How Spanish can help you master Dutch faster

How Spanish can help you master Dutch faster

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Albert Both of Talencoach explains why you could master Dutch faster if you're also familiar with Spanish. 

Many people complain about it; Dutch is a difficult language to learn. However, Dutch is one of the closest languages to English. In fact, it’s more similar to English than German.

If you’d like, you could see Dutch as a kind of German-light. So, if you know German, or any other Germanic language, such as Danish or Norwegian, learning Dutch will be a lot easier. And, there is more good news.

Other Latin languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese can be a great help as well. That is if you know how to use your knowledge of these languages!

Do you speak Spanish? Here are five advantages you’ll enjoy when learning Dutch:

Advantage 1: Pronunciation

Let’s start with pronunciation. What is the one sound in Dutch that most people always complain about? Yes, the G-sound! However, if you speak Spanish then there’s nothing to worry about. You already know how to pronounce it with words such as gente, genial and ¡joder!

Also, the Dutch pronunciation of the letters A and E is more similar to that of their Spanish counterparts. Just look at the English words apple and band. If you take the Dutch word appel or dag, you will notice that the pronunciation of the vowels is more similar to how you would pronounce them in Spanish. The same thing is true for the letter E.

And there is more good news. If you’ve learned English as a foreign language, you must have noticed that English spelling is quite illogical. Spanish spelling is far more logical, and so is Dutch spelling.

Just like in Spanish, Dutch spelling clearly shows you how to pronounce words. For English people, this is a revolutionary idea. When it comes to the English language, the spelling of a word does not necessarily tell you how to pronounce it.

Advantage 2: Understanding of concepts

Spanish has many concepts that exist in Dutch, but not in English. In English, you call everyone you, but in Spanish you have tu and usted, just like jij and u in Dutch.

In Spanish, you address a whole group of people by using vosotros instead of tu. In Dutch, you use jullie when addressing a group, and jij when addressing just one individual.

In English, you can only use you. Therefore, if someone says to you “I love you”, you’ll never know if you’re truly the only one :)

Here is another example. In Dutch, you can say “ik heb zin in vakantie”, which is “tener ganas de vacaciones” in Spanish. Ganas is the perfect word for zin, but it's hard to find the right translation in English. You could say that you are up to something or that you really like it. But, it’s not truly the same.

The word zin is a lot easier to understand if you speak Spanish. Speaking a language is all about understanding concepts and ideas. If the same concept exists in your language, you will learn it a lot faster!

Advantage 3: Understanding constructions

In English, you say that you’re hungry or thirsty. In Spanish, it has nothing to do with being. It is something that you have: tengo hambre, tengo sed. Dutch follows the same kind of logic: ik heb honger, ik heb dorst.

Here is another nice example. What happens if you’re bored? According to Spanish, you are doing it to yourself: me aburro. Dutch shares that same notion. If you’re bored, it is your own fault, because you are doing it to yourself: Ik verveel me.

Advantage 4: You already know loads and loads of words!

If you know Spanish, many Dutch words will make a lot of sense! Triest looks like triste, and it’s a great word for sad. Duren is durar, so the sentence “De films duren een uur” will not be that difficult to understand. Whilst English does have the word duration, it's not a verb.

Take a look at the word oog and compare it to ojo. Don’t you think it’s quite similar? Funnily enough, it seems that the Engish word eye hangs a bit in the middle between oog en ojo.

Staying with body parts, the Dutch word maag is clearly a part of the Spanish word estómago, which is stomach in English.

Sure, it might take some flexibility on your part to see the connection, but once you start to pay attention, you will definitively discover many patterns.

Take a look at the Spanish word escribir. Now replace the B for a V. Then the Dutch word schrijven makes a lot of sense, right? It also looks like the Italian word scrivere... Anyhow, schrijven is closer to escribir than the English word writing.

Advantage 5: You’ll see words more clearly

Just ask a person who only speaks English what a millipede is. They can probably tell you what it is, but chances or low that they are aware that millipede is a logical combination of one thousand (millennium) and foot (pedestrian).

But when you see the Spanish word milpies, you can immediately see that it’s a combination of one thousand and feet. Once you understand this, the Dutch word duizendpoot makes a lot of sense. Duizend means one thousand and poot means leg (of an animal or table).

The greatest advantage of all: Mental flexibility

It’s easy to see that when you speak Spanish, you’ll have at least five advantages when you want to learn Dutch. The greatest advantage of all, however, is that you have more flexibility.

You can look at a language from more than one perspective! Therefore, it will be easier for you to deal with new information and new concepts.

At the same time, it’s also important to know that sometimes your knowledge of Spanish could confuse you when learning Dutch.

That’s why it’s important that you always operate with a playful attitude. Think in both English and in Spanish and see what works and what doesn’t work.

The golden triangle: Dutch - English - Spanish

Thinking in English or in Spanish will help you to master Dutch faster and... sometimes you’ll notice that it doesn’t help at all.

The great news is that if you do it in a very relaxed way, you’ll get a feel for it. That is why I love to call Dutch - English - Spanish the golden triangle.

Somehow, these three languages are connected in many different ways. It's amazing to see all the things that these three languages have in common. Of course, there are differences too. But they make life more interesting!

Maybe you've already discovered that speaking two languages instead of just one makes life more fascinating. Every language that you learn will open up a new world for you.

And, the first foreign language is always harder to learn than the second, third or fourth language. Keep that in mind, and just go for new adventures. By the way, I must warn you. Learning new languages can be addictive!

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast while having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow: Opening The Floodgate to Dutch Fluency" on Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Amsterdam.

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Albert Both


Albert Both

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