4 awful tips for speaking Dutch

4 awful tips for speaking Dutch

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If you've ever tried to improve your Dutch, you will have received a lot of suggestions from friends on what to do. The trouble is, these tips don’t always make a lot of sense. Albert Both from Talencoach rounds up the four worst tips to give to someone trying to learn Dutch, and offers some practical, more useful, advice.

Imagine you would like to speak Dutch better… How do you know what you should do? Sure, you could ask other people for tips and advice, but to be honest... most of those recommendations are pure crap.

That is why in this article, you’ll find the 4 worst tips for improving your Dutch. If you want to, you can follow these tips, because they sound logical and they seem to make sense. But, if you really want to improve your Dutch quickly, then chances are that soon enough you’ll discover a different path…

1. Memorise lots of words

Memorising loads of new words seems to make a lot of sense: the more words you know, the more you can say, right? And although it is easier to have more interesting and longer conversations when you know more words, it does not mean that you need to learn them off by heart. Actually, it is a huge waste of time!

Let's say that you live in the UK and that you have to learn French at school. You might start with a book, memorising words such as “bonjour” and “merci madame”. You don’t have much choice other than to memorise words from a book, because you’ll hear no French around you.

But guess what? Once you are in the country where they speak the language you are learning, suddenly everything changes. The words are all around you! You can see and hear them all the time. This is great news, because now you only need to observe and use them. There is no need for hardcore memorisation anymore!

Imagine that you live in New York and that you have a map of Amsterdam. You can memorise the whole map, but what do you do when you actually get there? Probably, you would still walk around with the map… but which is a better way of getting to know Amsterdam: walking through the streets with their charming canals, or trying to memorise your map? You’ll probably have more fun if you experience Amsterdam for real!

Learning a language is exactly the same. Picking up Dutch from real life can be easier than you think. Go to Albert Heijn and you’ll soon discover the Dutch words for everything in your shopping basket. No need to learn it from a book!

2. If you want to speak Dutch, ignore reading and writing

Speaking and writing a language are two different things, don’t you think? Many people believe that this is true, but it is not necessarily the case. Sure, having a conversation with your Dutch friend is not the same as writing a novel, but knowing how to read and write in Dutch is much more important than you might think.

First of all, unlike English, Dutch is a phonetic language. This means that the spelling clearly dictates how to pronounce the word, even if you are seeing it for the very first time and you don’t know what it means. You just need to follow a couple of simple rules. This is great news, because now you can pick up and use the language you see written all around you. You can read things in the supermarket and be absolutely sure about how to say them out loud.

Understanding Dutch spelling also keeps you from making mistakes. Although some words may look pretty much the same to the untrained eye, anyone who knows how to write Dutch will know that small differences in spelling make a world of difference in pronunciation.

For example, spot the difference between: “Ik zoek een ban” and “Ik zoek een baan”. They may look the same to you, but believe me, these two sentences are completely different from one another. “Ik zoek”, of course, means “I seek” or “I am looking for”, but … would you rather be banned (een ban) or would you like to have a job (een baan)?

3. Dutch has no specific rules, so just learn the sentences by heart

Many people believe that if you just hear the correct sentences again and again, until you memorise them, you’ll automatically learn how to speak great Dutch. It sounds logical, but unfortunately, this is not true.

Just like any other computer language, Dutch has a specific coding. If you want to be in control of your sentences, you need to know how to construct them. Dutch is like “German Light”! It has the logical system of German, but its coding is a lot easier to understand. And, once you have learned the coding, you can literally create all the sentences you want!

Don’t believe Dutch people if they tell you that there is no way to explain certain sentence constructions. That is ignorance or a pure lie. Dutch people love to suggest that Dutch is very complex and that it does not have any rules. This is not true. The fact that they don’t know the rules does not mean that the rules do not exist. All you need to do is learn them, and then you are on a great track!

4. Find a way to squeeze Dutch into your schedule

Finding the time to learn a language can be a nasty challenge. If you are like most people, then you probably work, and your time is limited. That is why most people initially try to squeeze their Dutch into lunch breaks or after working hours. Although you’ll always learn something, this is one of the least efficient ways of improving your Dutch…

If you are serious about bringing your Dutch to a whole new level, you need to spend time really practising your Dutch. By that, I mean for at least a couple of days in a row. If you really focus on your Dutch, with a fresh mind and during the daytime, you will discover patterns and connections you couldn’t see before.

The secret is very simple… You can easily copy things that you observe and can understand. If you focus on Dutch, rather than squeezing it in around your other responsibilities, you’ll recognise much more of it in the world around you. Suddenly, a lot more will make sense, and then it will become easier to combine speaking Dutch with all the things you normally like to do, rather than separating them.

Another important thing to remember is that speaking a new language is not just an intellectual thing. It is something you have to feel as well! It is about you feeling like you, whilst speaking in another language. That is why a couple of days in a row can do miraculous things. It is with immersion, with really diving in, that you can move up to another level quickly.

Here is another bonus tip!

I did not include another horrendous tip (although I think that you can already guess it). People will tell you that you don’t need Dutch and that it is perfectly okay to speak English all the time. Sure, you can do loads of stuff whilst speaking English, but, if it’s so convenient, why don’t Dutch people speak English all the time?

So, don’t ask other people whether they think you should learn Dutch. They may like this idea, they may not. But, if you know that somehow speaking Dutch could make your life a lot easier, then go for it! Just make sure that you are selective about the tips people give to you. Always think for yourself, and soon you will notice a great difference!

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast whilst having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow: Opening The Floodgate to Dutch Fluency" on Sunday, March 24, 2019 in Amsterdam.

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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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info@myprivateh... 11:46 | 21 February 2019

Please read the book: The UnDutchables where it is explained why the Dutch say "Sorry Whore" when they bump into someone accidentally. And many more hilarious language- and culture situations..