Is speaking Dutch really that hard?

 12/11/2021   Albert Both     Education

Is Dutch really hard? If you ask Dutch people, then chances are high that you’ll hear a full resounding yes! It seems that somehow Dutch people like the fact that their language must be so hard to master. It is also an idea that is very popular among people that try to learn Dutch. So, it must be true, right?

So once again… is it hard to speak Dutch? The short answer would be yes. If you don’t know how Dutch really works, then speaking it can be a huge challenge!

Let’s start with a more ‘scientific’ point of view. If you look at Dutch objectively, you must soon come to the unequivocal conclusion that Dutch is the closest language to English (although Frisian might be even closer). The amount of things that Dutch and English have is common is astounding!

Here are some simple examples: ik slaap in bed (I sleep in bed) – ik eet brood (I eat bread) – De man werkt hard (the man works hard) Het is nu laat (It is late now) are quite easy to understand. Many words and even loads of grammar constructions are not that different from English.

According to science, Dutch should be easy!

Although most people may like this idea, objectivity tells us that Dutch is also extremely close to German. If you put German and English in a blender and if you mixed it with a little bit of French, to logical result of Dutch! Dutch really is in the middle between English and German…

When it comes to logic and structure, German has a great reputation. Everything is very systematic. That is why there is some great news about Dutch…. Dutch has more or less the same structure and way of thinking as German… The way that you build vocabulary and sentences are almost the same. Almost then…. The important difference is that Dutch is a lot simpler! Where German has 3 cases, Dutch only has 2 and Dutch has no cases. That is why you could call Dutch German light :).

Does it mean that speaking Dutch would be easy now? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not that simple. It is far more nuanced. Yes, it could be simple, only if you know how to do it!

A sad truth is also this. Most people that learn a new language, have often no clue of what they are actually do. You might believe that you just have to follow a normal textbook, but in most cases this is not a fast track to fluency. On top of that, the chance that you are wasting your time on important matters is almost 100%...

By the way, if you ask people what makes Dutch so difficult, that many times you’ll hear that pronunciation is difficult and that people speak to fast. That is why people erroneously believe that if they just improve their pronunciation and if they listen to Dutch again and again, it will do the trick. Unfortunately, this is not true….

How you think about learning determines your results, sooner than you think!

Although pronunciation is important, there are other things that matter much more! One thing is that you really understand how Dutch really works. Many people believe that if you just memorize enough sentences, then speaking will take care of itself. But… speaking is not about reproducing sentences that you have memorized before. You can check it for yourself. When you speak in your own language, do you reproduce some sentences that you have memorized first? Of course not, you just make your own sentences, right?

So here is a first important insight: rather than trying to memorize whole sentences, you really need to understand how you can construct Dutch sentences all by yourself. Of course, you need to be able to do it at a fast speed, if you like to have engaging conversations :)

One thing that you’ll discover sooner than later is that in Dutch the order in the sentence is different from English. Actually it is a lot like German :)

When you speak English, then chances are high that the right sentences just flow out of your mouth. You never think about it, right? Here is the thing…. If you like to speak Dutch, then one thing is certain: the way that you construct is different from English. So…. If you think in English first and simply replace it with Dutch words, then basically you can be sure of one thing. Probably what you said is wrong and does not make sense at all!

Contrary to what you may believe, constructing your own sentences deliberately is not that hard to learn. It does require some concentration, because when you want to construct a Dutch sentences all by yourself, you have to know what you are doing. You have to know what a first step is, a second step, a third step etc and then you need to speed it up!

Although technically it can be quite easy, there will be challenges of course! First of all, it is important to understand that things can be different from other languages that you speak. Also, you must be willing to accept a different and logical system!

At the end it is about a simply choice :)

That is why repetition is very important. The mind prefers things that it is already familiar with. It tends to reject new ideas and concepts. Did you realize that on average people need to hear and see a new idea 7 times, before they can accept it? Guess what? In a way, every new word and grammar thing is a new idea. So now you know what to do… Make sure that you play with it and that you use it multiple times. And before you know it, many things of a new language can be yours!

Here is another secret. Many people are not that critical. They simply copy ideas of other people and they are too lazy to examine them. However, when it comes to learning Dutch, too many people have no idea of what they are doing. They hope that just by memorizing like crazy and doing loads of homework, fluency will come all by itself. Also, many people believe that learning and speaking a new language must be difficult…

Here is the thing… if you believe that learning and speaking Dutch must be hard, you will find the evidence of this truth within a couple of seconds. Just try to listen to any conversation and then of course, you’ll be lost. However, if you try a new approach and certainly if you are open to the idea that Dutch could be easier and more logical than you ever imagines, soon you might come to new and more helpful conclusions. I have been working as a language coach for almost 18 years now…

Here is one thing that I have always observed. My brilliant students have a certain positive energy and also a great mindset. They like to play and explore the language and they feel excited about all the things they discover.

Although you always needs to be patient, it is very easy for me to predict which student will be most successful, even if I only speak English with them. My most brilliant students always have a certain positive energy of optimism, curiosity and excitement. They love to play with new concepts and ideas.

Here is one thing to consider…. Yes, you can decide that you like to speak Dutch and… yet there is another choice that you could also make… How would you like to learn it? The boring way of while having loads of fun? I certainly would have a preference and you?

Albert Both
www.talencoach.nl www.dutchflownow.nl
If you like to know more about a whole new way of learning and speaking Dutch, then make sure that you check these FREE eBooks that will go much deeper on this subject: Why You Hate Speaking Dutch & 7 Secrets To Change It and Don’t Worry Speak Dutch – 3 Steps To Dutch Flow

You’ll find loads of practical tips, more concrete examples and loads of new insights :-)