Can you learn Dutch all by yourself?

Can you learn Dutch all by yourself?

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Wouldn’t learning Dutch all by yourself be a good idea? It’s convenient and since you don’t need to pay a teacher, it’s also cheap! All you need to do is to buy a book and listen to some CDs. It's just too easy... right?

Being your own teacher would be great. In the Netherlands teaching and learning are almost the same thing as Dutch speakers use the verb leren for both! (That explains why Dutch people often say that they want to "learn" you something.)

So can you really teach yourself Dutch? Let’s take a look at some important factors to consider:

You must make the effort

In a way, you can only learn if you teach yourself. You must make the effort. It’s the same with drinking or eating: another person can bring you food, but you’re the one who has to eat it, otherwise nothing will happen! With teaching it’s exactly the same.

When you think about it, you are always your own teacher as you’re always analysing and using your intuition. If someone tells you goede morgen, you have to understand that goed means "good", so it’s a greeting of some sort, and since they’re speaking to you in the morning, it most likely means "good morning".

It’s this kind of inquititive thinking that can turn you into your own teacher!

Don’t skip essential grammar

In the above case, a lot of learning takes place almost automatically, as you can pick up the language by using association, analysing the context and just having a guess.

However, teaching yourself Dutch can quickly get more complicated when you move on to more complex sentences. For example, how would you decode "Ik ben morgen in Spanje"?

If you are familiar with Dutch grammar then you will immediately understand that it means, "I will be in Spain tomorrow".

Other Dutch learners, with less grammar knowledge, might incorrectly translate it as "I am in Spain this morning."

If you haven’t studied the intricacies of the language then you will encounter two small but potentially misleading surprises:
Morgen means both "morning" and "tomorrow".
Speaking in the present tense can also refer to the future.

Be realistic, can you manage by youself?

This is an example of how your intuition can only take you so far with Dutch. At some point you’ll need help to gain a deeper understanding of essential grammar. And often it’s only when your mistakes are pointed out that you will learn from them.

At this point you have to ask yourself "Am I capable of giving myself a stronger understanding of the language, and to pick up on my own mistakes?"

If the answer is "yes" then congratulations! You have the determination to reach your goal independently.

If you answer is "no" then no sweat, there’s nothing wrong with getting help. A tutor, conversation partner or short language course can often do the trick.

Just listening to Dutch is not enough

Some people erroneously believe that when they hear correct Dutch all the time, they will somehow pick it up automatically and use it correctly. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Let’s have a look at the next sentence: "Morgen ik ben in Spanje". Does this sentence sound right to you? Many people, especially English speakers, will be absolutely convinced that it’s correct.

But not a single Dutch person in the Netherlands would construct a sentence like that way. Instead a local would say "Morgen ben ik in Spanje."

This is what we call distortion: without an external influence to correct you, your mind can perceive things differently and represent it to you in a different form, convincing you that you’re right!

Watch out for your blind spots

When you are leaning by yourself it’s important to be aware of your blind spots. You will pick up many things automatically, like expressions, sayings and vocabulary.

But there are many other things, like word order, tenses, and turns of phrase, that you may miss - even if you’re regularly exposed to them.

A great teacher can open your eyes and your ears to a language and help you observe things in a different way. If you are teaching yourself then make sure you maintain a fresh approach to learning. Keep listening and don’t hesitate to ask locals to correct you, give advice or answer your questions.

The more exposure, the faster you learn

Here is another great thing: if you’re constantly seeing and hearing Dutch then you can’t ignore it. This is extremely handy as the constant exposure helps you to memorise vocabulary and grammar. If you see and hear Dutch around you all the time, there is no other choice than to pick it up!

Keep going - it will pay off!

Once you understand some of the above principles, such as getting a lot of exposure and asking for help along the way, then it will gradually become easier to make consistent progress with the language.

Also, as you learn and start to see the progress you’re making, you’ll start to enjoy practicing the language, which will make you feel even better!

Don’t be afraid to get help!

There are many teach-yourself books for all kinds of things, also for learning Dutch. They can be very useful, however the grammar can be difficult to understand and it can get pretty boring just reading a book. So it’s no surprise if, at some point or other, you get stuck.

If this happens, don’t worry, just make sure you find someone who can help you out. It's often at this point that a short Dutch course can come in handy as you already have a good knowledge base and only need someone to answer your questions. Whether it's a teacher or friend guiding you, you can also save a lot of time!

Learn to teach yourself

You can definitely learn to speak great Dutch by yourself. However, if you’ve never done it before then you’ll also be learning how to teach yourself at the same time!

Get exposure to the language, listen, read about grammar, ask for feedback and practise as much as you can! With some perseverance, motivation and a little extra help from a teacher or friend you’ll be amazed how many things you can discover by yourself!

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast while having fun. Download his e-book "3 Steps to Dutch flow" for free!

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 Download his e-book "Why You Hate Learning Dutch and 7 Secrets to Change It"
 Join his workshop "Finding Dutch Flow, How to Open The Flood Gate to Dutch Fluency"
 Visit his website or simply comment below for inquiries / remarks.
 Check out his 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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