Are you trying to learn Dutch? Do you want to learn Dutch, but, for some reason, it just didn’t happen yet? Break all obstacles and excuses and learn Dutch fast and easy after reading 11 common issues and their solutions when learning Dutch, here in the LearnDutchOnline.nl Blog! Spoiler: Dutch ‘directness’ and untranslatable Dutch words might be involved. Let’s go: ‘I’m trying to learn Dutch,..’
1. ..BUT ‘de’ and ‘het’ are so hard, I never know when to use which article!
The definite Dutch articles cause alot of stress. But you simply can’t work around them: there are essential parts of Dutch grammar that solely rely on ‘de’ and ‘het’!
‘De’ and ‘het’ are the equivalent of ‘the’ in English. Just like French, Italian and German, Dutch has different articles – but definitely not as much as these other languages, and definitely not as complex. But, while the articles in other languages might be connected to the gender or number of the noun, in Dutch it’s generally unclear as to why you use either ‘de’ or ‘het’ with a particular word. What any good Dutch teacher will tell you is this: you just have to learn the article with the word!
That’s where a good Dutch dictionary comes in the picture. Van Dale is still the best one out there, and they have a free online version right here.
There are some tricks regarding ‘de’ and ‘het’ though…
First of all, two strict rules for the definite Dutch articles do exist:
- Always use ‘de’ with definite plural nouns, like in ‘de jongens’ or ‘de huizen’
- Use ‘het’ with smaller versions of nouns (diminutives), like ‘het meisje’ and ‘het boekje’
Based on the above two rules, you could go quite a long way by only using plurals and diminutives. For example:
‘Hey, hoe gaat het?’ En met de kinderen?’ –> de kinderen = the kids
– ‘Het gaat goed, en met jou? Met de kinderen gaat het ook goed, bedankt!’
‘Ik heb een autootje gekocht.’ –> autootje = (small) car
– ‘Oh, wat leuk! Gefeliciteerd! Waar staat het autootje?’
‘Ja, heel leuk! Het autootje staat daar, om het hoekje!’ –> het hoekje = the corner
2. ..BUT I don’t understand how to form the past tense in Dutch!
The past tense in Dutch can be very confusing. These are the main reasons:
- the tool that is the acronym of ‘t Kofschip/soft ketchup/fokschaap
- regular and irregular verbs
The first one is a tool you use to get to the correct past tense conjugiation of any regular verb. It’s not so much about the word, but about the letters in it. If you look closely, you’ll see that all three made-up words have the same consonants: f-s-k-t-c-h-p. Again: you only use this tool with the regular verbs. NOT with the irregular ones!
The irregular verbs have to be studied and memorized separately – just like with English or French for example.
Here’s an example with ‘t Kofschip:
- Werken (to work) –first step: get to the stem–> werk-
- Is the last letter of this stem part of ‘t Kofschip? —> The ‘k’ is indeed part of ‘t Kofschip!
- Add -te, -ten or -t to get to the past tense forms for werken. –> DONE!
In just 3 steps you can go from the infinitive (complete, whole) verb to the past tense conjugations. You find the stem by removing the -en at the end of the infinitive verb. Then, you check whether the last letter of this root is part of ‘t Kofschip. Lastly, if it is, you add the -t. Otherwise you add the -d, for example with the verb rennen:
- Rennen —> renn-
- The ‘n’ is not in ‘t Kofschip
- So add -d to get to the past tense forms –> Rende (singular), Rennen (plural), Gerend (past participle)
..not that hard, right?
3. ..I’m struggling with the pronounciation!
Every student of Dutch has issues with the pronounciation. Except for the German speakers, or speakers of Arabic and similar languages, that include all Dutch sounds and more. The average student at LearnDutchOnline.nl always struggles with speaking Dutch though – and this is completely understandable.
You probably never had to use your throat to say ‘GADVERDAMME!’ or ‘sCHool’. And it probably does not sound as great as your native tongue , right?
If you can work past all of that, and just accept the fact that this is what you’ll be sounding like if you want to optimally enjoy the incredibly flat area that is the Netherlands, all it takes is practice. Yes – practice Dutch letters, sounds and phrases every single day. With friends, neigbours and colleagues. And in front of the mirror.
Eleanor RooseveltEveryday, do at least one thing that scares you.
What always helps is to exaggerate. Emphasize the new sounds especially, pay attention to what your mouth and face does and focus on the muscles and vocal chord areas involved. Try to remember all of that for each letter and sound.
The final is step is to simply break out of your comfort zone and speak Dutch as much as possible, as often as possible. If this scares you, remember speaking Dutch can be your one scary thing to do each day, that will make you grow and thrive. No one has done anything amazing by doing the same boring stuff everyone else does, every day. Right?
4. ..BUT I’m not confident speaking Dutch!
Confidence comes with practice – so if you really want to be confident when communicating in Dutch, you really should practice speaking and writing Dutch every single day. Remove all the friction, don’t listen to the haters (and that voice in your head saying you can’t or shouldn’t speak Dutch is also a hater) and just do it.
We understand: Dutch sounds hard. It looks like German. You probably don’t want to sound German. Not because of history, but just because (just joking here of course). And most people around you are not helping you to speak Dutch. They might pretend they want you to use Dutch, but in the end they seem to like correcting you and speaking English to you just a whole lot more.
Just make it fun for you – do not let make people make fun of you. You’re at least trying to learn Dutch, and whatever the next article about how great we Dutchies are with English (most of us are really not, especially outside of Amsterdam) says, most of us will not even think about making an effort to learn your language.
Core message here: maintain a strict growth mindset, stay positive and keep having fun!
In the end, it’s up to you: is learning to speak Dutch worth an investment of your time (and money)?
Or is there just too much going on in your life at the moment, leaving no space for a language you might not even use in the near future?
Living the international expat life can be full of insecurity and stress. We understand, since LearnDutchOnline.nl’s origins lie in Amsterdam, still the most international city of the country, where we started with teaching Dutch to people from all over the world. Still, learning to speak fluent Dutch can also be a great solution for all the problems that come with an international life. It’s you who has to decide whether this is the case, or if you’d like to start your Dutch journey at a later stage.
5. ..everyone keeps speaking English to me
This is one of the most common issues when learning Dutch, especially for people living in or around the bigger cities in the Netherlands (‘de Randstad’). Alot of Dutchies want to show off their amazing English skills (ahum), but even more just try to be nice and make the conversation as easy as possible. Maybe even more so for themselves (haha).
The solution is easy; don’t let them or anyone else disrupt your Dutch journey! Ignore them, be direct if necessary and just keep speaking Dutch back.
There’s nothing wrong with just asking if someone can use Dutch only when communicating with you. Many generations of Dutch-Moroccans, Dutch-Turks and other colourful Dutchies have already wandered this extremely effective path. So why not you?
Do you enjoy reading these best tips to learn Dutch? Maybe this will interest you as well: The Most Common Questions About Dutch Language (And People!).
6. I can’t pronounce the ‘G’
Ah, the famous Dutch ‘g’! It’s our secret power. When the times comes, and it’s our soul or winning a game, we’ll just ask the devil to say ‘schoonmaakmachinegeneraalschool’, and he’ll be off before you know it.
All joking aside – getting that ‘g’ right will take practice. You could start with ‘schoonmaakmachinegeneraalschool’ (can you say it, though?) or, even better, just start with ‘GGGGG’ first. From the middle of your throat. Like ‘Shahrukh Khan‘, the superstar actor from India.
Once you get this right, you can start with small words and sentences:
‘Ga je nog naar school?’
‘Ga je nog naar school vandaag?’
Keep on practicing. And don’t forget to exaggerate. Tip: ask people to check your Dutch ‘g’. And have them explain the following to you: ‘EN GAAAAAANNNN!’.
7. ..BUT I don’t have the time or energy
Work is alot. Socializing is alot. Sleeping and hobbies take time. Family takes up the rest. That leaves no time to learn something new, let alone Dutch. Right?
If 70-year old grandfathers with multiple businesses can go to the gym 6 days a week, you can find the time to learn Dutch. Another one: if Elon Musk can run crazy, world-changing companies and buy Twitter, you can spend a couple hours a week on improving your Dutch. If..
You get the point. Stop making excuses. Schedule a couple of hours for your Dutch learning every week. Specify the date, time and place – so there’s nowhere to run or hide. And just do the work, or at least fake it till you make it.
Still no energy? Then go to the gym. Run. Meditate. Stop Netflixing and gaming so much. You have the time. You just need the right mindset. And maybe someone that can hold you accountable, so you finally learn the Dutch you need, being confident while communicating in Dutch.
8. ..it’s not really necessary (everyone around me speaks English)
This is one we keep hearing more and more. It might the most popular one among common issues and their solutions when learning Dutch.
If you think it is not really necessary to learn Dutch and English is enough, are you actually living in the Netherlands, though?
Or maybe your life consists mostly of work and just a few people you see that don’t want to speak Dutch to you, and you don’t want to make an effort to do the same, too. It’s just convenience, right?
But what if your circumstances change? Or suddenly your work demands everyone does speak at least basic Dutch? Will you just leave the country then? Or find another job, because you’re suddenly fired? You might. But then again, you’re not actually living in the Netherlands then. Just working here.
And what about at the gemeente and market? And Dutch friends or even family? You never know where life will take you, so better just learn Dutch!
Really living in the Netherlands means you have to at least know basic Dutch, and be able to communicate in it, too. Otherwise you’re not an active part of society and definitely not enjoying the full Dutch experience.
So, the question is: do you want to really live here and experience the full ride, with everything Holland has to offer? If yes, then learning Dutch is inevitable.
Otherwise, we still wish you the best. And of course: thanks for being here and contributing to our economy!
9. ..I can’t afford a Dutch course
If money is an issue when learning Dutch, just think about all those kids that learn any language around the world. For free. in the most dire of circumstances. If your toddlers can master Dutch in just a year, why can’t you?
You see – kids just do stuff. They don’t experience that much friction and insecurity as we do, they just cut to the chase. And that is actually the way to go when learning anything – but languages in particular. Kids just start to speak, read and listen. They make mistakes and correct themselves. And then they do it all again.
Did you know a whole Dutch learning method is based on how kids learn a language?
This is called the Delftse Methode, and it’s one of the most popular ways of learning Dutch. It’s also one of the most authentic and effective methods ever. And if you sign up for a Dutch course at LearnDutchOnline.nl, this will be one of the methods you’ll be using when learning Dutch! Because we like to teach Dutch fast and straight-forward, so you can use it immediately during your day-to-day.
A free and easy way to learn Dutch is to just immerse yourself in the culture: create at least one place in your home that is your Dutch spot. Use only Dutch there – even if it’s in the mirror. Buy Dutch books, movies, comics and stuff – and put it there – even if it’s just deoration. Spend 30-90 minutes there daily. Also read and listen to the Dutch news there. Ideally, you’d subscribe to a Dutch magazine or newspaper which you’d dissect there, buy a good Dutch dictionary and put it within reach (we recommend Van Dale, which is still the best dictionary in the Netherlands).
Jip en Janneke, Suske en Wiske
Another great free way of learning Dutch is reading children’s books. The best option is Jip en Janneke – the classic Dutch duo nearly all Dutch people grew up with and learnt Dutch from! Jip and Janneke are two kids who go on fun adventures and learn about life along the way. The Dutch used by author Annie M.G. Schmidt is authentic yet simple, so it’s perfect for you if you’re looking to learn Dutch while learning about Dutch culture simultaneously.
Another option is Suske en Wiske – the immensely popular comic book from Willy Vandersteen. Many teachers at LearnDutchOnline.nl still read these comics, that not only teach the reader proper Dutch, but also get you acquainted with history, science and overall life lessons!
BONUS TIP: subscribe to Donald Duck – yes, the magazine that’s known as Mickey Mouse Magazine elsewhere. If you’re looking for a cheap and fun way to learn Dutch, Donald Duck is an absolute must! Many households still grow up with this stubborn Duck and his friends, learning from their many adventures, puzzles and even an app nowadays.
If money is really tight for you at the moment, there is another solution though: the Budget A1 Course, for just € 133,95. Check it out here!
10. ..BUT it is SO hard!
This is a popular obstacle/excuse we as teachers at LearnDutchOnline.nl hear alot: Dutch is a hard language to learn and it takes SO long to master it! But is this actually true?
Researsch ahs shown that Dutch is the most closely related to English than any other language. English is not in the top 10 of hardest languages – not by a long shot. Yes, Dutch sounds hard (literally), dry and not too melodious – but that doesn’t make it hard to understand and use. Conclusion: Dutch has many things in common – especially regarding grammar – with English. If your English language skills are good, you should not endure too much trouble when learning Dutch. All it will take you is a bit of effort! So why not sign up for a failsafe online Dutch course with a money-back guarantee right now?
Dutch words are also strongly present in other languages, like English, Afrikaans (South-Africa) and Surinaams (Suriname, ex-colony of the Netherlands) and Bahasa/Indonesian (also an ex-colony).
How long it takes to learn Dutch is, in the end, up to you. Read how to accelerate your Dutch learning here!
11. ..I don’t understand the levels
This is an easy one, and a quick Google search will give you this, too:
- A0 – absolute beginners
- A1 – beginners
- A2 – intermediate beginners
- B1 – independent users of Dutch with basic grammar and vocabulary
- B2 – independent users of Dutch with advanced grammar and vocabulary
- C1 – independent, advanced users of Dutch, higher educational level
- C2 – independent, advanced users of Dutch, academic educational level
At LearnDutchOnline.nl you can follow lessons for all of these levels. Popular picks are the Learn Dutch Now!-course (to B1-level), the Inburger Me Now!-course (to A2- and B1-level) and the Intensive Month!-course (up to C2-level).
More than 12 years of experience will leave you no other option than to learn Dutch properly and understand Dutch grammar till within its core. Check out all courses and register directly, here!