Complaining about Dutch…. it seems to be a hobby for many people. Somehow it seems that people love to explain how difficult and annoying it is to learn Dutch. Not only your expat friends by the way… If you never ever thought about complaining, then certainly Dutch people love to come with all kinds of suggestions… That Dutch is so complex and irregular and that probably you will never ever speak it.
Therefore, complaining and bitching about learning and speaking Dutch seems to be the right thing to do… So many people do it, so why not join the crowd? But the important question is: does it really help? Another important detail is: are all the things that people say when they bitch and complain about Dutch actually true?
Sure… complaining and bitching may feel like a relief… It feels good sometimes. Certainly when you meet other people that have negative experiences too, it feels like a great way to connect. But… imagine that you really wanted to speak the language so that you could do anything that you want? Wouldn’t it be better if you just mastered Dutch?
Therefore you can read 7 good reasons to stop bitching about Dutch. Just check them for yourself and then see how it feels… Chances are high that once you see more perspective, you’ll probably feel lighter… Then – surprise, surprise – it is a lot easier to move forward to your goal!
1 Dutch is the closest language to English
What makes a new language difficult to learn? It really depends on the languages that you speak already.
Would you believe that Chinese is more difficult than English? This is a fascinating question indeed…. For babies it does not really matter. They come to this world and they pick up the language around them. Would it be more difficult for a baby to learn Chinese than English? This question is hard to answer. Somehow, babies pick up the language of their parents no matter what. So in this sense, it is hard to define which languages are easy and difficult…
At the same time, when you are much older, you”ll learn a new language a lot faster if the new language looks like your language. Russian is easy for Russian speakers, but also for someone from Poland for example.
The great thing is that if you read this blog post, then you already speak English. Just like Dutch and German it is a Germanic language, they are like brothers and sisters. Dutch is a lot closer to English than German.
There are thousands and thousands of words that are more or less the same.
Water = water (although you pronounce it a bit differently)
Wijn = wine
Man = man
Brood = bread
Here is some other great news. Even if Dutch words have nothing to do with Engish, then still the word does not look or like too alien in many cases if you know English
Red = save, resucue
Bol = bulb
Sure, you’ll have to be flexible with your thinking now and then, but… Dutch has not strange letters such as š or å or þ Therefore, many Dutch words can look quite familair to you already…
Here is some other great news… if you know other languages such as French, Spanish or Italian it is even better. Here are some examples:
Pop = doll (from the French word poupée)
Oog = eye (ojo in Spanish, pronunciation is more or less the same)
Schrijven = to write (in Italian scrivere)
Sure, learning new words can always be a challenge, but… just compare Dutch words with Chinese, Arabic or Finnish and soon you’ll find the Dutch words really easy (unless you already speak Chinese, Arabic or Finnish of course)
2 Dutch spelling is far more regular and logical than English
Maybe you never ever noticed it, but if you look at it more closely then English spelling is rather strange. Just look at the following words:
Did you notice that you do not pronounce the K in knee and the B in debt? If you did, well done!
The philosophy behind English spelling is not that you can see how to pronounce it when you see the word written. For example: babies, thief & to receive. Can you see that you pronounce the letter combination ie in two different ways?
Dutch spelling is pronunciation driven… it means that the spelling clearly dicates how to pronounce the word. If you see a letter, then it always has a reason: you pronounce it. If Dutch people say knie, then they do pronounce the k. Dutch people write what they say.
Just compare it with these words in English: to – too – two. They all sounds the same, but you write them differently.
Sure… Dutch has not the best spelling in the world… Many people claim that Finnish has the most logical spelling of all the languages in the world… But… if you compare it to English, Dutch is so much easier! If you see a new word, then in most cases you can predict how to pronounce it correctly… even if you do not know the meaning!
In English how you say things is often a surprise. Letters do not necessarily represent logical sounds! Just check words such as finite & infinite and you can check it for yourself!
3 The G-sound does not have to stop you!
One typical thing that most people love to complain about, is that Dutch has difficult sounds. You’ll have to sound like a pig all the time if you want to pronounce the g… But guess what? Dutch is not the only language that has this sound. You’ll also hear it when you speak Greek or Spanish.
Sure… the R might also be a stretch for you if you are English speaking. So yes, take your time to master this new sound if you need… But… also if you like to learn Spanish, French, Greek or German, you would have to learn this sounds. So yes… new sounds can be challenging, but they do not have to stop you…
Just remember that for some people the th may be difficult too. Many Dutch people and Germans are always sinking instead of thinking. But… let’s imagine a worst case horror scenario… Even if you see some sounds in the language consistently wrong, you’ll still be understood and you’ll be able to talk about anything that you want. Also, if you don’t like the harsh g sound, then just move more to the south or go to Belgium. The g that you’ll hear overthere will be a lot softer!
Here is one great tip for your pronunciation. Don’t focus too much on all the words that now you find difficult to pronounce. For some reason, if you focus on other things that are easy for you and if you keep making progress, then somehow a better pronunciation will take care of itself… The last thing that you need to do, is to worry about it! 🙂
4 Are you sure you would like to learn a language without genders?
One bitchy thing about Dutch is that it as has de & het. In this sense, English is a lot easier because then you’ll only need the.
Just like many other languages, words in Dutch can have genders. De is for all feminine words and maculine words and het is for neuter words. Luckily, the difference between masculine words and femine words disappeared. Men and women are all equal now!
In German, they still use three different genders consistently. But not in Dutch. For this reason alone, Dutch is easier than German, because it has one gender less and it does not have cases as in German. Cases are never fun in whatever language. They just make things quite difficult!
The great news is that only a small minority of all nouns are neuter in Dutch. Maybe 20% of all the words are het-words in Dutch. It simply means that if you know 400 of them, you’ll already master the gender stuff… You can pick them up, while you live in the Netherlands. Probably you’ll talk about the same things every day.. You’ll need het water, het bier (beer), het kind, het document, het huis… You’ll see the limited amount of het-words every day and once again, in 80% of all cases you can simply say de! On top of that, if you say it wrong once in a while, the world will not stop to exist! It will not stand in the way of clear communication…
Here is a great tip: if you use spelling correction, then Bill Gates will tell you whether you should use de or het. If you do it wrong, he’ll put a reminder on your screen!
By the way, if you like to learn a language without any gender at all, then here are some options: Turkish, Finnish, Hungarian or Japanese. You chose! 🙂
A funny thing about Turkish is that in this language there is not even a special word for he, she or it. If you use the word o you could be talking about a man, a woman or a thing… You would almost think that Turkish is the most politically correct language of this planet! 🙂
5 Dutch is extremely logical!
Let’s start with a stupid question: why do you call a fly a fly? Well.. this is obvious, right? A fly can fly! In Dutch een vlieg is a fly and you could say to the Dutch fly: vlieg! (fly). The funny thing is that in Dutch, you can also use the word vlieger, which is also something that flies. In English you would call it a kite. Does anyone understand what the word flyer has to do with flying in Dutch?
One thing that you need, if you like to learn Dutch fast is that you start to think in logical and structured ways. Also start to think in pictures – which is fun to do – and also use some creativity.
For example, just have a look at the Dutch word for plane which is vliegtuig. If you have a close look you’ll see that it literally means something like flying equipment. Tuig is a kind of tool that you can use. Therefore the word vistuig is all the stuff that you need if you like to go fishing… Een zintuig is a tool that helps you sense, to hear or to see… Een oor (ear), neus (nose), tong (tongue) for example… Can you see that there is a hidden logical system out there? Believe it or not, when it comes to vocabulary, Dutch is extremely pragmatic!
When you look at grammar, you’ll quickly notice that Dutch is a kind of German light. It has more or less the same logical way of thinking, but you do not need cases and this is a huge relief! On top of that, if you look at German grammar, you’ll see that verbs are much more irregular and that for creating plurals you need to know the gender of each word, and also memorize whole listst with many exceptions! So if people generally accept that German is structured and logical, then Dutch is so much better!
There is only one problem… Many Dutch people – even teachers – do not know crucial things about grammar. They just assume that it is difficult, but this is not the case.Often they do not know how to explain it and hardly any one realizes that when it comes to grammar that Dutch has many logical connections with English. If you like to learn fast, it is important however, that someone else can clearly show to you how it works, because otherwise, you could struggle for ever!
On top of that, contrary to what you may think, also English has many inconsistencies, but somehow you managed to deal with all of them, successfully… Here is one great example. You will never say: do you be? But… if you follow the grammar rules consistently, then do you be? should be the right construction! You also say: do you drink? (not: drink you) and do you eat (not: eat you?). Also here, Dutch is logical and consitent: ben je? – drink je?- eet je?
Just remember that any time that you learn a new language, you’ll have to face challenges. Sentence constructions will be one of them. But… do not believe that it only happens if you learn Dutch. Here is one example that Spanish people find difficult if they learn English. In English you have to come in, to come out, to come through, to come by, to come over, to come off, to come out, to come up… In Spain you can buy several books entirely dedicated to this subject (paraphrasal verbs). Somehow Dutch people do not really find it too challenging…. Sure, it always takes some time for Dutch people to learn all the words, but… there are so many similarities between Dutch and English that they find it relatively easy!
6 The fact that you can work in English makes learning so much easier!
Many people complain about the fact that no one speaks Dutch at work. But… if you think about it, it does not have to be a disadvantage at all… Let’s be honest… if you really had to speak Dutch for doing your job, would you be able to do the job that you have right now?
The great thing of working in English is that you can work on a high professional level if you like. You do not have to start with a whole new language, while washing dishes in a restaurant. You can coach, train and sell to all the people that you like in different parts of the world and earn a very decent income. Don’t you think that this position is much better than having to do a job on a very low level, but then in Dutch? The problem of many low level jobs is that often it gives low level money too 🙁
So now that you can work on the professional level that you like, it is a lot easier to take care of further education. Yes… it may mean that you’ll have to take a week off for a language course, but … you are still much better off then if you have a lousy job in which you speak Dutch all the time!
Just one little tip for you… as you may have realized, nowadays, jobs come and jobs go. No job is meant to last forever… The job that you have could disppear for any reason and… this is also extremely important, if you do your job every day, many years in a row, then chances are high that one day, you would like to do someting else.
This is why it is always wise to look a couple of years ahead and ask yourself: what would I like to do after 5 years? Probably it is a job that has more challenges than your current job, as you grow each and every time. Another good question to ask yourself which skills you would need. If speaking Dutch is one of them, then make sure that you start now, as quickly as you can!
Here is a strange thing. If you don’t really need Dutch, right now then you’ll learn it a lot faster! If for example, you truly believe that you need Dutch next month and that your job and your survival depends on it, then you’ll be too stressed.
There are many things that you can learn within a very short time, let’s say 7 days. But… just as with any other skills you’ll need more time to hone your skills, to find nuances, to discover small things. Improvement takes time and so does mastery! Just realize that you do not like to sound like a robot if you start working in Dutch. You’ll need the experience of life to really connect with all the other people around you, also in a business context with colleagues, bosses and customers… Therefore, start as quickly as you can, because then, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll learn so much more with ease!
7 The less you complain, the faster you’ll learn
You may feel great when you complain! It might eneble you to use all the theater skills that you have in order to act like a real Dutch language drama queen! Many people will love what you say, because they may have faced the same challenges. All of a sudden, you’ll find many new friends.
There is only one problem. It does not help you to speak Dutch. It does not help you to feel independent and to grasp that freedom that you could use for doing all those things that you really really like…
Somehow there seems to be a universal law that says: the more you bitch and complain, the slower you learn!
Finding a positive mood is that one thing that makes a radical difference for learning fast! Therefore, finding a positive mindset is really really important… and yes… sometimes it is easier said than done. Therefore, here are some tips for feeling more positive when you learn.
First of all, do not try to learn new things if you feel tired. Doing a Dutch course after work may look like the ultimate time management solution ever, but if you think about it, it is actually a total waste of your time. If you feel tired, you’ll always learn slowly and then you waste a lot of your precious time. Instead of doing something that makes you feel relaxed, you can only feel how energy drains away from you. If you learn during day time and if you learn a couple of days in a row, all of a sudden you’ll notice how easy it is to learn.
Secondly, it is good to realize that you’ll never learn fast if you feel bored or drained. If you only approach Dutch from an intellectual level, then very likely you will not know what to do in real life situations. Be aware that there are many different ways to learn a new language. Go for the way that makes you feel alive. Here is another important thing to consider… if you laugh a lot while learning, then actually it is a good sign. Often it means that you are opening up for new things!
A third thing that can help you to feel more positive while learning is to realize that when you are learning Dutch, you are not only learning Dutch! Somehow you’ll start to think about many other things that have to do with your language or communication in general. You’ll gain new insights and once you’ll learn new things it is always very rewarding.. You’ll feel a deeper connection with everything around you and instead of feeling isolated in a bubble, all of a sudden you’ll notice that you open up and feel much more alive…
Just a last question… did I forget a good reason for stopping to complain about learning and speaking Dutch? Please share! Also if you feel that you have a very valid reason to complain that also share it… You never know… we might be able to turn it around… 🙂