Some people learn Dutch faster than others. This is a fact. But why? Of course this has to do with motherland, background and education. But even more important is your overall skill set.
There is one skill that is most important for learning Dutch, and that skill is listening.
Forget about the meaning of the words, but start to listen to intonation and rhythm. Start with getting the feel of the Dutch language.
THE BENEFITS OF LISTENING WELL
By listening well, you’ll also learn to speak Dutch well. Improve therefore your listening skills, because:
- You can get a nice, even near native Dutch accent
- You’ll learn Dutch in a natural way
- You’ll learn to correct yourself, because you’ll hear it when you make a mistake.
MOST IMPORTANT FOR LEARNING DUTCH – WHERE TO PAY ATTENTION TO?
Even before knowing any Dutch, you can start to listen. It doesn’t matter that you do not know the words. Just listen to the sound and tone of the language, not to the meaning. At first you’ll notice weird sounds that are unknown to your native language. Those are details. First of all you have to get the global soundscape of Dutch. Listen to:
- Intonation. How does the tone rise and fall in the sentence? This can happen more then once in a sentence or even in a word and it is important. Someone can e.g. say ‘ja’ in different ways. It can be short and crisp, but the word can also go up or down at the end. Intonation adds a whole layer of meaning to the spoken language.
- Rhythm. Dutch is a rhythmic language. It is not spoken very fast, especially not compared with Asian languages. Get used to this if you come from those parts of the world. Pay also attention to short and long vowels and to the overall staccato feel.
- Emphasis. Every Dutch word has its own, fixed emphasis (de klemtoon). This is the part of the word that you give more weight with your voice than the rest of the word. When the word has e.g. six syllables, only one syllable gets this emphasis. In Dutch it is very important to place the klemtoon right, because otherwise we will not understand you; the word will sound like a completely different word to us. So note the emphasis of a word, when you’re working on your Dutch vocabulary.
DUTCH LISTENING EXERCISES
Listening well is a skill you can learn and improve upon. It is quite likely that your listening skills are not so good as you think they are. This is why the next exercise looks quite easy, but is in fact very hard.
TIP: No native speaker at hand? Then use one of the many language apps.
BETTER LISTENING MEANS BETTER SPEAKING DUTCH
Listening is most important for learning Dutch. Your spoken Dutch will soon flow easy and pleasant to the ears of the natives. There are some minor drawbacks though:
DISADVANTAGES OF HAVING A GREAT DUTCH ACCENT
- The natives will assume that your Dutch is much better than it actually is. Maybe your vocabulary is just 200 words, but if you sound so good, we’ll immediately get you involved in a conversation you cannot yet keep up with. Just keep working on your vocabulary and learn to say: Kan je wat langzamer praten? or Ik spreek nog niet zo goed Nederlands, maar ik wil het graag leren.
- Some people like accents. Maybe your Dutch boyfriend thought your French accent was cute and threatens to leave you when you improve your Dutch. Oops!
- Your expat friends will get jealous of your Dutch language skills. This one is easy: just tell them the trick!
Do you have tips or exercises you can recommend for fellow students? Please share in the comments.