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Experiences from learning through a reverse course (English for Dutch)

In early March this year I got news that might change my life. My girlfriend got a job in Maastricht and if it turns out to be permanent, I will be moving to the Netherlands. After a futile attempt to find any good offline courses for Dutch, so it was on the 30th of March that I started doing the reverse course, English for Dutch.

I had studied both and French on Duolingo before that so I new at least a little what lay ahead of me. But I had quite low expectations. After all, buying English for Dutch studybook seems like the most stupid one could ever have. The most I dared to expect was a good laugh. Now I see I was wrong.

I finished the full tree with golden leaves yesterday. I feel that I have obtained a strong basic knowledge of the language that I can use to learn even more. As a small testimony of that I was able to go to a local bakkerij and buy een stokbrood.

There must be other people who are considering learning a language through a reverse course, so I'd like to offer my observations:

  1. Reverse course is at its best in learning vocabulary. That is, of course, true for all courses of Duolingo. There is, however, never a 1-to-1 correspondence of words between two languages. That is why when the revers course wanted me to learn the word 'return', I needed to learn both 'terugkeren/terugkomen' and 'terugbrengen'. A dictionary (Wiktionary works quite well) and some googling is also required in order to understand why study is sometimes 'studeren' and sometimes 'bestuderen'.

  2. You will need to get your grammar from another source. Luckily there is http://www.dutchgrammar.com/ which has a great deal of grammar explained. Other sites, such as Wikipedia, are also helpful. This, too, is true for any course on Duolingo but more so for reverse courses whose structure is not designed to teach you the grammar of the source language.

  3. I can't exaggerate the importance that knowing Swedish and German had for me. Without them vocabulary and especially some aspects of grammar (adjectives as attributes/predicates, gender of nouns, verb declensions, word order, reflexive verbs...) would've been lot harder. I don't think knowing a related language necessary but I am sure it helps considerabely. I would be interested in hearing other experiencs.

  4. Learn IPA (international phonetic alphabet). Reverse course won't offer you any tips in pronunciation and other means of expressing pronunciation are horrible. Kunt u mij helpen is not pronounced /kuhnt uw may hel-pern/ but /kʏnt y mɛɪ̯ ɦɛlpən/! For Dutch, it is a relief that Wiktionary has audio samples for almost all Dutch words.

  5. Find your auxiliary resources. For me it has been comic books (Suske en Wiske) for vocabulary and expressions and Internet radios for training the ear (I don't understand it and I don't care, I'm just getting my ears used to the language).

  6. Be ready with your reverse course just before they release Dutch for English speakers :)

July 7, 2014



Yay, now you have the much-desired.... Gouden uil!!!
Great job! Doing the reverse tree sure isn't easy. o.o

I like them stokbroden at the bakkerijen ^^.... anyways, thanks so much for sharing your experiences!!!

I wish I'd had the time to draft English language grammar explanations for reverse users also... but building the other course kept me quite busy! Not to worry, for the Dutch course coming up, we'll surely provide extra help and sources! ;)

I really like the sources you've given.

When it comes to a dictionary for spelling, Woordenlijst is a must too. It easily shows you which words are accepted as standard language and which forms they may take (for singular, plural and some tense-conjugation).

I also like this website, which qives you some suggestion of what the translation of the word or phrase you're looking for may be. In this case, it compares Dutch to English but it's available for many other language pairs too!

And for our new course coming up, wikipedia will also be a great source. Just you wait and see, it'll provide an explanation for many of the concepts we've included! ^^


I think you've forgot one very important language tool for DuoReversers (Users using reverse trees). They will without a shadow of a doubt most likely need a TTS Engine, such as iSpeak chrome extension. Once they have that all they'll need to do is select the word and click the speak icon in the browser.

There are also web-comics that are copyleft, and even free webcomics. Although, there are a few truly free webcomics around.


I pretty much have to agree with everything you've wrote down on here. I'm also a learner using the Dutch - Eng (Eng for Dutch) course, but I've been using mine slightly different but it's pretty much effective.

I get most of my new vocabulary also from the English for Dutch course, I think by obtaining new vocabulary through this way also gives me a head start on other people learning/waiting for the other Dutch course. Sure, it may throw me in the deep end trying to comprehend some concepts and why we have to structure a sentence in a given way but it also makes me learn and practise much quicker. I've been using a study book along side the course - Dutch in 3 months, although I'm not aiming for fluency that quick and I'm only on week 4 of the book in the actual 3rd month I've been learning Dutch from the book and with help of my Dutch other half who has been teaching me (note: he has no teaching experience prior to teaching me Dutch through Skype and when he's been over on a visit to England) since April. And whatever I learn through him or the book, I put to practise in the course on Duolingo.

I may still be a complete beginner at Dutch, but when I've been doing Duolingo Eng for Dutch on my phone when he's been here and just sat watching me, he said he's been completely stunned by the fact I know things that he or the book I'm learning from hasn't even taught me yet. When he was here in June, he said that he was sitting there watching me through practise sessions or a lesson and he would think "oooh that might be a little bit tougher for her" on a few sentences in a lesson, then bam! I got it right and he would be like "wow...never mind she's really good at learning this stuff".

So thank you Team Dutch! Your Eng for Dutch course may not be aimed at us Dutch learners but you sure give us a good grounding in a lot of things for a head start for the opposite direction :)

I wish I could throw stroopwafels for gratitude at you all but...I've eaten all my stroopwafels so they're in my tummy ...sowwie :3



Gefeliciteerd! I am very impressed by how quickly you managed to finish your tree. I bet they sell you your rode bieten in Dutch now... ;-)

You will have a lot of fun doing the obverse tree now, when you've worked so hard to get through this one, but I guess there will still be plenty of new words to learn.

I should really get my proverbial pollex out and finish my Dutch reverse tree as well...


doing the reverse was wonderful

like you I would recommend it

I have been doing the Dutch in reverse

you are so much better ....


i finished the Polish in reverse

but this is just the beginning

as I return to the basics

and I now do it again

repetition so necessary

Respect for your achievement


I am doing the reversed course French-English to study French and that helps. Some words were new, some things are translated different what is frustrating when it is a false answer where it was ok in the normal tree.

I also do the Vietname-English tree to learn Vietnamese. English is not my native language but my english is good enough to use it as a base in Duolingo luckily. My experience is that I learn no conversational skills, but you don't learn that in normal trees either and no pronunciation skills (what you learn a little bit in normal trees). You do learn vocabulary and grammar rules and in case of Vietnam geographical changes (the english word wine is there grapewine, because normal wine is from rice, and that is not what we call wine)


Same here! Not a native English person, but still it helps a lot to reverse the tree. Do you think reverting the french course helps more than doing the regular one?


My contribution:

I have to do a psychiatry rotation in Belgium soon... so language skills is mandatory. I started on april 15th and now training 5 hours a day.

A very close friend told me "we have a terrible accent in West Flanders, so don't get upset if you don't understand me...". I had in my mind "if you want to make it... you've got to earn it the hard way. "

So I took these actions:

1- I used Rosetta Stone tree for the basics. It is not enought but it is a good start.

2- Google Translate with its Phrase book is prachtig!. Take it everywhere with you and save phrases at any time.

3- DutchGrammar.com and youtube videos with "Nederlandse ondertitel" work like a champ.

5- Hanging out with my friend over the phone (whatsapp, sms, etc) is the funniest and best of them all so far. Try to come out with fun chat topics so both of you never get bored... I am a psychiatrist, so talking is what I do best.

6- Challenges are fun and motivate me... I am way too competitive for myself. Like today,my friend challenged me to something regarding dutch fluency... and I want to see her face when I have it ready in full "dutch mode" some weeks ahead.

Hope it helps


PS: practice and more practice


The maddening thing about numbers and statistics is that they are impossible to pin down precisely and thus they vary from source to source. I will share this list from http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/2013/02/how-many-words-does-average-native.html

250 words constitute the essential core of a language, those without which you cannot construct any sentence.

750 words constitute those that are used every single day by every person who speaks the language.

2500 words constitute those that should enable you to express everything you could possibly want to say, albeit often by awkward circumlocutions.

5000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers without higher education.

10,000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers with higher education.

20,000 words constitute what you need to recognize passively in order to read, understand, and enjoy a work of literature such as a novel by a notable author.


This is really interesting, many thanks (have five lingots!). I'm planning to do something similar with Turkish this summer.


I'm doing the same. It's my first Duolingo course so for me, it pretty much feels like Dutch for English speakers. Only stuff that's not useful is when I need to write what the lady says. I disabled my mic and that helped a lot since I'm not getting pronunciation exercises. Those would also be useless.


Good ideas, here! I've been picking at the Russian to English reverse course (tried Russian to German, and found I don't have quite enough German for that...). I learned the alphabet years ago, but pronunciation is never quite the same in your head. I've found pairing the reverse course for spelling with the Pimsleur course for pronunciation is extremely helpful, as each is weak in the other. Oh the things we do to learn. :)

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