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What were the challenges when learning Dutch ?

I just moved to Amsterdam and would like to know what were the challenges that you have encountered when learning Dutch ?

I don't have a problem with spelling for some reason but the listening is the hardest part in my opinion while reading might be the easiest. How long did it take you to understand basic conversation ?

August 27, 2016



This is not exactly about the problems learners encounter with Dutch, but more about the problems that Native speakers encounter. (well, the last part also applies for learners)

  • Understanding dialects (and regional languages).

Depending on where you live and/or grew up, people from certain regions can be a bit difficult to understand. (I once even had trouble with understanding what people were saying in a TV-show even if what they spoke was very standard.) You also have to take in account that certain "dialects" are actually different languages which can make it difficult to know what people are saying as what they speak might be a hybrid of Dutch and a regional language.

Example of local differences: De deur is open, De deur is los. (The door is open.) The first sentence is pretty standard, but the second one (in standard Dutch AKA: ABN) means: "The door is loose". However, in the area where Lower Saxon (regional language) is spoken "los" can also mean "open". So you'll hear people say: "doe dat pak maar los" "ik doe de deur los" "het raam staat los" "mijn tas is los" etc. which can be quite confusing if you're not used to it.

  • d, t, dt.

All 3 are pronounced the same at the end of a word which can make it difficult to determine which one you have to use. Apparently there are some "Ezelsbruggetjes" (Mnemonics, Literally: Little donkey bridges) to learn how to use them but apparently they never decided to teach it at my school. So it's a real problem for many native speakers.

  • Spelling.

Related to "d, t, dt". There are many vowels and dipthongs that are pronounced the same (ao/ou ei/ij) and many single letters can be pronounced in several differnt ways. (Gelukkig. Phonetic Dutch: Gu-lu-kug) It can be confusing to some.

  • Grammar

I like languages, I like studying grammar, but I make a big fat exception for Dutch grammar. It's terrible. (there's no shortage of native speakers that agree with that) Dutch grammar looks harmless at first (to foreigners) but when you think you've figured it out it transforms into a raging monster that destroys all your thoughts of "Dutch is an easy language! You can learn it in like very little time. It's so easy! It's the easiest language I've tried to learn with amazingly simple grammar! It's like one of the closest languages to English# so I'll be able to learn it like very fast!"

<h1>Applies mainly to native speakers of English.</h1>

No, at that point death awaits you with nasty big pointy teeth.

I really don't want to discourage you, but you must never ever underestimate Dutch grammar. It's a vicious beast.

I apologize if my post has scared/intimidated/whatever you. I hope you'll overcome the challenges you'll encounter. Good luck.


Fortunately the grammar, how incomprehensive and confusing it may be, seldom changes, unlike the spelling... On school we learn one way, but every few years some language-people decide to change the way words should be written. The correct spelling is shown in the notorious "Groene Boekje" (Green book), which almost has more versions so far than the Bible has... So this is really anoying for people who think this is important...


Congrats on your move, fam.

It's mostly hearing Dutch I struggle with as well. It's so hard for me to pick out and translate, even when simple words are being used.

I'd suggest sticking to it - that's the only surefire way to learn how to comprehend the language. As much as it sucks, RTL Boulevard is a surprisingly beneficial show that I've been watching recently. Find shows, music, movies - anything that particularly stands out to you, and inject it into your brain; make it a habit.


Thank you I will try that !


My challenges are the split verbs, like voorlezen, and the prepositions, like aan het, naar, toe, te, in, bij, etc etc


Reading is really simple for me too. I speak German fluently and because of the similarities between the two languages, I can understand people speaking Dutch. But the most of the time, it depends on the voice of the person. There are sounds I can't recognize. I had the same problem in German at the beginning. Per example, I find men are harder to understand than women. In Germany (in Berlin), where I live, I noticed that a lot of women speak quite clearly and men speak maybe too fast and also mumble. In my opinion, spelling ist the hardest because it's just like I would have to spell German (and sometimes French or English) words a weird way. It's confusing.


For me it's prepositions (although I'm getting used to them), hearing a native speaker, and currently all these little small yet somewhat important grammar rules like certain tenses, te/om te, and wezen/zijn, etc.


Prepositions look scary. But I think I will do okay, I survived the trauma of German and English prepositions


As someone in the middle stages of learning Dutch, I'd say word order is the hardest for me. Of course, hearing speech is hard too as it is learning any language. Memorizing all of the adverbs has also been a challenge for me.


If your native tongue is English, the Dutch are either "showing off" or "trying to be helpful" So, practicing once they hear your American or British accent becomes far and few in between

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