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5 strategies to learn Dutch

There are so many strategies that you can use to learn Dutch while you may not know about them. As an adult, you may find yourself in a difficult situation when you start to learn Dutch. This is absolutely understandable. If you look at expat children who go to Dutch schools, you may see that you are way behind them. It’s good to know that children do not ‘learn’ their dominant language; they ‘acquire’ it. However, adults ‘learn’ a new language and not ‘acquire’ it (Krashen, 1976).

This can be sad and discouraging. Yet, keep in mind that everyone has a strategy to approach a new language as an adult. The strategies can be varied. Research shows that many people think that they do not have any strategies when they are in the process of analyzing bits and pieces of a language. In this article, I remind you of 5 strategies that can help you learn Dutch easier.

The strategies

In addition to using authentic books and audio tracks, consulting a professional trainer and actively participating in the classroom, there are more strategies you can use to learn Dutch.

1. Find similarities in Dutch and your dominant language

There are many words that can be similar to your mother language or the language you have mastered. Let’s take a look at some of the most common Dutch words that have similarities with English:

  • Beginnen: To begin
  • Fractie: Fraction
  • Interessant: Interesting
  • Klimmen: To climb
  • Kort: Short
  • Mag: May
  • Resultaat: Result
  • Nu: Now
  • Wassen: To wash
  • Winnen: To win
  • Zeldzaam: Seldom
  • Zetten: To set
  • Example sentence: Mag ik nu beginnen? May I begin now?

As you see, there are many words that can help you learn Dutch since they are similar to the English ones. Learning these words and other ones can be a practical way to improve your Dutch. The deeper you dig, the more you find.

2. Make more mistakes

One advantage that children have that helps them acquire a language faster than adults is that they are not afraid of making mistakes. Children do not care if people laugh at their language mistakes. They keep making them. Adults, however, find this face-threatening. If you can manage to overcome this barrier and disregard what people think about you, then you can see big improvements in your progress. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be bold and make an opportunity out of each mistake you make. Interact with people and don’t be afraid of being judged.

3. Write more

Research has shown that the number of passive words that an adult knows is way more than active words. Passive words are those the meaning of which you know but do not recall or use in a conversation. For example, you may know the meaning of the word ‘nauwelijks’ when you encounter it but you do not use it in your own conversations. This is called a passive word. Writing frequently can help you bring passive words to the foreground of your word list. This could be due to the visual effect that writing puts on your mind. After all, you see the manifestation of a word on paper (or screen) and that can help you recall it easier.

4. Start watching Dutch newscast and reading Dutch papers

Many adults go to work during the week and travel to their place of work. Of course, the travel time could vary from person to person but if you have some time when you can read a news or a page in Dutch, do not waste it. You can find news at NOS or watch films on NPO. If you are creative, you can even make a written summary of what you read in Dutch. After a couple of months, you will see improvements in your learning progress.  

5. Find a buddy with whom to practice on a regular basis

When you go to work or to the gym, try to speak to people in Dutch. They usually get very excited to see someone who tries to speak their language. As soon as they understand that you are eager to practice, they become cooperative. You don’t have to speak perfectly, the fact that you try shows courage. Also, this practice helps you associate words with real-life representations. For example, when you go for a walk with your buddy, you can speak about things that you see. A language buddy helps you gain confidence and learn at the same time.

A theory

As a language teacher/enthusiast/expert, I always tell people that if you feel demotivated after a couple of months, think about my theory. My theory says learning a second/third/… language is like going to the gym. If you want to be fit, you should do it consistently. No skipping, no cheating. Compare learning a new language with learning your mother language. Ask your mother how long it took you to speak fluently. Perhaps 3 years? Or 4? I challenge you to give the same amount of time to learning Dutch. I am sure you will see positive progress.

In conclusion, we may not consciously know that we have strategies to learn Dutch but we do. These strategies can be different. You can always reach out and ask for more language advice at Elycio Talen. You can, of course, contact me personally at my email address.

Tailor-made Dutch courses

The strategies I mentioned above to learn Dutch are most useful when you combine them with a language training. No matter your field of work or level of education, you can always find a Dutch course that suits you at Elycio Talen. Take a look here for Dutch expat courses and choose the one that fits you best!

Personal advice?

You can always contact the training advisors of Elycio Talen, they provide you with a suitable language solution.

Academic reference:

Krashen, S. D. (1976). Formal and informal linguistic environments in language acquisition and language learning. Tesol Quarterly, 157-168.

Article Written by Sina Afshar

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