language fluently? Many people believe that for achieving this, there is one thing that you have to do: study hard. So, let’s imagine that you study like crazy and that you even managed to get your official B1 certificate, maybe even B2. Now you can hang those impressive certificates on a wall, but what happens if someone asks you a question in Dutch?

Why would you lust for paper?

Here is a weird thing that has always puzzled me. Many people, particularly those with a higher level of education, often think in terms of diplomas, certificates, levels and degrees when it comes to speaking a language. Many people erroneously hope that once they have a certain certificate, it would somehow prove that they also speak a new language.

As you can imagine, the opposite is true, of course. Too many people who study a lot and get super high grades for their exams, somehow don’t know how to talk in real life. It is as if, despite their great knowledge, they don’t know what to say in another language when someone asks them a simple question. This is like having a bill of 500 euros in your hands: sure, you could consider yourself rich, but in the end, you still get nothing.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to walk into this trap. It seems that official learning is very addictive. You learn a lot with complex-sounding terms like nevenschikkend voegwoord and onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd. The intellectual mind likes it because it allows you to feel intelligent and smart, but if you cannot quickly make your own sentences in Dutch at high speed, despite all the profound knowledge that you already have, then something must be wrong, right?

Expressing yourself in Dutch

So how do you know that you’ve been tricked with the 500-euro syndrome? It’s quite simple. Yes, you might believe that you know a lot and that your certificates prove it, but if you don’t really speak, if you cannot express all the things that you really like to share in Dutch, then something is not right.

Here is an example, let’s imagine that you already studied a few grammar books and now you want to say something simple like “I think you dropped something on the floor,” or “I think I would agree with that”. Would you know how to do it?

There is some good news. Your acquired knowledge is not totally useless, but there is one thing that you will need to do and that is, leave the intellectual realm. Think in simple ways and be very practical. By the way, it will also help if you know how to have outrageous fun with it.

Contrary to what you may believe, speaking Dutch isn’t as complex as you might think. You need to do a lot of little things, which is like having a bunch of 10-euro bills in your hand. So, forget about studying, all you need is to really start speaking Dutch.

Start with little sentences, talk about nonsense things and experiment like crazy. When you just start experimenting, you may soon discover that, with some feedback, you can learn in a far more intuitive way. You might come to the conclusion that Dutch has many things in common with English and that, if you get certain simple insights, you will be able to move forward quickly. Rather than trying to memorise everything like crazy, you might find out that if you play and experiment and have fun with it, great things are possible.

Go with that banana!

If you want to have some success with speaking Dutch, practice immediately and don’t complicate things. Keep it as simple as you can, be extremely playful and start to explore new things. Always remember that the better you feel while exploring and learning new things, the easier it will become. Simply stop doing unproductive things that are not helpful in the first place and make sure to play with new learning styles.

Once you get rid of the 500-euros syndrome, you’ll discover how much you can learn all by yourself just by looking at signs in the street, advertising, packages, small conversations that you have with people and that, if you immediately practice what you just picked up, you can move forward and be unstoppable.

Maybe you already know this truth intuitively. Speaking a language has little to do with serious studying, impressive-sounding little pieces of paper. Just start living your Dutch life to the fullest! Gaan met die banaan! Go with that banana. This is Dutch for "just do it"!

Do you want to be able to express yourself freely and learn to communicate in Dutch quickly and effectively? Get in touch with Albert at or sign up for Talencoach’s Dutch Brainwash programme - an intensive 7-day Dutch course in the centre of Amsterdam.

You can also:

Download his e-book "3 Steps to Dutch flow"
Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It"
Visit his website
Check out his Facebook page
Watch videos on his YouTube channel
All free of charge!

Albert Both


Albert Both

I help with an approach of learning Dutch that is completely different from any other language course. It is called Dutch Brainwashing. The immediate result is that you learn at...

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