How expanding your Dutch vocabulary can be really easy

How expanding your Dutch vocabulary can be really easy

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Is expanding your Dutch vocabulary really that difficult? Not if you have a little fun with it, says Albert Both from Talencoach!

Have you ever wondered if you could speak Dutch more fluently and with far more ease? One thing is certain; if you find that you sometimes still struggle, there is a strong possibility that you have yet to find the right way to take your Dutch to the next level.

It all starts with a simple idea. Do you believe that Dutch is a difficult language or a language that is relatively simple? If you believe the latter, then, of course, you’ll find it easier to have all the Dutch conversations you'd like.

Good news

Expanding your Dutch vocabulary is easy and fun, once you know how to do it! If you find this difficult to believe, here are some first fundamentals that might cheer you up:

First of all, Dutch is quite close to English. "Zon" means sun, "week" means week and "brood" means bread. On top of that, some abstract words are easy to recognise and use, for example "economie" (economy), "meditatie" (meditation) en "strategiesessie" (strategy session).

There is more good news. You only need some willingness to use your imagination and play around with the language. There are many words that look like English words, making them easier to learn. All you need to do is to give these words new meaning and change the pronunciation according to the Dutch rules.

Use your imagination to expand your vocabulary

Let’s play with some fun examples:

Think of the colour red. Associate it with The Red Cross. Good! Now all you have to do is think about what The Red Cross does. They help and save people, right? Now, start associating the word red with the word save or rescue. Imagine that one day, you fall into a canal in Amsterdam - let’s not discuss the reason or cause here :) - and all of a sudden you hear: "Ik red je" (I will save you). That must sound like music to your ears, don’t you think?

Let’s expand your vocabulary even further. The person that got you out of the water is called "een redder" and the act of saving is "de redding". If you like the gospel you might say "Jezus is mijn redder" (Jesus is my saviour), or you could talk about "de redding van een failliet bedrijf" (saving a bankrupt business) or "de redding van een reputatie" (saving a reputation).

By the way, if Dutch people feel that they can’t finish a project or make their appointment on time, they may send you the following message: "Ik red het niet" (I am not going to make it). With some imagination, you could say: I can’t save my plan from failing. Anytime that you feel that you cannot do or accomplish something or that it’s somehow all too much, you can say "Ik red het niet! Help!" (I am not going to make it! Help!) 

Here is another great usage of the word "red": If you say "Ik red me wel, it means that you can save or rescue yourself from many different situations. It is a great positive affirmation to use. Even when your Dutch vocabulary is limited, you can say "Ik red me wel" (I’ll be fine). And if you say it to yourself with confidence, it can put you in a more resourceful mood!

Let’s play around with another example. Just think of the word nut. When you eat nuts, you enjoy certain health (unless you are allergic, of course) benefits, right? Good! Now it will be easy for you to accept that nut means use or benefit. So, if you'd like, you could say in a meeting "Ik zie het nut niet", which means that you can’t see the practical use of something.

If you are willing to play around with it a little bit more, then you can change nut into "nuttig", which means useful or helpful. "Ik vind de informatie nuttig" is a great way to say that you find the information useful or helpful and, of course, you can also say the opposite. "Dit is nutteloos", which is a great way to say: this is useless.

Here is another trick. Just think of the word wet. It is pretty much "een wet" that everything gets wet when it rains. Now, you might be able to guess what "wet" means. It means law, of course.

You can combine "wet" with the Dutch word "grond", which means ground in English. So, what do you think "grondwet" means?

"Grondwet" means something like a ground law, a basic law, a core law. Sure, you could also call it "constitutie" in Dutch, but "grondwet" is a word that you may see far more often. Then, if you’d like, you can combine "wet" with the word "geven", which means to give. "Wetgeving' is literally law-giving, and knowing this, it is easy to come to the conclusion that it means legislation.

Here is another example. Just imagine that the hero held a troubled person in his / her arms and then you know that "held" means hero. If, one day, you would like to say something nice to a Dutch person, simply say "Jij bent mijn held" (you are my hero).

Do you own a bike? If so, here is another useful word. Just think of a rubber band and then you have the right word for tire, which is "band".

As an added bonus, the word "band" is similar to the English word bond, which means it also stands for good relationships. So, you might say "De band met mijn moeder is goed!" (The bond with my mother is good) 

So, to sum things up… You can now say "Mijn held is" (my hero is) or say "Red het referendum" (save the referendum) or "Red de olifant in Afrika" (save the elephant in Africa)! You might even like to start a new discussion about "Het absolute nut van nieuwe wetgeving" (the absolute benefit of new rules and legislation).

Can you see how easy it is to add new words to your vocabulary and that, because of this, you can talk about many more subjects in Dutch?

Why so serious? Play around a little!

Even if you don’t see yourself talking about all of the topics above, one thing is certain - most people would like to feel less restricted and enjoy more freedom when speaking another language. There is a good chance that the same thing applies to you.

This simple way of thinking can really help. Look at Dutch words that look like English words and start to play around with them. Use a little bit of fun, weird logical thinking and then, great things can happen!

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, April 15, 2018, 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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GirishTanwar 08:04 | 10 April 2018

Loved this article