Why you should learn Dutch

We’ve talked about this before and lots of people have their own take on the subject, but for those newer readers and those who might still be on the fence, I would love to share with you why you should learn Dutch! Yes, Dutch, that lovely Teutonic language with the guttural “g”, the impossible “sch” letter combo and the “j” that leaves most of us non-Dutchies tongue twisted!

Sure, you can live in the Netherlands without speaking Dutch. Most people here speak very good English and with a good translation app or website you can survive without Dutch. But you miss so much “Dutchness” if you don’t speak any Dutch. Learning Dutch isn’t just about mastering words and phrases; it’s a key to unlocking a richer, more immersive experience in the Netherlands. Here are awesome reasons why to learn Dutch.

Functional fluency: navigating daily life
One of the most practical reasons to learn Dutch is the enhancement of daily life. While many services like internet, electricity and city hall transactions sometimes offer English versions, you can guarantee that most of the information is in Dutch. Supermarkets, with their aisles stocked with Dutch labels, can be a maze for non-Dutch speakers. Learning the language allows you to decipher these labels, making grocery shopping a breeze. Even if you use an online translator or app on your phone, you’ll pick up a lot of Dutch going grocery shopping! And don’t worry – all of these services and stores have pretty simple Dutch, so with just a very basic level of Dutch you’ll find daily society living easier.

Cultural exchange: bridge to deeper connections
Respect for the host country is a fundamental aspect of cultural integration. Speaking Dutch shows a genuine commitment to understanding and appreciating the local culture. Beyond the convenience it brings, learning Dutch opens doors to meaningful connections. Locals are often delighted when expats make an effort to speak their language, even if it’s just a few words. It’s an endearing gesture that can foster friendships and bridge the gap between cultures. However, be prepared for the challenge of quick conversations; requesting them to slow down with a polite “langzaam alsjeblieft” can be quite handy.

Entertainment galore: TV, music and more
Language learning doesn’t have to be a tedious endeavour; it can also be a source of entertainment. Dutch television, known for its exciting reality competitions and game shows, offers a unique opportunity to learn the language while having fun. Whether it’s deciphering the dialogue or following along with Dutch subtitles, the experience is both entertaining and educational. Dive into the world of Dutch pop, or “Nederpop”, by learning the lyrics of your favourite songs. Singing along not only hones your language skills but also adds a touch of joy to your language learning journey.

Naturalization and integration
For expats going through or considering naturalization, a basic understanding of Dutch is required and there is a test you must pass. While not demanding total fluency, the naturalization process requires a proficiency level that allows you to function effectively in Dutch society. If that’s why you are learning Dutch, I highly recommend taking Dutch classes that are geared for passing the state integration test. There are several fantastic ones listed in this edition of The Holland Times.

Warm reception: embracing Dutch imperfections
Embracing the Dutch language comes with a warm reception from the locals. Dutch people are known for their forgiving nature when it comes to language learners. Acknowledging that Dutch is not the easiest language, they appreciate the effort expats put into learning it. Beyond linguistic hurdles, the charm of attempting to communicate in Dutch is a fun – and sometimes funny! – ice breaker with new Dutch people you meet.

In conclusion, learning Dutch is not just something new to learn and it doesn’t have to be something not to be excited about. In a lot of ways, learning Dutch is like a pathway to a more fulfilling expat experience here in the Netherlands. From practical convenience in daily life to cultural appreciation and entertainment, the Dutch language opens doors to a richer, more integrated life in this welcoming and diverse country. So, seize the opportunity, embrace the challenge, and let the Dutch language become your key to unlocking the full potential of your expat journey.

Written by Marla Thomson