How to speak Dutch with confidence

How to speak Dutch with confidence

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Has it ever happened that you have Dutch words in your mind ready to say, but then doubt comes up and you feel hesitant?

However, when you do speak you suddenly feel in control again and your words flow easily. Why? Because you switched back to speaking English!

The missing ingredient

Ask many people what stands in the way of them speaking great Dutch. Chances are high that they will all answer the same thing: lack of confidence.

Feeling confident is a small particular thing that many people seem to miss when speaking Dutch. You know some grammar, you know some words, but why are you not saying anything? It’s the lack of confidence that must be stopping you. This leads to the question…

How do you get confidence?

Looking for confidence seems like the next logical step to help you practice and improve your Dutch. But where can you find it? Unfortunately, they don’t sell it at Albert Heijn or Blokker, and you can’t order it from

On top of that, confidence is often the kind of thing where you either have it - or you don’t. Some lucky people are overflowing with confidence; while others have a real uphill battle.

People with confidence find it easy to speak Dutch. The more they talk, the more they learn and the better they feel about themselves. This boost grows and then they speak even more.

For others, having the confidence to speak in Dutch seems like an unobtainable holy grail. It may feel like there is nothing you can do to get it.

The no-confidence approach

Here’s a thought: what if you don’t need confidence at all? Contrary to what you may think, feeling confident might not be that important. Not feeling confident can actually be a great help if you are open to the idea.

Feeling uncertain can be an advantage, as it makes you alert and pushes you to keep trying. Knowing that you still have a lot to learn will keep you open to discovering new things and ideas.

In fact, if you feel too confident it can actually be an obstacle for learning, as it can make you lazy and complacent. You might stop trying, or think you’ve learnt enough, and then you’ll end up speaking rubbish!

There is one key element to the no-confidence approach that can make a radical difference to your Dutch. It’s very simple and not intellectual at all, and yet it is one of the most useful things that you can learn in your entire life, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s called making mistakes.

Commit to making mistakes

Simply start. Say something in Dutch and expect to make many mistakes. If you like, you could even give yourself a new assignment: commit to making at least 65.000 mistakes while speaking Dutch. The more mistakes you make, the more you will learn.

Once you know you will make many, many errors while speaking Dutch, then you also need to be open for some feedback. You’ll find that the mistakes help, instead of hinder, you.

Learn from them and you’ll notice that somehow you’ll find the confidence you were looking for. It has been waiting deep inside of you to be activated.

Forget perfection

Here’s another insight: when most people practice their Dutch, they go for perfection. They think that they will only succeed if they say everything right. But of course, this is not realistic and will almost never happen. You’ll only get frustrated and depressed.

Small steps, big progress

Decide that you’re going to speak Dutch every time you enter a public place, such as a shop or restaurant. Know that you will make mistakes, and that it’s ok. You can use the responses from native speakers to improve your Dutch bit by bit. Plus, strangers are the best people to practice on!

Remember that with each conversation you are improving your Dutch, even just by a tiny fraction. When you add up all the conversations and all the little things you learn, then you will realise that you are actually making progress and getting more control of the Dutch language.

Expansion will certainly be slow in the beginning.  But as you go, each conversation will get a little easier, and you’ll gradually feel more at ease.

The breakthrough moment

There will come a time when you notice that confidence is not really an issue any more. You’ll feel that you already have it. A magical shift will happen, literally overnight.

All of a sudden you will be speaking Dutch. Sure it will be Dutch with mistakes, but now you’ll feel good and confident because you know that, from this point on, your Dutch can only get better and better!

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast while having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow" on Sunday, March 6, 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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