7 simple tips to get Dutch people to speak Dutch to you

7 simple tips to get Dutch people to speak Dutch to you

Paid partnership

Can't get those pesky Dutchies to speak Dutch to you? Albert Both from Talencoach gives us a few simple tips!

What is the one thing that seems to make learning Dutch so difficult? Even when people realise that Dutch is the closest language to English, and a sort of German-light, there seems to be one obstacle that is not so easy to overcome. Namely, how can you get Dutch people to speak Dutch to you? Dutch people switch to English fast when they hear you are not Dutch, often within the blink of an eye. Here are 7 powerful tips that may be of help:

1) Start speaking Dutch as soon as you can, and keep it simple!

Why does it take such a long time for some people to really start practising their Dutch, just for simple things like ordering coffee? One thing that may hold people back is their tendency to be too polite.

How would you order a coffee in English? You might say: "I would really like to have a coffee, please". Although this sounds great in English, you don't have to translate this word-for-word when you order in Dutch. If you say: “Één koffie, alsjeblieft”, you already have a perfect sentence.

You can always add the very useful word "graag": "Één koffie, graag". This means with love or with pleasure. 

Now you know that you can keep things really simple, and you can still be polite at the same time, there is no excuse not to start practising your Dutch!

2) Don’t use words and sentences that are too formal

In traditional language courses, quite often you’ll learn words and sentences that are very polite and formal. Although they seem perfectly fine, using these formal words and phrases may keep people at a distance.

For example, a word like “aangenaam” – which literally means amenable, pleasurable or pleasing – is something that you can use whilst meeting new people. The only problem is that this is also a very formal word. It is not a word that you would say to your Dutch friends. “Leuk je te ontmoeten” (nice to meet you) may sound too informal to you, but in many cases, it will be a lot easier to make a connection using these simple words.

3) Make sure you have a sense of humour

According to some people, Dutch people love to ask offensive questions, such as “How is your Dutch?” or simply “Where do you come from?” If you feel offended by these questions, please go ahead, but one thing is certain… You will not have a good time in the Netherlands.

Here is another important thing you should know. If Dutch people like you, there is a good chance that they will tease you. Although these teasing comments may not be that original sometimes, it is the Dutch way of breaking the ice.

If you can clearly show them that you don't mind, and if, one day, you learn how to tease people back in a gentle and elegant way, you’ll soon discover that it is just another way of showing affection and friendship.

4) Make sure that you are entertaining

If the only thing that you can say in Dutch is your name and how difficult it is to speak this language, then, of course, you will bore Dutch people to death. But if you can somehow surprise them, they will be intrigued, and they will certainly want to listen to many other Dutch words coming from your mouth.

Here is an example. Imagine that you like "stroopwafels" and that you like to eat loads of them. Simply say: "Ik ben een stroopwafelmonster!" (I am a stroopwafel monster) Dutch people will be amazed by your seemingly advanced language skills, but if you really think about it, this sentence is really easy to construct!

5) Have a Dutch elevator pitch ready

Imagine telling your friends and colleagues that you're doing a Dutch course. One question that you can definitively expect? What can you say in Dutch, of course! Therefore, make sure that you have a couple of sentences at the ready. If you try to improvise on the spot, often it will not feel good. But if you come prepared, you will love this question!

If you create funny sentences for your Dutch language elevator pitch, it gets even better. Just say: "Ik ben een stroopwafelmonster en ik eet elke dag tien stroopwafels" (I eat ten stroopwafels every day).

Don’t worry about giving a whole speech. All that people will want to hear is a couple of Dutch sentences. If you bring these with some fun and confidence, Dutch people will smile and love all your efforts!

Why don't you prepare a variety of Dutch elevator pitches? Some for informal situations, some for formal situations and a special version for people that don’t understand Dutch. Then you can say anything that you want, say some naughty things, for example, but do make absolutely sure that they really don’t understand Dutch...

6) Start with short time frames

One classic mistake is that people think that all of a sudden, they have to speak the language 24 hours a day. Fortunately, this is not true. On top of that, you’ll notice that, certainly, in the beginning, most of your conversations will last less than a minute.

Here is the good news. If you have these conversations – which may seem meaningless to your critical mind – again and again, before you know it, you’ll be able to have conversations that last much longer than one minute. One day, you'll be able to do five minutes, soon enough 10 and then... who knows? You may be speaking Dutch all day long!

7) If people don’t understand you, don’t take it personally!

One thing that many people find quite confronting and discouraging is when Dutch people really don’t understand them. Often it feels like a personal rejection! You know that what you are saying is absolutely correct, but for some reason, this Dutch $%#! is just not willing to understand you.

Here is a shocking secret. Although it may make sense to your (English) mind, there is a good chance that what you said was completely wrong. The only thing that you need to do, is to simply wonder what the other person needs so that he or she can really understand you. This is a great golden rule that that is very useful in other types of conversations as well.

Simply find what you can say differently to make them understand you. And, once you have discovered that you have learned something new, give yourself a pat on the back. You have made a new step forwards again!

Last but not least, make sure that you are patient and that you are really dedicated to your learning. Learning is a lifelong process, but it can be highly entertaining and joyful, once you understand the true essence of learning.

What is your experience with speaking Dutch so far? You can share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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, July 1, 2018, in Amsterdam.

You can also:

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...

Read more



Leave a comment