Article provided by Talencoach, an IN Amsterdam partner

Science proves that learning Dutch is relatively easy

Even Dutch people often seem to agree that speaking Dutch is difficult. They love to tell you that Dutch is one of the hardest languages to learn and they are almost proud of the fact that their language seems to have more exceptions than rules. But if you look at science, then you can only come to one conclusion: Dutch is the closest language to English. Or, if you like, you could even see it as a ‘German light’. Dutch has the same logical and consistent structure as German, but it’s actually much easier.

One of the biggest obstacles is your own mental attitude

There is one catch when it comes to learning Dutch: you may have to give up certain ideas about learning. First of all, it is important to realise that learning Dutch will not happen automatically just because you are in the Netherlands. Sure, you may learn some useful words and phrases, such as hallo, tot ziens and stroopwafel, but you’ll only speak Dutch for real if you make a clear decision to do so.

And before you know it, your mind may start to tell you why speaking Dutch will be difficult for you. There are aspects that negative minds love to focus on, like ‘you are too old’ or ‘you are not talented enough’. If you like, you can listen to your negative mind, but it is important that you start learning anyway. And not giving in to that negative voice in your head is often one of the biggest hurdles that you need to get over.

Change your ideas about learning Dutch

Realise that speaking a new language does not mean that you just copy words like a parrot. You are much smarter than that. It is also good to remember that it is difficult to learn things that you don’t understand and which don’t make sense to you. Therefore, if you have a teacher that explains all the grammar rules in Dutch and you cannot understand them, this is probably not the course for you.

Another thing that many people may find difficult is accepting the idea that learning has little to do with your ability to study hard and memorise a lot of content, or even to be serious all the time. There is one thing that is much more important: you just need to open your mind and start to play with Dutch words in a relaxed and creative way.

For example, you could begin with easy words such as huis (house), baas (boss) and arts (doctor). Can you see that all these words are close to English? (It helps if you think of the ‘healing arts’ to get the Dutch word for doctor.) There is one important principle of Dutch: you can make endless combinations of words, such as huisbaas and huisarts. So, imagining that you are seeing these words for the first time, all you have to do is to try to guess their meanings. Did you get it? Huisbaas is landlord, while huisarts is a general practitioner or family doctor.

Once you grasp the logic of combining words, you will discover much more. In fact, your Dutch vocabulary will take off. All you need to do is to experiment, be willing to make mistakes and be playful. With this attitude, you will find it much easier to learn and to speak Dutch. And with every new discovery, you can convince yourself that you are moving forward all the time.

Stay positive

The simple truth is that speaking Dutch can both be difficult and impossible or relatively easy and fun. It always depends on your perspective and attitude. Just remember that while complicating things is easy, you can always find easier ways if you are willing to adopt a new way of thinking. So always make sure that you choose to have a productive and positive mindset, because this is exactly the thing that will get you where you want to be: speaking Dutch!