You may be wondering what the easiest languages to learn are and whether complex languages are still worth knowing. So, should you learn Dutch and is it hard to master?
Dutch is not hard to learn if you can also speak English, German or other Scandinavian languages. This is because Dutch has many similarities to Germanic languages and is spoken by about 23 million people, learning the language will be a worthwhile endeavor.
To determine if the Dutch language is complex, we will go through features of Dutch language, the duration required to be proficient in the Dutch language as well as creating a plan to conquer the language.
How Hard is Dutch to Learn, Really?
There are a few components that make the Dutch language distinctive. Although Dutch writing is based on the Latin alphabet, the way that it is pronounced might feel different. Additionally, it has similar grammatical rules to the English language.
The Dutch alphabets follow the English alphabets, although there is a difference in pronunciation.
Pronunciation of Dutch words may prove to be challenging. However, English speakers might have a slight advantage as the sound systems of the Dutch and English languages are similar. The pronunciation that comes from the way that words are spelled is pretty consistent or intuitive.
Once you overcome any difficulty speaking the Dutch language, it will not take long to become fluent. The Dutch manner of speaking may make it slightly difficult for beginners since the Dutch swallow sounds and small words when they speak.
Thus, sometimes what you hear may sound like ‘Thangtervanaf’ when in fact, they mean Het hangt ervan af (it depends).
Dutch grammar is accessible to English speakers because the Dutch verb system has similar tenses to the English language.
Additionally, there are no inflections. Significantly, however, there may be a problem in the mismatch between the tenses since specific meanings are not expressed in the same tenses in Dutch as in English.
English requires the past simple, where Dutch uses the present perfect tense. Hence, English speakers could mistakenly use ‘I went to school yesterday instead of ‘I have gone to school yesterday,’ in Dutch.
The Dutch language follows the same Subject-Verb-Object as English but there are distinctions in the position of adverbs. Additionally, the Dutch language uses definite and indefinite articles as in English.
The Dutch and English languages have many basic Germanic vocabulary. Therefore, it can be relatively easy for English speakers to begin to quickly understand the Dutch they hear or read.
Unfortunately, there may also be ‘false friends’ in terms of words that look and sound the same but are actually different in their meaning. For example, one may think that ‘Ik heb wat actuele informatie nodig’ means that ‘I need some actual information’ but in fact the Dutch word ‘actueel’ means ‘current’ or ‘up-to-date’.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Dutch?
According to the US Foreign Service Institute, learning the Dutch language will take 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours). However, the length of time it takes someone to learn Dutch depends on the learner and how much time and effort one can invest in mastering the language.
Dutch is a Category 1 language and is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. Other Category 1 languages include Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
Can I Learn Dutch on My Own?
You can learn Dutch on your own if you immerse yourself in a learning experience in the Netherlands and practice the language on a regular basis. Doing so will help you navigate everyday activities and use Dutch in practical situations.
Here are some helpful resources available on Amazon.com:
- Teach Yourself Complete Dutch (Beginner to Intermediate Course): The course is structured in thematic units to help you progress from basic introductions to dealing with everyday situations. This will help one communicate with a large degree of fluency with native speakers.
- 2000 Most Common Dutch Words in Context: This book provides a list of 2000 common words in Dutch and their translations as well as an example sentence for each word.
- Conversational Dutch Dialogues: This book allows for a new chapter with a fresh, new story between two people who are solving a common, everyday issue one encounters in real life. A Dutch version of the conversation will take place first, followed by an English translation.
- Routledge Intensive Dutch Course: This resource will be important to take students from the beginner’s to intermediate level in one year. Additionally, the Routledge Intensive Dutch Course developed a comprehensive working knowledge of Dutch sentence structures.
Depending on your primary language, Dutch can prove to be easier or challenging. Dutch is closely related to North Germanic languages such as Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.
Why Learning Dutch May Be Difficult
While learning Dutch is easier for English speakers since there are similarities with the English language, there are some aspects that make learning Dutch a challenge.
Dutch People May Prefer Speaking English
Most Dutch people in Amsterdam may switch to speaking English once they hear that you are not a native Dutch speaker.
Since the Dutch see themselves as international and are able to speak English fluently, they may choose to speak English rather than allowing you to practice speaking Dutch.
Differences With the English Language
Although the Dutch language is, like English, a member of the Germanic family tree, there are several differences. For example, there is a huge vocabulary to learn.
With 49,255 pages in 43 volumes and two supplements, the official Dictionary of the Dutch Language is the biggest dictionary on the planet.
Non-native speakers may find it challenging to pick up on the different regional accents if you are not fluent. For example, there are different Dutch accents such as Het Drents, Brabants, and Maastrichts.
Although the Netherlands has a small geographical area, there are more than 20 different Dutch accents. In fact, if someone from Amsterdam meets a person from Maastricht, there might be potential for difficulty in understanding each other.
Create a Plan To Conquer Dutch
Dutch is not a complex language as long as you can devise strategies to conquer it.
- Use your primary language as a reference point. Find language teachers who also speak your primary language so that they understand the nuances.
- Dedicate at least 2-4 hours to learning Dutch daily. Alternatively, have weekly classes of 2-4 hours to practice your Dutch.
This article has highlighted the similarities of the Dutch language with other Germanic and Scandinavian languages.
At the same time, there are certain elements of the Dutch language that may make learning it difficult, such as the different accents that beginners may encounter when travelling in the Netherlands. Thus, you should certainly devise strategies to conquer the Dutch language.