Break through that Dutch language wall

Break through that Dutch language wall

Paid partnership

Have you been learning Dutch for a while and do you sometimes wonder how you can get your Dutch to the next level? Don’t worry if it seems that somehow, you’ve hit a wall. All you need to do is to change some of your thoughts and ideas. Albert Both from Talencoach will show you how!

Let’s assume that you want to speak Dutch fluently. What would be the fastest way to get there? You may hope that downloading a language app could do the trick, or, if you are a little bit more realistic, signing up for a language course.

Once you are in that language class, what is going to happen? Most likely, you’ll be memorising Dutch conversations. You’ll learn how to say what time it is, when you were born and how to buy cheese and tulips. But then… that Dutch language wall pops up. Where to go from there?

Well, with the following tips, you will be able to level up and break through that wall, real soon:

Decide that you want to be fluent

The first mistake people make is that they decide they want to learn some Dutch, only a little, just enough to get by in everyday conversations in shops and restaurants. This may seem reasonable. If you just learn a little, then it is probably easier to reach your language goals. But... unfortunately, the total opposite is true.

Let’s say that you would like to learn how to drive a car. Would it matter if you only drove close to your house instead of long distances? Not really, right? Although driving a longer distance might require more skills (if a Dutch person wants to drive to the mountains, for example), the basic skills that you need for a short trip are almost the same. On top of that, once you have started to drive long distances, driving close to your house will also be a lot easier…

Can you see the stupidity of learning Dutch just for basic things now? Even if you talk about superficial and mundane things, there are still skills that you need to master. Therefore, if you need to learn those skills anyway, it is better to use it for a higher purpose.

This is why it is a great idea to decide from the very beginning what you would like to do with your Dutch. It is better to aim high. Decide that you would like to give presentations, lead meetings or convince customers in Dutch. Sure, it takes more work to get there, but the journey will be a lot more inspiring.

Make sure that you think positive about yourself

One nasty thing that prevents people from breaking through the Dutch language wall is bad memories from school. Say you used to have an F for French. What does this say about your current language skills? If you were wise, you would say, F*** that F. How well you performed at school does not say anything about your ability to master Dutch right now.

First of all, a school will only punish you if you say the wrong things. The more risks you take, the higher your chances are that you will not pass the test. This is why virtuous students who only stay in their comfort zone walk away with an excellent A. And although having an A is better than an F – certainly, if you need to pass an exam – it says little about how well you can perform in everyday life.

Just go to any university where people study a certain language and see how many conversations you can have with them. Probably not many. Many people that perform well during tests only excel during written tests, but they do not know how to have a normal conversation, especially if they need to be spontaneous.

By the way, there are many reasons why you may have scored so low at school. First of all, it is a lot more difficult to learn a new language if you never go to that country. However, now that you live in the Netherlands, and once you have really decided that you are on a mission, things can be different!

Change your ideas about learning

How you think about learning has a direct impact on all of your results. First of all, most people mix up learning with studying, but these things are completely different. Studying is something that requires hard focus and work, and, in many cases, it means that you pore yourself over a thick and boring book. Quite often in solitude as well.

But… here is an important secret: studying is only one way of learning and contrary to what you may think, not necessarily the best one…

Many people love to think that studying is the ultimate way of learning, because they also believe that the more serious you are, the more you’ll learn. But luckily this is not true. Learning is simply getting new information and new insights. And then, frankly, it does not really matter how you do it.

You can learn new things by talking about things, playing and having new experiences. If you know how to do it, it can be a lot of fun!

Here is a weird thing… whenever people “officially study”, they immediately fall into the trap of intellectualising things, making everything more complex and difficult. Although you may feel like an intellectual when you study, there is little wisdom to be found if it is not practical. Take grammar, for example.

At schools, they make it look difficult with all those bewildering names such as “nevenschikkende voegwoorden” en “onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd” … No wonder some people hate grammar. At university, I had to study something called “Generative Grammar” and I really hated it. I called it “Degenerative Grammar” because it did not help me to improve my Spanish at all.

In my humble opinion, if grammar is too vague and complex and if it does not serve fluency, it is worthless!

But here is some good news. In order to make your own Dutch sentences, all you need is a clear blueprint. Plain and simple. Contrary to what you may think, Dutch grammar is not rocket science, once you understand it. Dutch is like German-light, so it is very logical.

Make sure that you learn the most important steps in an entertaining way and practice for a couple of days in a row, while having fun. Once you see grammar as a powerful blueprint that allows you to talk about anything that you want, it is easy to break through that Dutch language wall.

By the way, if you want to talk fluently, it is important that you absorb as many words, as soon as you can. The more words you know, the more you can say, right? I like to call this “the art of turning into a Dutch word magnet”.

Instead of learning a new word just by heart, start out by seeing if you can see any relation to English. After which you can start guessing what the word could mean.

Here is one example: “vergadertijger”. Try to guess what this Dutch word could mean. Hopefully, you can guess that “tijger” is “tiger” in English. And if you look at “vergaderen”, you might see a relation with “gathering”. “Vergaderen” is to gather together in a meeting, so that you can make decisions.

So, what do you think?

Vergadertijger” literally means “meeting tiger”. Would this be positive or negative? A tiger is a strong animal, so here the meaning is positive. So... A “vergadertijger” is someone who does extremely well in meetings.

Learn at all times

Here is another important thing: remember that you can always learn, also during moments when you do not know what to do. For example, if you see a word that you don’t know how to pronounce, instead of feeling helpless or stupid, you can also see it as a great moment to learn something new and move forward.

Learning is something that often happens when you doubt things. Act on it and you can be unstoppable. Discovering that you can learn at all times is a great power that can move you forward.

By the way, one of the most important things that you need to learn or discover is starting to see Dutch as a very logical and consistent system – no matter what other people say. Your job is to make sure that you understand it, because once you do, it is very easy to break that wall. Don’t listen to people that don’t know how to do it and simply complain about it.

You can break through the wall with relative ease if you are willing to believe in yourself and adopt a new way of thinking!

Remember to have fun

Last but not least, energy is important as well. Everything is easier when you have positive energy. Learning and speaking Dutch is no exception. Don’t settle for boredom; make sure that you have a lot of fun!

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, June 23, 2019 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