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Dutch seems so easy

I will be in the netherlands in about a month...I try to learn the language. It seems so easy when listening...but the writing is so weird. Might just be me... I know that most people speak English well...but I would like to learn a few phases.

Posted by
4454 posts

Mtvaughn, see if your library has the Pimsleur Dutch disks. We've used those, and have enjoyed them immensely. And being able to speak even a few phrases impresses the heck out of the Dutch!

One real advantage is the course includes some simple readings. These help a lot, since as you have noticed the orthography is challenging. Even if most folks over there speak English, the signs don't!

Posted by
4537 posts

Get a Dutch phrasebook, pocket size, learn some basic phrases like hello, thank you (sounds almost like English), please, do you speak English, etc. The book will help you translate signs, menus, and other things, and you can look up words you see or need to use. Pimsleur and other language tapes are good too, if you have time to work with them before you go. Your public library may have them. But they won't make you fluent and they won't be there when you're in the Netherlands and need to look something up. A phrasebook is a cheap lightweight investment in communication.

Posted by
173 posts

thanks...I guess that dutch and english both have german roots...but the dutch language has more of a throaty sound

Posted by
2487 posts

Dutch is halfway between English and German, as is the country. The vocabulary and pronuncation is close to German, but the grammar is much simpler.
The spelling is much more systematic than in English. Who can explain me the different pronunciation of »gh« in enough, ghost and Edinburgh, to give just one example?

Posted by
1764 posts

The spelling is much more systematic than in English.

True, but to be fair it is like saying that an area is drier than the ocean…

As someone who speaks Swedish, English and German it is not that hard to read signs and shorter texts in Dutch and at least get the general idea what it means. And the grammar seems less complicated than German, but the pronunciation is a bit trickier. However, duolingo is a good place to learn at least the basics that I can recommend.

Posted by
942 posts

You can try and learn but I guarantee that everyone will speak to you in English.

Posted by
2487 posts

the pronunciation is a bit trickier
Yes. The ij, ei, ui and eu are all-time favourites with foreigners. Great you're trying it. It will be appreciated.

Posted by
2487 posts

We've got schoolmasters' Dutch: grammatically »correct« and with the »proper« pronunciation. Never use the Dutch equivalent of »them have« or you're out. It is the same with the pronunciation of the »ij« and other diphtongs. Do it in dialect of sociolect and you're immediately classified as »not one of us«.

Posted by
8293 posts

Needless to say, I do not speak Dutch, but when we once stayed at a B&B outside of Haarlem, the owner greeted us in the morning with what sounded to our ears like, “Schleppen zee Gutte?” We understood immediately.

Posted by
8889 posts

I'd say Dutch is 1/3 English, 1/3 German and 1/3 it's own invention. Understanding German and English I can guess many things.
Grammar is Germanic, for example "ge" prefix for past particles ("ed" suffix in English); shops are "geopend".

And the pronunciation is very guttural. 'G' and 'R' are very hard for a foreigner to get correct.

The reputation for "everybody speaking English" is well deserved.
Many years ago, I was parking my car in a street in Scheveningen (do not attempt to pronounce that ☺) when a small girl, I guess about 8, said something to me in Dutch. Panic, what do I answer? So I said slowly in English "Sorry, I don't speak Netherlands".
She said "please, do you have any small money?" (German for "change" translates literally as "small money"), and held out a large coin. I felt about 6 inches tall. She got her change, and I felt embarrassed for days.

Posted by
628 posts

I used Pimsleur for French and it was good except that they totally stress doing it by audio vs writing and I had a hard time hearing slight changes in sound. Also I learn best by reading/ writing.

Currently learning some German with an app called duolingo on my smartphone. Each lesson is about 5-10 mins a day - more if you want. Kind of kiddy oriented with pictures, sounds, matching games ,etc but is free ( with some ads) and actually pretty useful.

Posted by
11232 posts

The most useful thing I read about Dutch writing is that while it is phonetic, the phonemes are different from German, French, or English (even though many, but not all, of the sounds exist in one or more of these other languages). "You will just have to re-learn!"

I don't remember where I read that (probably some phrasebook). But every time I try to match Dutch sounds and Dutch spelling, I think of it.

So, more than for most languages, an English speaker learning Dutch really needs to learn the sounds first (this is where Pimsleur can be so helpful), then learn which letter combinations correspond to those sounds. If you try to learn how to pronounce it by looking at it, with "English eyes," you'll never get it right (at least I couldn't). But, if you accept that you will have to re-learn, then you can get that boot is pronounced like "boat," and boek is pronounced like "book."

Posted by
4454 posts

My favorite mnemonic for Dutch is: Hoe is spelled like "hoe," pronounced like "who", and means "how."

Posted by
4514 posts

boot is pronounced like "boat,"

As it happens boot was pronounced like "boat" in Middle English although it did still mean boot. (Boat was thought at that time to be pronounced almost like "bought" is today.)

Posted by
4454 posts

I love languages. Like Mayor Pete, I can order a sandwich in about 8 different languages. Not much more than that, though. Book a room, order a meal, maybe even ask directions. But casual conversation defeats me.

Posted by
12160 posts

In 1988 I was at this foreign language conference dinner here in Calif. The keynote speaker was the Director of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, himself a Professor of German.

He told us that the Army language students at 18-19 years given a period of two years' instruction in the different language groups, Romance, Germanic, Slavic, and other (Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese) learned more Dutch than any other language since Dutch was linguistically the closest to English.

When I heard that regarding the amount of language acquired in 2 year's time, I thought what the Director said blew the myth that to learn Spanish was the easiest for native English speakers. Bottom line: The DLI students found learning Dutch easier and could pick up more of the language within two years than with Spanish or any other language.

Posted by
12160 posts

"...order a sandwich in about 8 different languages." Fantastic...my compliments! The most I can do is in 4 languages when it comes to ordering that sandwich.

Posted by
4454 posts

Thanks Fred; I'm one of those folks who know a little bit about a lot of things, instead of a lot about just a few things. I do love languages, though.

Posted by
12160 posts

@ Jane...When I say 4, I mean English is one of them. Still, I say you are linguistically versatile and adept.