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https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo

For English learners of Dutch

kiyemundo
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Hey everyone,

I would like to ask everyone who is learning Dutch (especially native English speakers) what is your primary reason for wanting to learn the language? Do you ever foresee yourself reaching fluency? Have you ever had any opportunities to practice your spoken Dutch with natives? And do you ever get discouraged when you hear statements like "they all speak English there so why bother"?

I am really curious, since I have been battling with the decision on whether or not to start learning Dutch. My friend who has learned German is constantly saying things like "why bother learning Dutch?" and "It is better to learn German, then you'll actual have a chance to use it if you ever happen to travel."

As a native English speaker myself, I worry that putting energy into learning a language where the native speakers already have such a good grasp on English might be pointless. But I would like to get some more opinions before I decide if I should abandon my idea of learning Dutch.

Thanks :)

2 years ago

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Susande
Susande
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Dutch native speaker here. If you're planning to learn Dutch because you want to visit the Netherlands, go to main tourist attractions and the biggest Dutch cities. I'd say don't bother, you will get by just fine using English. Maybe you can just learn a few basic phrases (people will generally appreciate it if you use them, provided your pronunciation is roughly ok).

However if one of the following applies to you, then it will definitely be helpful/enjoyable for you to learn Dutch!

If you want to learn more about Dutch^ culture and history, if you have a deeper interest in the Netherlands, if you plan to live, work or study in the Netherlands for a while, if you want to understand Dutch music, literature, poetry, curses, plays or nature, if you want Dutch people to take your interest in Dutch culture seriously, if you love learning languages, if you'd like to learn a language that's close to English, if you want to have more than superficial conversations with Dutch people that are not city-dwellers under 50 years old^^ or with Dutch kids, if you want to baffle others by saying words like angstschreeuw, hottentottententententoonstellingsverlichtingsterreinen, Jan, Kees, lekker, ding, tsjongejonge, gezellig, stuurboord, baas or krakkemikkig or if you have any other strong motivation to learn Dutch (either similar to the ones above, or not at all): go for it!

^ you can replace Dutch/Netherlands by Belgian/Belgium or Surinam/Surinam in this whole paragraph, if that is where your interest lies

^^ generally speaking: the older part of the population is usually less connected to/influenced by Anglo-Saxon culture, and people that don't live in the Randstad tend to come across English speakers less often, making them less practised in using English. People belonging to these groups will speak English but usually on a more basic level than Dutch people that are in closer contact to Anglo-Saxon culture and English speakers.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/muscletwink
muscletwink
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I'd be grateful if you could name any world-famous Dutch writers who have contributed to spreading Dutch as a literary language, and who are considered as true "classics" in the country. I was thinking about Anne Frank or Louis Couperus, but I don't know of any other writers of that level.

I've been searching for a long time but just can't find any. Thanks for your help :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Thanks for the examples and replies.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LeviPolasak

I am learning Dutch VERY slowly, but it's happening. Since I speak a Germanic language already, this isn't too difficult, or so I thought. I really love how the letters sound, especially the G and some diphthongs like ui I really expected it to be easier than I originally hoped for. The er, wel, and other such small phrases mess me up completely, oh and ALL of the split verbs confuse me terribly. The language is extremely unique in many ways, which makes it so adored I am in love with Dutch :D and therefor I'm learning it personally. Don't abandon it since it's not as popular as other languages, after all many people learn languages daily that benefit them in their own way, it doesn't have to be used daily, it's still knowledge and knowledge is beautiful

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Great answer! It is true that knowledge is a beautiful thing and often people forget that. It is great that you're so passionate about the language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnnaPoot
AnnaPoot
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My primary reason for learning Dutch is that I left the Netherlands at age 3 and consequently lost most of my ability. As a 60+ adult now, I'd like to get some of it back again.

As to "everyone speaks English" - while this may essentially be true, it is still a nice gesture to speak the language of the country you are visiting, and it is usually welcomed and appreciated.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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True, speaking the language is a simple courtesy that one can extend to countries one visits. Your cultural reason is also very great.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnnaPoot
AnnaPoot
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Thanks. I should have added that native speakers are quite often very patient with our halting tries at their language and, in my experience, don't laugh at or point out one's mistakes.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Xanaxandra

While in the past it was true that more Dutch natives spoke German than the other way around, this trend is actually changing at the moment, with Dutch gaining more traction as a 3rd language in Germany, especially close to the border and German simultaneously loosing popularity in the Netherlands and Belgium, so your friend should know that German won't get you as far in the Taalunie as it would have 20 years ago.

Also Dutch is much easier to learn than German for an Eglish native as it is both closer to English and doesn't use as complicated grammatical structures. If you want to learn German later, nothing is stopping you and Dutch will be a great segway into it. But there is no use learning a language for its usefulness over a language that you would enjoy more, becausethe thing you enjoy will be the ones that come easiest to you.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Yep enjoyment is key to motivation. But, is dutch really easier to learn compared to German when you look at it from the ability to practice speaking the language? One can argue that finding a chance to practice German is much easier than Dutch which would make learning German much easier?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Xanaxandra

"Easier" is always a subjective term, but the FSI classes Dutch as easier than German for English natives, so it's not compltely out of left field

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Flying_Blue
Flying_Blue
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I started DL because I wanted to learn Italian. I'm a flight attendant and get the opportunity to visit Italy every so often. I would love to be able to communicate better. Speaking the language of the country you visit (even if it's very basic) shows interest and more importantly respect, at least in my opinion.

That is the reason I started Dutch not too long ago. Being German I generally fly our German routes and on some of them we do have a larger number of Dutch customers. The fact that many of them are just about fluent not only in English but German also inspired me to make the effort to at least know some basic Dutch. Again, to show my respect.

On top of that, I'm from the north(west) of Germany where we have a language (some call it a dialect) called Plattd├╝├╝tsch (Plattdeutsch/low German) that is very close to Dutch and hearing it reminds me of my childhood! I also hope that fact will make it an easier language for me to learn :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Yep. Seeing others who have mastered multiple languages, makes you want to try harder. How have you found learning Dutch to be? Do you ever get the chances to practice beyond the basics with your Dutch customers?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Zandranna

I am learning Dutch because on retiring my Daughter gave me a book called "What to Do When You Retire" - One of the suggestions for keeping active was to learn a new language.

I wracked my brains for which one would be the most fun. I ended up choosing Dutch because I have a Dutch friend who emigrated to Australia 20 odd years ago, that I constantly chat to on Skype.

I thought not only would my friend help me and have conversational Dutch with me, when I get to that stage, but I have also for a long time wanted to visit The Netherlands to experience their terrific cycling infrastructure.

So not only will it be fun to learn a new language, (I'm only on the 2nd lesson), and chat to my friend in her own language, but when I finally manage to get to go on a cycling holiday in The Netherlands, I will be able to gain more fluency in my newly learned language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SenorDustin
SenorDustin
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I don't expect to learn Dutch to be fluent. I find it interestingly close to Middle English, and its structure has helped me better understand the Shakespeares that I watch too. I would like to be able to visit the Netherlands someday, but if I don't I'm still going to learn a bit of it. I also have ancestors that lived there before they went to South Africa. I guess in a way it's also a way to connect to the past (until an Afrikaans course is released, at least).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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That is an interesting sentiment. I have meet some learners who have stated that their goal isn't to become fluent in the language but merely to enjoy it and learn more of it. I even met a girl who was learning Japanese who said her aim was never fluency, just to be able to continue to learn and grow in the language. Although, somehow I can't seem to wrap my mind around learning a language and not wanting to use it to speak with others or become proficient in it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Johan_6000
Johan_6000
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Swede here. I decided to start learning Dutch for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to learn a new language for fun. This is why I don't get discouraged whenever someone tells me "why bother when everyone speaks English" or a Dutch native switches to English upon hearing my terrible pronunciation; I'm learning the language mainly for myself.

  2. For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in the Netherlands as a whole. I've always liked Dutch culture.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Cultural love and appreciation is a great reason to learn.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/carloscids
carloscids
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The country is extremely interesting to me and i hope to live there someday, at least for a couple of years.. i also like where it's located, surrounded by other interesting places like France, Germany, Scandinavia and the UK.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MFTlingua

I generally agree with the comments you have received. I had a great visit to the Netherlands last month and got by quite well with just English. However, since I do plan to visit again next year, I think at least some Dutch is useful for basics like understanding simple signs at a street market or finding items in the supermarket (such items are either not translated or any English is in very fine print). Most of all, just being able to be polite and respectful in sharing greetings, saying thank you, apologizing if you disturb someone accidentally or shouting for help in an emergency I think are worth learning the basics, even if gaining fluency is not necessary for a short stay.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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It doesn't really matter what languages they speak -- it's what languages YOU speak that bring you the satisfaction and happiness with your own abilities, knowledge and accomplishments, isn't it? You can be impressed by them, but you will only be proud of you. Yes, the Dutch have statistically the best non-native speakers of English in Europe, but that only means they'll be able to help you if you get stuck or don't know a word! It all comes down to what you want for yourself. How will you feel about yourself when you have a basic conversation in Dutch? Read a newspaper article? Understand an advertisement on web radio? Will it be nice, or will it be simply fantastic? That should tell you if you should make the effort or not.

Personally, I have a degree in German and speak German fluently so fluency in Dutch is simply a matter of time, practice and attention to details. I'm learning Dutch (as well as the Scandinavian languages) for a complete understanding of the Germanic language family (a personal interest of mine), actually, and not for any real practical application. I would disagree with your friend about German for traveling. German is not a world language like Spanish or French is. Its application as a tourist language is in general quite limited to parts of middle and eastern Europe and some hotel-resorts in Turkey and Spain. But that IS more than Dutch. And yes, even Dutch people will ask you why on earth you are learning their language -- as if practical application, and not interest, is the key motivation for anyone doing anything.

Dutch is easier (on the surface) than German. The more advanced you get, however, the more you see they are equally as challenging as Dutch has the irregularities of a dialect where German is a highly regular, standardized language. Makes Dutch more lovable for many people! Dutch will give you a good springboard into other Germanic languages (should that interest you) as it will teach you the 'Germanic' way of thinking without a lot of the hassle German gives you. But the same is true of Swedish! You have already singled out Dutch, so I assume you have some affinity for the language. One small point is that 'less taught' languages like Dutch are more challenging to learn because of the lack of assisting materials available (drill books, grammar help, vocabulary lists), but they are more valuable to certain companies because of that, if you happen to be looking for a new job now or later.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Thanks for the detailed response. Actually, by travel my friend was referring to if I ever traveled to Germany, I would have more opportunities to speak German than opportunities to speak Dutch in the Netherlands. For my Dutch question however, rather than me being impressed by their English knowledge, I am just wondering if I would ever have the opportunity to practice Dutch if I learn it. The thought of having a basic conversation in Dutch would be amazing, but would any Dutch person bother to put up with basic Dutch skills without switching to English? Would it be possible to have that basic conversation and receive that type of satisfaction with such an accomplishment, in a country where English is so dominant?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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I've only every been to the Netherlands once, so I can only base my answer on that trip and on e-mail pen pals in the Netherlands and Belgium -- and the answer is YES. You will have a chance to practice! In touristy places they will speak to you first in English, obviously, on the assumption that you don't speak Dutch and you don't want to waste time with their language. English is more expedient and with the exception of buying tickets, where you speak first, you should probably let them assume. But, I found that when I tried to speak Dutch to normal people, many answered me back in Dutch -- until they noticed several sentences later that I had no idea how to say something and then they switched to English or German. But if said thank you, and went back into Dutch (without apologizing for my level), they followed me right back into Dutch. The Dutch seem to let you do the leading. One tip though! Just like many countries in Europe, the Netherlands has a lot of immigrants who have to learn Dutch fairly quickly. This has caused an increased awareness of Dutch learning among the population in the last 15 years -- but also a fair amount of resentment of those foreigners who don't learn beyond survival Dutch or who only want to speak English. For this reason, people (outside of tourist traps) will probably be happy to speak Dutch to you if you make it clear that you want to, but if they think you are one of these 'language lazy' immigrants, they may behave a little rudely. I had a lady in a bookshop slam the door in my face because she thought I was one of the countless Irish who never bother to learn more than 2 words of Dutch! In Belgium, I found they could speak English, but they preferred speaking Dutch/Flemish if they thought you understood them. So, yes, if you go outside of tourist areas and make the effort to speak to people, they will speak to you in Dutch, no matter what your level. Simply show you want to make the effort!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Wow. Thanks so much for the reply. It seems like if I am passionate about the language, I will eventually get a chance to use it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KatelynVB

English native speaker...... I personally wanted to start learning Dutch because 1. I am part Dutch (My dad is 100% Dutch) and so I wanted to know more about my ancestors and 2. Because I wanted to learn a new language just for fun. If you are wanting to learn so you can visit, I would say that unless you are going into rather rural country, you don't need to bother. But if you want to learn it for fun (like me), go ahead, its lots of fun!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/crazy_gnome

I've always wanted to tour The Netherlands (sight seeing and whatnot) and I wanted to learn a new language. simple as that! I know i'd get by just fine using english, but i see it as a sign of respect to use the native language (also, eng may not get me very far in the more rural parts)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ChrisAshton0
ChrisAshton0
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I started learning Dutch to connect with my roots. My grandparents came to the US from Holland after the war. For me, this is an opportunity to connect with my heritage in a way that's a little deeper than reading a book about the history of the Netherlands or some such. One problem with Americans is that we don't tend to know much about who we are and where we come from. We fail to understand and appreciate the rich history to which our predecessors contributed.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kiyemundo
kiyemundo
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Well said :) However I don't believe that statement applies to all Americans. But I think it is always a great thing when someone learns a language to connect to their heritage. Good luck with your Dutch studies!

1 year ago