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If you are considering learning Dutch, know that you will benefit from learning a prominent European language belonging to a culture with a long history of trade and travel, and an attitude of openness to the outside world. This is fitting when you consider that Dutch is the official language in far-reaching countries—from the Netherlands and Belgium, to Aruba and the Dutch Antilles (Caribbean), including Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Because the Dutch are famous for their tolerance and acceptance, Dutch is a wonderful second or third language to learn. At any given moment in the Dutch capital, 30% of Amsterdam’s population is comprised of visitors. You can use this to your advantage to help you feel more confident diving into the Dutch culture and practicing speaking Dutch. Unlike some cultures, the Dutch are far less likely to be offended if you make a grammatical mistake when learning to speak the language.
You won’t be alone in your endeavor to learn Dutch either, with 5 million people worldwide speaking Dutch as a second or foreign language. This, combined with the 23 million mother tongue or native speakers, means Dutch is the third most-widely spoken Germanic language in the world, after English and German. In fact, most residents of the Low Countries—that is the Dutch-speaking coastal region of Europe—are familiar with the confidence needed to learn a second or third language, as many speak at least two languages already.
Using Rosetta Stone’s award-winning mobile app and software, you can engage with Dutch at your own pace, helping you to start speaking Dutch from day one. Learning Dutch with Rosetta Stone means you are leveraging a trusted language-learning software with over 25 years experience developing language programs that work. You’ll learn the foundations of the Dutch language and develop vocabulary presented in an order that’s tried-and-tested to ensure better understanding of how to communicate confidently in Dutch.
Learning the Dutch Alphabet
Our first stop on the language-learning journey is the Dutch alphabet. The official or standard form of Dutch is known as Algemeen Beschaafd (ABN) or General Civilized Dutch, or Standard Dutch, in English. Standard Dutch has the same 26 letters as the English alphabet. In addition, there is ĳ (lange ij), which was once written as y. The letter y is also the only letter in the Dutch alphabet that is called by its name: Griekse y (Greek y) or ypsilon (after the Greek letter).
Most consonants in Dutch are pronounced roughly the same as English with a few deviations. The letter d is pronounced as you would in English, unless it appears at the end of a word, where it is pronounced as a “t,” as in hond (dog).
If you find g at the start of a word, you will need to make the famous Dutch guttural sound, what’s technically called a uvular fricative. It is similar to the sound you might make clearing your throat.
Try your hand (or tongue) with these:
Some people find it hard to distinguish between the soft g and the h. Practice speaking the following pairs aloud and see if you can hear the difference:
gaan (to go) / haan (rooster)
goed (good) / hoed (hat)
gier (vulture) / hier (here) gek (crazy) / hek (fence)
gang (corridor) / hang (tendency)
Now that you’ve got the hang of it, try this tongue twister:
Het gaat heel goed (It is going really well)
If you come across an r before the letter g, it usually is silent. Elsewhere in the word it is pronounced as you would in English, as in regendruppel (rain drop) (with the exception of a few dialects that use the uvular fricative here as well).
Additionally, the Dutch have three consonant combinations where the separate consonants are merged to create a new sound:
ch, sch, and ng. When we combine ch in Dutch, we get a sound that is the same as the letter “g,” such as licht (light). Pronounce the sch combination similarly, but with an “s” before, as in schip (ship). Pronounce ng as you would in the English words king, long, or string, as in zingen (to sing).
In Dutch, in addition to the vowels a, e, i, o, u, and y, there are numerous combined vowels, also called diphthongs. The combination ui—in huis (house), for example—is especially tricky, but can be practiced as a short “a” sound, as in the English word “hat,” followed by a “u” sound.
After practicing the alphabet sounds, we advise language learners to jump right into pronunciations. By far, the best way to figure out how to pronounce these tricky vowels correctly is to practice and get feedback from native speakers like one of our Dutch language tutors.
Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion® method combines learning vocabulary with real-world situations that build towards a greater contextual understanding of key Dutch phrases. As with most worthwhile endeavors, there aren’t any real shortcuts, but by combining solo practice in the Rosetta Stone award-winning mobile app and practicing with 10-minute lessons, you can take control of your progress and accelerate your learning.
Learn to Pronounce Dutch Words
Rosetta Stone encourages learning foundational concepts first. Each lesson includes practical exercises that get you speaking Dutch and working on your pronunciation consistently. Because Dutch is a much more phonetically consistent language than English, Dutch words almost always sound the way they are spelled. You can use this phonetic knowledge to pronounce long, compound words, that otherwise might be overwhelming.
Another leg up you have already is being an English speaker. Dutch is a close relative of both German and English and some say it sits right between the two languages. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and incorporates slightly more from the Romance languages than German, but far fewer than English. Consider that 80 of the 100 most common words in English are Germanic in origin. These most basic, most-frequently used words in English and Dutch derive from the same roots, making them extremely similar. For example, the Dutch phrase " goedemorgen” translates to “good morning,” and the Dutch welkom” translates to “welcome.”
Using what you already know and breaking down these compound words can help you learn to speak Dutch faster than you ever thought was possible. And getting the pronunciation just right is a snap with TruAccent, Rosetta Stone’s patented speech recognition technology. TruAccent listens and instantly compares your accent to native speakers, so you know you’re pronouncing Dutch words and phrases accurately.
Learn how to ask “Could you recommend a local restaurant?” or “Kunt u een restaurant in de buurt aanbevelen?” from a native Dutch speaker.
Learn how to ask "Excuse me, where could I find the best stroopwafel?" or "Pardon, waar kan ik de beste stroopwafel vinden?" from a native Dutch speaker.
Learn Conversational Phrases in Dutch
Now that we’ve got a handle on a bit of Dutch vocabulary, we can dive into the conversational phrases that’ll help you ease into real-world conversations.
1. Learn Dutch phrases in context
Now that we’ve got the ball rolling by building a grammatical base and pronunciation, we can put these skills to work with a few common Dutch phrases. After all, once you get started, it’s all about moving forward one step at a time with a program like Rosetta Stone that contextualizes your practice. We’re giving you a skillset beyond vocabulary. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion® method prepares you to adapt in new conversations by applying the context of what you already know to new words and phrases–so you’ll learn the language and build upon it with your own experiences.
2. Start with Dutch modal verbs
Get rolling with a few of the most commonly used Dutch verbs, which are modal verbs usually used to describe the relationship to a second verb. Dutch has four modal verbs and while they have some irregular conjugations, learning these verbs can set you up for most basic Dutch sentence structures. The four Dutch modal verbs are:
kunnen: can, to be able
moeten: have to
mogen: allowed, may
Once you learn these modal verbs and how to properly conjugate them in a sentence, you can speak and understand Dutch phrases like the following with confidence.
Ik zou graag een stroopwafel willen eten.
I would like to eat a stroopwafel.
3. Learn Dutch expressions and greetings
The basic conversational building blocks are a great place to start. Simple phrases like good morning, how are you, etc. are the bread and butter of daily conversation in most every language, including Dutch.
Hoe gaat het met je? How are you?
Dank u wel: Thank you
How to Learn Dutch Grammar
You’ve dipped your toe into some of the Dutch phrases and modal verbs, but to get to the next level of confidence with the language, you’ll have to dig in deeper.
Approach Dutch Prepositions and Prefixes
Prepositions are small words that may seem inconsequential, but you’ll find them in nearly every sentence, and they make a big difference in the meaning of words. Prepositions will help you know where things are, where to go, and just what belongs to whom. Here’s a short list of incredibly common Dutch prepositions.
met - with
van - from
naar - to
in - in
voor - in front of
achter - behind
naast - next to
When added, prefixes make a new word and change the meaning of the original verb, but they always form a separate syllable, regardless of the consonants that follow. The most common prefixes are be-, er-, ge-, her-, ont-, and ver-. Let’s look at what happens if we add with (ver) to some common verbs.
bouwen (to build) = verbouwen (to rebuild, but not from scratch)
kopen (to buy) = verkopen (to sell)
gaan (to go) = vergaan (to rot/expire)
Learn Dutch Idioms
Dutch has lots of idioms or phrases that have a literal meaning and a figurative one. Like English, some of these are fairly common usage in the language and can make speaking and understanding Dutch difficult for the beginner.
Met de deur in huis vallen = Literally: to fall with the door into the house. In English we might say: don’t beat around the bush.
Als haringen in een ton zitten. = Literally: to sit like herrings in a barrel. In English we might say: we are squeezed in like sardines.
Ieder dubbeltje omdraaien. = Literally: to turn every 10 cents. In English we might say: to stretch a dollar.
Ieder kaasje heeft zijn gaatje. = Literally: every cheese has its hole, or simply, nobody’s perfect.
When You’re Learning Dutch, Word Order Matters
There are some tricky rules about conjugating verbs and how they are affected by the order in the sentence. Word order shifts more in Dutch than in English, so it is something you’ll definitely want to practice. The word order in a simple, declarative sentence is the same in both English and Dutch: Subject, verb, other. However, the verb is always second in a conjugated Dutch sentence. The rules only build and become more intricate from here. There are many rules to cover, but generally, a good word order rule of thumb to follow in Dutch is TMP (time, manner, place). The other rules will fall into place with a little patience and daily practice.
Hov to Practice Learning French
Dutch is a language that may take you some time to get the hang of, but once you have a handle on the pronunciation and basic structure, it’s much like any other language. Practice makes perfect.
Learn Dutch Pronunciation with Live Tutoring
As tolerant and accepting as the Dutch are, it can still feel daunting to speak up in public. When learning a new language, confidence comes from practice. That’s why Rosetta Stone has Live Tutoring sessions with native-speaking tutors to help along the way.
For difficult pronunciations and to help you study in the time that you do have to devote to learning Dutch, make good use of Live Tutoring. A big part of building confidence is having real conversations, and the best place to do that is in a comfortable environment where you can receive constructive, insightful feedback. Our native-speaking tutors are also fluent in your native language, so there won’t be any communication gaps.
Immerse Yourself in Dutch
Between Rosetta Stone practice sessions, you’ll want to immerse yourself in the Dutch language. The Netherlands is a relatively small country in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in experience. And the Dutch certainly put as much passion into engineering incredible food as they do into creating sea walls, like the world-famous stroopwafel. Don’t be afraid of this mouthful! Learn more about this sweet snack and other delicious bites of Europe.
Speak and Practice Dutch Daily
Everything we do has one very specific goal: to get you speaking confidently. Practice makes perfect when learning some of the less intuitive aspects of speaking Dutch. We go beyond standard lessons to let you practice whichever way works best for you–whether that’s studying common phrases, reading interesting stories, or talking to our native-speaking tutors. And don’t forget to train your ears. Rosetta Stone includes Audio Companion that let you take a break from the screen by listening to your lessons.
Your confidence with Dutch vocabulary, proper pronunciation, modal verbs and more will grow and eventually become second nature with a daily practice that fits your style. Use Rosetta Stone to connect, chat, practice, and ask questions through the online community.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Dutch whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.