The Dutch language is renowned as one of the more difficult ones out there and there are many who would agree to this but realistically, Dutch is a language like any other and will time and attention you can become highly proficient, either because you simply want to expand your languages, for familial reasons or because you regularly to business in the Netherlands or plan to relocate there.

Dutch and English

Dutch has many similarities with English, which should help learning it more straightforward. It uses the Latin alphabet so you don’t have the struggle of learning a new one as you would with Russian, Greek and many other languages. Sounds in English and Dutch are very similar too and in fact, Dutch is one of the few languages that native English speakers can adopt the accent of a first-language speaker with ease, yes it takes practice but it isn’t as difficult as developing a French or Spanish accent for example. Dutch grammar follows the subject, verb, object structure like English although there is some differentiation with the positioning of adverbials highlighted as one of the most difficult things to overcome when learning Dutch.

The Dutch verb system too does have close similarities to English, with similar verb tenses and it is also uninflected. There are differences between the tenses in the two languages so there is a need to make sure you study verbs in depth to be sure of their exact conjugation.

The Dutch language also shares a large number of cognates with English as well as featuring many common Germanic and Romance vocabulary which is easily recognisable. This means that some Dutch phrases may be decipherable on reading, even if you aren’t entirely sure of the individual meaning of each word. This can help speed up the process of building and memorising vocabulary.

Difficulties in Dutch

Most of Dutch consonants are familiar but there are a few which appear and can be almost undecipherable for the unknowing. The –ch sound known in the Scottish word loch and the German word buch appears regularly and there is no native g sound in Dutch. The sound –oe appears regularly and is pronounced like the ‘oo’ within food. It is also very common in Dutch for consonants to be joined together and also, like German, for words to be made into compounds, of indeterminate length. One of the most commonly cited examples of this is the word slechtstschrijvend which sees 9 consonants strung together and is rather daunting for a non-native speaker of the language.

With the fantastic levels of English in the Netherlands it is important to push forward and keep trying with the language, rather than accepting the friendly Dutch people switching into English once they realise. Push hard and you’ll soon reap the benefits of proficient Dutch.


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