How to speak Dutch like a native

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How to speak Dutch

Hallo, you’re going to learn how to speak Dutch? Excellent choice! You’ll have about 23 million people you can talk to in their native (and your shiny new) language. Plenty in the Netherlands, of course, but also in the Flemish parts of Belgium and even parts of South America (yep, heard of Suriname?). Oh, and in the Caribbean too - trip to Aruba, Saint Maarten or Curaçao? Yes please! As you can imagine, there are a few different variations of Dutch you might encounter, mostly Flemish Dutch in northern Belgium, with nearly 10 million speakers, and some dialects in the Netherlands, especially in Limburg, Lower Saxony and Brabant.

Ever heard of Afrikaans? It’s spoken by around 11 million people in South Africa and Namibia. Although it’s not exactly Dutch, it’s similar as it grew from a combination of dialects spoken by Dutch immigrants of old. If you speak Dutch, you might have to get used to their pronunciation, but getting the gist of written Afrikaans won’t be difficult.

The Dutch language

Dutch is in the same language family as English, along with German and the Scandinavian languages. This means that as an English-speaker, you have a bit of a jump-start with Dutch as a lot of words and even whole sentences will look familiar. One of the first things you might see when learning Dutch is “Wat is jouw naam?”, which, as you can see, is not a million miles away from the English translation “What is your name?” Not too bad, eh? And if you have learnt German before, you’ll recognise even more words. You can also breathe a huge sigh of relief, because Dutch grammar isn’t quite as complex as German/ Oh ja!

There’s one aspect of Dutch which can be tricky though - pronunciation. Words aren’t pronounced quite how they look, but, once you get to know the system, you’ll find that it’s fairly regular and won’t give you too many surprises. There are a few vowel sounds that don’t exist in English where you’ll need an attentive ear and some practice to master. But by then, you’ll be well on your way to sounding like a Nederlander!

Learning how to speak Dutch

There many options to choose from to learn how to speak Dutch. You can, of course, attend traditional classes with a teacher and other learners which provide personal and instant feedback. Plus opportunities to practice what you’re learning right away with others at the same learning level as you.

If you’re a self-starter, you can get your own textbook and get going on your own, but always make sure to have some kind of listening component, whether it’s a CD or MP3s that go with the textbook. After all, you have to know how Dutch sounds as well as how it looks! This method is flexible and lets you learn at your own pace, but it doesn’t give you direct feedback or the chance to practice interactively. Online courses or apps combine some of the structure and support of traditional courses, like guidance from experts, as well as the flexibility of self-learning, letting you learn at your own pace.

After you’ve learnt the basics and can understand a bit, it’s a great idea to branch out and dive into “real-world” Dutch. An obvious choice is to find a Dutch-speaking friend you can talk with. If you don’t know anyone who speaks Dutch, you can often find a language meetup in your area, where you can talk in groups, or a language tandem partner, where you help practice each other’s language. Other easy options to put your Dutch to the test is to listen to podcasts, watch online videos and follow Dutch social media accounts.

Learn how to speak Dutch with Babbel

When you learn Dutch with Babbel, you’ll learn practical, real-life conversation. Stuff you can use when and as you need it. No more fumbling around trying to look up a phrase for you. From ordering lunch to renting cycles in Amsterdam, we quickly get you talking with confidence.

There’s no chance you might be bored because you choose the topics that you’re interested in. Whether it’s Dutch tongue twisters (how about zeven Schotse scheve schaatsers schaatsen scheef?!) or holiday vocab for your trip to a Dutch-speaking land, you can focus on what you find interesting and relevant. And all course content is crafted and tailored for English speakers by our in-house team of expert linguists. They know their stuff to help you learn yours!

Because Babbel lessons are only 15 minutes long on average, you don’t have to shake up your calendar to learn how to speak Dutch. In fact, that’s short enough so it becomes part of your routine. 15 minutes is perfect for most commutes or lunch breaks. Even one lesson a day will make a difference!

Give Babbel a go and start your Dutch language journey today. Your first lesson is free!