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Is Dutch Hard to Learn?


Are fear and uncertainty keeping you from getting started with Dutch? 

This is a common issue for many potential Dutch-learners. They tend to wonder things like: “Is Dutch hard to learn?” and “Is learning Dutch really worth it?”  

If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to answer all of your questions and clear up any doubts you may be having. 

At first, Dutch might seem like a very difficult language, but it’s surprisingly easy for English- and German-speakers. Dutch has even been described as a combination of the English and German languages! This makes it one of the easiest languages to learn for speakers of either language. That said, learning Dutch will take some time and effort, no matter what your native language is. 

So, is Dutch hard to learn? No, it isn’t. And in this article, we’ll show you why. 

DutchPod101 will give you a clear overview of what things might make Dutch hard to learn, and which parts are easy-peasy for new learners. With the right tools, you can overcome even the more challenging aspects of the language. We’ll show you that you can master the Dutch language, and we’ll even tell you how.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Dutch Table of Contents
  1. Is Dutch a Hard Language to Learn?
  2. Why is Dutch Easy to Learn?
  3. What are the Best Ways to Start Learning Dutch?
  4. Why is DutchPod101 Great for Learning Dutch?
  5. Summing it Up…

1. Is Dutch a Hard Language to Learn?

Is Dutch Really So Hard to Learn?

So, let’s start with the more challenging side of the Dutch language: Why is Dutch hard to learn? 

Every language has some tricky parts, and the only way to manage them is to be aware of them. In the long run, this will make learning Dutch a lot easier for you and provide you with a solid learning base. 

1. Tricky Pronunciation

Many new learners find Dutch hard to pronounce.

Even the most fluent foreign Dutch-speakers struggle with this, as the language has the weirdest combinations of letters. For example, there are consonant combinations like: nk, sch, ng, and nk. In addition, you’ll find some consonant combinations that form one sound, and others that form two sounds. 

Consonant combinations that form one sound:

Letter(English) PronunciationExample 
ngIt sounds like the [ng] in the English word “cling” or “thing.”lang (“long”)
chThe ch has three different pronunciations:
1) Like the Dutch “g,”
2) like [sh] in the English word “ship,” and
3) as [k] in the English word “Christ.”
1) licht (“light”),
2) douche (“shower”), and
3) Chris (“Chris,” the name)
sjIt’s pronounced like [sh] in the English word “ship.”sjaal (“scarf”)

Now let’s look at the combinations that form two separate sounds:

Letter(English) PronunciationExample 
schIt’s pronounced like an [s] followed by a harsh [ch], as in the Scottish word “loch.”schaap (“sheep”)
nkIt’s the same sound as in the English word “link.”pink (“little finger”)
knUnlike in English, a k before an n is pronounced. You’ll hear both sounds separately.knoop (“button”)
psUnlike in English, a p before an s is pronounced. You’ll hear both sounds separately.psycholoog (“psychologist”)

And it’s not just the consonants! There’s another tricky aspect to Dutch pronunciation: diphthongs. These are combinations of two vowels that make a fluid sound that no vowel makes on its own in Dutch:

Letter(English) PronunciationExample
aiThis Dutch diphthong is pronounced  as [I] like in “I am” in English.mais (“corn”)
auIt’s pronounced like [ow] in the English word “now.”auto (“car”)
eiIt’s pronounced as the [i] in the English word “find.”ei (“egg”)
euThis sound doesn’t exist in English, but you may know it from the French word “beurre.”leuk (“fun”)
ieIt’s pronounced like [ee] in the English word “bee.”mier (“ant”)
ijIt’s pronounced exactly the same as the Dutch ei diphthong.wijn (“wine”)
oeIt’s pronounced like [oo] in the English word “pool.”moe (“tired”)
ouThis diphthong has exactly the same sound as the Dutch au diphthong. koud (“cold”)
uiThis sound doesn’t exist in English, but it’s a combination of the [a] sound in “man” followed by a long Dutch u.muis (“mouse”)

All you can do is practice, practice, and practice even more. Luckily, DutchPod101 is here to help.

The Difficult Dutch Pronunciation

2. Confusing Word Order 

So let’s continue with another reason why people find the Dutch language hard to learn: the confusing word order.

Of course, simple sentences can just be made with a subject and a verb: 

Subject + Verb

  • Ik praat. (“I talk.”)
  • De jongen verft. (“The boy paints.”)

Adding a direct object to the mix is rather easy as well:

Subject + Verb + (Direct) Object

  • Ik praat met mijn vader. (“I talk to my father.”)
  • De jongen verft de deur. (“The boy paints the door.”)

The direct object in Dutch is called lijdend voorwerp (“leading entity/object”). It normally comes right after the verb.

However, when the sentences get longer, the word order gets more confusing. It becomes especially difficult when there are several verbs in the mix, because you’ll have to start splitting the verbs—something you don’t do in English. So be aware.

How do you know if you should split a verb or not? Be cautious when using the present perfect, past perfect, future simple, future perfect, conditional, and conditional perfect verbs. When you use them, you may need to put a verb at the end of a sentence:

Subject + Working verb + Adverb + (Adjective +) Direct object + (Adjective +) (Indirect object +) Other verb

Here are examples for all six Dutch tenses that can make sentences end with a verb:

  • Present perfect: 
    De jongen heeft in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf geverfd
    (“The boy has painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Past perfect: 
    De jongen had in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf geverfd
    (“The boy had painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Future simple: 
    De jongen zal in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf verven
    (“The boy will paint the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Future perfect: 
    De jongen zal in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf hebben geverfd
    (“The boy will have painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Conditional: 
    De jongen zou in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf verven
    (“The boy would paint the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)
  • Conditional perfect: 
    De jongen zou in het huis de gele deur met zwarte verf hebben geverfd
    (“The boy would have painted the yellow door in the house with black paint.”)

Do you find this very confusing? Try not to worry too much about it. When you’ve just started learning Dutch, you don’t have to worry about little details like this yet. For now, just be aware that these rules exist; it will help a lot when you’re a more advanced Dutch-learner.

3. De vs. Het – Two Ways to Say “The”

The Dutch language has two different ways to say the word “the”: de and het. In theory, all masculine and feminine words get de while all neuter words get het:

  • De vrouw (“The woman”) 
  • De man (“The man”)
  • Het kind (“The child,” neuter) 

However, a lot of Dutch words don’t have a clear gender indication, so it can be quite challenging to know which word to use. It’s something you just have to hear, memorize, and develop a knack for. 

Here are some tips to help you overcome this confusing ordeal:

  • All words referring to persons (individuals) are de-words (de voetballer = “the football player” / de president = “the president”).
  • All plural words get de (de katten = “the cats” / de stoelen = “the chairs”).
  • All words made smaller with (e)(t/d)je are neuter (het kindje = “the little child” / het bloemetje = “the little flower”).
  • Words ending with -el or -er are often de-words (de tafel = “the table” / de bakker = “the baker”).
  • All infinitive verbs that are used as a noun have the neuter het (het fietsen = “the cycling” / het schrijven = “the writing”).
  • Words with standard prefixes like ge-, ver-, ont-, and be-, and those without an -ing ending, are neuter (het verhaal = “the story” / het ontslag = “the resignation”).
  • Almost all words with the standard suffixes -ing, -ij, -ie, -e, and -heid are feminine (de politie = “the police” / de schoonheid = “the beauty” / de drukkerij = “the printing company” / de dame = “the lady”).

We know, we know. Why is Dutch so hard to learn? 

Now that we’ve shown you some of the trickier aspects of the Dutch language—and how to learn them well—let’s get to the good news.

Are You Already Getting Confused?

2. Why is Dutch Easy to Learn?

You’ve just survived the three most challenging parts of the Dutch language, but we promise that it’s not all bad. Dutch is actually a pretty easy language to learn with the right tools. Let’s show you why.

1. Dutch is Very Similar to English and German

As we mentioned in the introduction, Dutch is very similar to English and German. We’re guessing that you already speak one of those two languages (probably English since you’re reading this article). That’s great! It means that you have a head-start: Dutch is one of the easiest languages to learn for native English– or German-speakers. 

Why is that? 

Dutch is part of the Indo-European family of languages and belongs to the Germanic branch, as do English and German. That’s why Dutch is quite similar to those languages (but without the difficult grammar of the German language, lucky for you).

2. You Already Know Some Dutch Words

You may not realize it, but you probably already know some Dutch words. 

Back in the day, the Dutch had quite some influence all over the world, and they brought their language with them. That’s why some English words have Dutch origins, as do some other languages such as German, Spanish, and French. 

But these won’t be the only words you already know! It also works the other way around, as the Dutch language adopts a lot of foreign words and expressions. German, English, and French words are often used in Dutch conversations.

Here are some examples:

  • From German: Bühne (“Stage”), Folie (“Foil”), Föhn (“Hairdryer”)
  • From English: Bar, Editor, Manager
  • From French: Abonnement (“Subscription”), Actrice (“Actress”), Capuchon (“Hood,” of a jacket)

And don’t forget those more modern words that the Dutch adopt into their language: whatsappen (“to whatsapp”), bad hair day, out-of-the-box denken (“to think out of the box”), netflixen (“to Netflix”).

3. Dutch People Appreciate Your Efforts

The Dutch are used to foreigners speaking English with them. They don’t really mind it, as they accept that their language isn’t very popular or widely spoken. However, when foreigners (try to) speak Dutch, native speakers are pleasantly surprised and are happy to help. They’ll appreciate your effort, try to speak extra-slow, and help you whenever you get stuck. 

You might need to make it clear first that you really prefer to speak Dutch, as they’ll switch to English out of habit if you don’t. But once that’s cleared up, their willingness to help will turn out to be one of the best things about learning the language.

4. Your Pronunciation and Grammar Don’t Have to be Perfect 

The Dutch aren’t too picky or arrogant regarding their language. Mistakes are okay, and even Dutch natives can be quite sloppy with their own language. Grammar rules aren’t always taken into account and even pronunciation isn’t always perfect. 

The Netherlands may be a small country, but it has a lot of dialects and accents from region to region. That’s why there’s no such thing as perfect Dutch pronunciation. Take, for example, the hard g sound in the north and the soft g sound in the south.

Of course, you should try to learn Dutch the best you can, but it’s simply okay to make mistakes.

3. What are the Best Ways to Start Learning Dutch?

Would you like to learn Dutch? There are many reasons why you would benefit from learning the Dutch language: it broadens your mind, gives you new opportunities, and is a great way to get to know another culture.

With the right motivation and some useful learning tips, you’ll be able to master this not-so-complicated language. So how can you learn the Dutch language quickly and easily?

How to Study Dutch

1. Create a Study Schedule and Set Some Goals

Learning a new language can be quite overwhelming—there’s so much to learn! So how can you approach this big task in an orderly manner? 

Structure is key. Many new language-learners get started quite unorganized. They start off strong, but after a few weeks, they begin to lose motivation. To avoid this fate, it’s very important that you create a clear study schedule and set some goals. Goals give you motivation and something to strive for; a study schedule gives you the consistency needed to achieve those goals.

2. Use Word Lists to Build Up a Solid Vocabulary Base

If you want to speak and understand Dutch, you need a solid vocabulary base. But with so many words to learn, where should you start? Luckily, there are some tools available to help you build up your vocabulary, such as our word lists.

Just choose a topic that you find interesting and learn words related to that topic, one at a time. DutchPod101 has vocabulary lists on nationalities, animal names, occupations, and so much more. 

You may even want to set yourself some learning goals. For example, to memorize one or two vocabulary lists a week, or one new word a day. 

3. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes

As we said before, it’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes when they start learning a language, and it’s the only way to really start understanding it. So make mistakes, learn from them, and improve your Dutch. 

The most important thing is that you practice your Dutch; with time, those mistakes will happen less frequently.

4. Practice is Key

Learning Dutch vocabulary and grammar is great, but it’s not everything. To really learn a language, it’s important that you take every opportunity you have to practice. Whether it’s with your private teacher or with the baker in your Dutch neighborhood, just try to talk and put everything you’ve learned into practice. You don’t need that many words or extensive knowledge of complicated grammar rules to communicate. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you keep on speaking, listening, reading, and writing Dutch.

Practice is the only way to improve your Dutch, so go ahead and dive into the Dutch language. Watch Dutch series, read books in Dutch, listen to Dutch music, or tune in for a podcast. Talk with every Dutchie you meet and start writing stories in Dutch. Practice at every opportunity! 

5. Make Learning Dutch Fun

Learning a new language shouldn’t be boring. When it’s boring, you definitely won’t be able to stick with it. So try to make learning Dutch as enjoyable as possible. 

Of course, you can’t ignore learning the Dutch grammar rules or those endless lists of verb conjugations. But you can mix some fun into your learning by combining this dry type of studying with things you enjoy. For example, watching a Dutch TV show with subtitles, or listening to Dutch music and trying to translate or understand the lyrics.

This way, you’ll be more inclined to study!

    → Would you like to start watching Dutch TV? Luckily, the Netherlands has some great Dutch TV shows and series for beginners, intermediate learners, and advanced learners.

4. Why is DutchPod101 Great for Learning Dutch?

To summarize, let’s go back to the main question: Is Dutch a hard language to learn? No, but like any language, it has its challenging parts. However, with the right tools, you’ll be able to learn it with little problem. This is where DutchPod101 comes in. We’ll make your Dutch learning experience fun, fast, and simpler than you think!

How to Master Your Dutch Tests

1. An Integrated Approach

DutchPod101 works with an integrated approach by blending several skills into every lesson. So in just one lesson, you’ll be working on your reading, listening, and writing skills. This is because we provide audio recordings for you to listen to, transcripts and vocabulary words to read, and writing exercises to try it out for yourself.

This will make your Dutch learning more natural and effective. In one solid package, you’ll be able to work on all of the most crucial language skills.

2. A Massive Offering of Free Content

Whatever your learning level, DutchPod101 offers a great collection of content to help you advance. After you take the assessment test, you’ll be directed to the level that matches your needs. There, you’ll find a wide variety of free content, from vocabulary lists to customizable flashcards. 

On DutchPod101.com, you’ll find many other free tools that can be tailored to your needs. Some of these resources can even be downloaded and used offline.

3. Premium Personal Coaching

So DutchPod101 offers great content to practice your reading, writing, and listening skills, but how about those important speaking skills? To practice your Dutch speaking, you can rely on premium personal coaching with our MyTeacher service. Improve your pronunciation with feedback from your own private tutor! 

And your tutor will focus on much more than your speaking skills. They’ll also guide you through the wonders of the Dutch language with interactive assignments and personalized exercises. Together, you’ll focus on the areas you need the most help with and improve your overall language skills.

5. Summing it Up…

So, is the Dutch language hard or easy? 

We’ve shown you the most challenging aspects of the Dutch language, and why it might be easier than you think, from similarities with English to patient Dutchies. Learning a language is always a challenge, but we think you’ll agree that Dutch’s lighter side will make the learning process fairly simple for you. 

Do you feel ready to start learning Dutch? Or do you need some more guidance?

Another important aspect of mastering a language is having the right learning tools. Make sure to explore DutchPod101.com, as we have plenty of free resources to help you practice your grammar and many useful vocabulary lists with audio recordings to learn new words.

Remember that you can also use our premium MyTeacher service for personal one-on-one coaching. This way, you can really practice your Dutch speaking skills with your own private teacher through interactive exercises and personalized feedback.

Get started with DutchPod101!

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