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Useful Guide to Improve Your Dutch Conversation Skills

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Did it ever happen to you that you just froze in a Dutch conversation? You went into the conversation with confidence, but in the end, were only able to blurt out a bunch of inarticulate words? Don´t worry about that, it happens to the best. You just need some tips on how to improve your Dutch conversation skills. 

You don’t need to dive into academic lessons or books to be able to master those conversation skills in Dutch, it doesn’t have to be so complicated. You just need to learn some tricks such as reaction words, filler words, or conversation starters. 

This guide will teach you how to improve your Dutch speaking skills: it all starts with making your own unique conversation “cheat sheet” with the words and sentences you might need the most. After that, you only need to learn some common Dutch questions, reactions, and answers, and you will be good to go and start that Dutch conversation. 

This way, nothing will stop you from making new Dutch friends and starting conversations with fellow students, coworkers, or random strangers.

Four People on a Couch Having a Conversation in a Café

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch Table of Contents
  1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet
  2. Learn Dutch Reaction Words
  3. Use Dutch Filler Words
  4. Learn Common Questions and Answers
  5. Use Dutch Conversation Starters
  6. How to Improve Your Dutch Conversation Skills
  7. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn Dutch

1. Make Your Own Conversation Cheat Sheet

So, how to improve your Dutch conversation skills? One of the best ways for improving Dutch conversation skills is to prepare yourself with your own personalized conversation cheat sheet.

1- What’s a cheat sheet?

So, what´s a conversation cheat sheet? It’s a list of words, phrases, and conversation lines that you can make for yourself. It’s no one-size-fits-all list, but it’s rather something personalized as it assembles information that refers to YOU, for example, relating to your background, lifestyle, age, and interests. 

2- Why would I need one?

When meeting new people, you will have to introduce and talk about yourself. So, it could come in handy to prepare some self-introduction phrases. This way, you will be able to answer questions about yourself, your story, hobby, interests, background, and, last but not least, what motivates you to learn the Dutch language. 

This will not only make the conversation runs smoother, as you are well prepared and have the vocabulary ready to talk about yourself, but it will also make you more confident when meeting new people. It’s a great way to be able to connect with your conversation partners and establish lasting relationships from the start with your (hopefully) new Dutch friends. 

3- How do I make a conversation cheat sheet?

As a conversation cheat sheet is something personalized, every cheat sheet is unique. It all depends on your story and which information you would like to highlight.

One way to go is to start writing your own self-introduction and then tell something about your hobbies and interests, for example:

Hallo, mijn naam is Julia, ik kom uit Argentinië en ik ben 35 jaar oud. Ik woon in Amsterdam en ik werk hier als socioloog. Daarvoor heb ik 4 jaar in Spanje gewoond, ik studeerde daar sociologie aan de universiteit van Madrid. Ik hou van films kijken, koken en wandelen.
“Hello, my name is Julia, I am from Argentina and I am 35 years old. I live in Amsterdam and I work here as a sociologist. Before that I lived in Spain for 4 years, where I studied sociology at the University of Madrid. I like watching movies, cooking and walking.”

You can elaborate on the individual parts of your conversation cheat sheet and imagine how you would answer specific questions, by gathering phrases and words that specifically apply to your situation:

  • Ik woon sinds twee jaar in Amsterdam. (“I have been living in Amsterdam for two years.”)
  • Ik ging in 2016 in Madrid wonen. (“I went to live in Madrid in 2016.”)
  • Ik wilde nieuwe landen en culturen ontdekken. (“I wanted to discover new countries and cultures.”)

  • Veranderen van carrière (“Changing career”)
  • Een nieuwe studie beginnen (“Starting a new study”)
  • Mijn leven omgooien (“Turn my life around”)

  • Mijn favoriete film is de Notebook. (“My favorite movie is the Notebook.”)
  • Ik houd van de Aziatische keuken. (“I love Asian cuisine.”)
  • Ik maak elke dag een wandeling door de stad. (“I take a walk through the city every day.”)

4- Useful Learning Tools

You now know what a conversation cheat sheet is, why you would need one, and what information you should include. Do you have a hard time creating your own introduction phrases and answers? Don´t worry, there are plenty of resources you can use, depending on your level:

  1. Online translators may have a bad reputation. However, nowadays, they work quite well and can definitely help you with your more basic Dutch introduction phrases. There are many different online translators, but Google translate is the most popular option.

  2. Other online tools such as Reverso context can help you with idioms and expressions. They’re not flawless, but still, it’s a nice resource to use.

  3. DutchPod101 has tons of useful free content, blog articles, and vocabulary lists you can use. The vocabulary lists may especially come in handy if you’re looking for a specific topic. They also provide sentences and vocabulary that suit specific needs.

  4. A personal teacher is a great way to learn fast and efficiently. Your own personal teacher can definitely guide you through the process of writing your conversation cheat sheet and fix any mistakes you may make. Be sure to check our private coaching service from our Premium PLUS offer.

A Businesswoman Offering Her Hand, Ready to Introduce Herself

2. Learn Dutch Reaction Words

With reaction words and expressions, you can fill up those awkward silences and miscommunications. It’s a great way to show that you have been paying attention and are interested in your Dutch conversation partner. They will definitely make your conversations smoother and more lively. So, let’s have a look at some Dutch reaction words that express excitement, curiosity, and disbelief, among other reactions.

1- Great!

A: Ik vind de serie die je me hebt aangeraden heel erg leuk (“I really love the series you’ve recommended me.”)

B: Wat leuk, ik ben blij dat je het leuk vindt! (“That’s great, I’m glad you like it!”)

2- Sorry.

A: Ik heb een notenallergie. (“I have a nut allergy.”)

B: Oh, sorry, dat wist ik niet. (“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know.”)

3- I can’t believe it.

A: Ik hou niet van kaas. (“I don’t like cheese.”)

B: Echt waar? (“Really?”) [Formal/Casual]
B: Meen je het? (“Are you serious?”) [Formal/Casual]
B: Maak je een grapje? (“Are you making a joke?”) [Casual]

4- That’s a shame.

A: Ik kan vanavond niet komen. (“I can’t come tonight.”)

B: Ah, dat is jammer. (“Oh, that’s a shame.”) [Formal/Casual]
B: Ah, dat is balen! (“Ah, that sucks!”) [Casual]

5- Keep me posted!

A: Ik weet nog niet of ik vanavond kan komen. (“I don’t know if I can come tonight.”)

B: Oké, hou me op de hoogte! (“Okay, keep me posted!”)

6- Thanks for coming!

A: We hebben genoten van het feest gisteravond. (“We have enjoyed the party last night.”)

B: Wat fijn, bedankt voor het komen! (“How nice, thanks for coming!”)

    ➜ This is just a quick list of common reaction words and phrases, but you can find more useful information in our blog article on Intermediate Dutch Phrases.

3. Use Dutch Filler Words

So what are filler words? Dutch filler words are those short sounds and words that locals use to fill the gaps when talking. You don’t necessarily have to use them, but they are useful as they give you time to think, and they definitely will make you sound more local.

Let’s have a look at some of the most common Dutch filler words:

1-

DutchLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Uhm…“Uh…”

Ik zou graag wat melk en, uhm… twee eieren kopen. (“I would like to buy some milk and, uh… two eggs.”)

De supermarkt? Uhm, het is de eerste straat naar links en dan zie je de supermarkt aan de rechterkant van de straat. (“The supermarket? Uh, it’s the first street on the left and then you see the supermarket on the right side of the street.”)

2-

DutchLiterallyEnglish Equivalent
Maar goed“But good”“But yeah” / “Anyway”

Maar goed, ik ben dus eigenlijk nog steeds boos op haar. (“Anyway, I’m still mad at her.”)

Maar goed, genoeg daarover, hoe gaat het met jou?
(“Anyway, enough about that, how are you?”)

3-

DutchLiterally and English Equivalent
Eigenlijk“Actually”

Maar, eigenlijk, koop ik dit product al jaren. (“But, actually, I’ve been buying this product for years.”)

Eigenlijk eet ik liever binnen. (“Actually, I prefer to eat inside.”)

Hij vind dat eigenlijk helemaal niet zo grappig. (“He actually doesn’t think that’s funny at all.”)

4-

DutchLiterally and English Equivalent
Nou“Well” / “Well then”

Nou, ik denk dat hij het niet leuk vond dat je zo tegen hem sprak. (“Well, I think he didn’t like you talking to him like that.”)

Nou, ik ben het niet helemaal met je eens.
(“Well, I don’t quite agree with you.”)

We gaan nou niet zo snel naar Amsterdam op dit moment. (“Well, we are not going to Amsterdam anytime soon.”)

5-

DutchLiterally and English Equivalent
Dus“So” / “Well”

Dus uhm, ik ga niet mee vanavond. (“So uh, I’m not coming along tonight.”)

Dus, wat is er met je aan de hand? (“So, what’s up with you?”)

    ➜ For more Dutch filler words, example sentences, and how to use them in your conversations, make sure to have a look at our article on Dutch Filler words.

4. Learn Common Questions and Answers

An Image of a Man Saying Something to a Woman, But She Doesn't Understand Him

Asking questions and answering them is part of our daily life. It’s how we get to know each other, how we organize our lives, and how we get a better understanding of someone or something.

Do you already know the golden rules of Dutch questions? Do you know the Dutch question patterns, as well as the most important question words? If you need a refresher, go to our complete article on Dutch Questions and Answers.

Otherwise, let’s dive into some of the most common questions as well as some examples of answers you might want to add to your conversation cheat sheet. Once again, choose the sentences that feel relevant to your personal story and interests.

1- How are you?

  • Hoe gaat het met je? (“How are you”) [Casual]
  • Hoe gaat het met u? (“How are you”) [Formal]

Another informal way to ask this question is: Alles goed? (“Everything fine?”)

Possible answers for this question include:

Het gaat goed met me. (“I am doing great.”)
Ik voel me niet goed. (“I am not feeling well.”)
Het gaat wel. (“I am fine.”)
Ik heb het erg druk. (“I am very busy.”)

2- What’s your name?

  • Wat is je naam?  (“What’s your name?”) [Casual]
  • Wat is uw naam? (“What’s your name?”) [Formal]

Another way to ask this question in Dutch is: 

  • Hoe heet je? [Casual]
  • Hoe heet u? [Formal]

Let’s now have a look at the answers:

Ik heet Sophie. (“My name is Sophie.”)
Mijn naam is Sophie. (“My name is Sophie.”)
Ik ben Sophie. (“I am Sophie.”)

3- Where are you from?

  • Waar kom je vandaan? (“Where are you from?”) [Casual]
  • Waar komt u vandaan? (“Where are you from?”) [Formal]

Let’s have a look at some possible answers:

    Foreign answers
    Ik ben Duits. (“I’m German.”)
    Ik kom uit Frankrijk. (“I’m from France.”)

    Local answers
    Ik kom uit Amsterdam. (“I’m from Amsterdam.”)
    Ik ben een Rotterdammer. (“I’m a Rotterdammer.” – a person from Rotterdam)
    Ik kom uit Brabant. (“I’m from Brabant.”)

4- Do you speak Dutch?

  • Spreek je Nederlands? (“Do you speak Dutch?”) – Casual
  • Spreekt u Nederlands? (“Do you speak Dutch?”) – Formal
  • Spreek je Engels? (“Do you speak English?”) – Casual
  • Spreekt u Engels? (“Do you speak English?”) – Formal

Let’s have a look at some possible answers:

Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands. (“I speak a little Dutch.”)
Ik spreek vloeiend Engels. (“I speak English fluently.”)
Min of meer. (“So-so.”)

5- What do you do?

  • Wat doe je? (“What do you do?”) [Casual]
  • Wat doet u? (“What do you do?”) [Formal]

Or sometimes it’s better to be a bit more specific:

  • Wat voor werk doe je? (“What kind of work do you do?”)
  • Wat is jouw baan? (“What’s your job?”)
  • Waar werk je? (“Where do you work?”)
  • Wat voor een studie doe je? (“What kind of study do you do?”)
  • Wat studeer je? (“What do you study?”)
  • Waar studeer je? (“Where do you study?”)

Some possible answers are:

Ik ben politieagent. (“I’m a police officer.”)
Ik werk in IT. (“I work in IT.”)
Ik werk in een kledingwinkel. (“I work in a clothing store.”)
Ik studeer anthropologie. (“I study anthropology.”)
Ik studeer aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam. (“I study at the University of Amsterdam.”)

5. Use Dutch Conversation Starters

A Man and a Woman Drinking a Cup of Coffee and Having a Conversation

It can be hard to start a conversation with random strangers. It may be a little easier when you’re among fellow students, coworkers, or friends, as you have something in common, but you’ll still have to come up with some good opening lines.

It’s even more complex to start a conversation in a foreign language, but it definitely helps to be well prepared. Add some good conversation starters to your conversation cheat sheet and you’ll be good to go!

Here are a few examples for various situations:

  • Ik ga nog een drankje halen. Kan ik iets voor je meenemen?
    “I’m going for another drink. Can I get you something?”

  • Aan welk project werk je?
    “Which project are you working on?”

  • Weet jij een goede plek om te lunchen?
    “Do you know a good place to have lunch?”

  • Woon je al lang in Amsterdam?
    “Have you been living in Amsterdam for a long time?”

  • Wat zijn jouw plannen voor dit weekend?
    “What are your plans for this weekend?”
    ➜ There are many other conversation starters that you can use for a wide variety of situations, from strangers, people you already know, colleagues, schoolmates, and romantic dates to reconnecting with friends. For many more examples, have a look at our full guide on Dutch Conversation Starters.

6. How to Improve Your Dutch Conversation Skills

So, how to improve your Dutch speaking skills? Let’s give you some useful tips on the best ways to improve Dutch conversation skills.

1- Get as much exposure as possible

Exposure is everything, so listen to Dutch podcasts and music, watch Dutch movies, TV shows, or series, read Dutch books or make some new Dutch friends. There are many different ways to get some exposure to the Dutch language, so choose the exposure that works for you and your situation.

Exposure will help you learn the language without feeling like it’s all boring study work. It helps solidify everything you’re learning in a fun way, as you’ll get to experience words and structures in more natural situations.

Sure, you’ll need some basics before you can start, but there’s no need to wait too long, as recordings can be slowed down and videos can be subtitled.

2- Use every opportunity to practice

Practice is key. It may be a cliché, but it’s definitely true. Having real-life conversations is truly the best way to put your new grammar and vocabulary lessons into practice. 

Do you feel like your Dutch is not good enough to have a conversation? You don’t need more than some basics to get out there and talk to someone. The conversation might not go very far, but you will definitely learn from it.

Of course, if you are not in the Netherlands, it may be harder to find some Dutch language practice opportunities. However, language meet-ups or online chats are all valid ways to practice, as long as you get to talk to a native speaker and experiment with what you’ve learned.

3- Don´t worry too much about grammar or vocabulary

As we already said before, you don’t need to speak Dutch perfectly before you put those conversation skills in Dutch into practice. Don´t worry too much about Dutch grammar or vocabulary, it will hinder you from trying to speak Dutch. Just use the knowledge you have, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You will learn from them.

And if you want to be a bit more prepared, pick the topics you will need and learn the basics. Often you can get quite far when you mix up the words you already know and just make new phrases out of them.

4- Get some feedback

Practicing is very important, but it might be even more important to get feedback. Without feedback, you might run the risk of getting stuck in the same mistakes without being able to spot and correct them.

So how to get that feedback? Finding a language partner (online or in person) is one way to go. Your language partner may be interested in your native language, and this way, you’ll both benefit from the relationship; besides that, it could lead to a nice new friendship.

Another option is a language teacher, as a private teacher will be able to set you on the right path, correct your grammar mistakes and improve your pronunciation. You can probably find a private teacher or classroom-based language course where you live or subscribe to an online service such as our Premium PLUS coaching on DutchPod101.

7. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn Dutch

A Woman Waving and Saying Hello

In this guide, you have learned how to improve your Dutch speaking skills. One of the best ways to improve Dutch conversation skills is to start with a conversation cheat sheet, then learn about various types of words and expressions that will help you run those conversations more smoothly, from filler words, reaction phrases, common questions, and answers to useful conversation starters.

Is there any other topic you would like to add to your Dutch conversation skills practice? Or are you ready to put these conversation skills in Dutch into practice?

Make sure to explore DutchPod101’s many free resources, such as vocabulary lists with audio recordings. This way, you can practice your Dutch conversation skills and understand your conversation partner even better.

Maybe you would like a private teacher? DutchPod101 also offers personal one-on-one coaching with the premium MyTeacher service. Boost your Dutch with your private teacher’s interactive exercises, personalized feedback, and useful tips.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch