TIPS FOR STUDYING DUTCH:
Tip no. 1: Listen!
Listen to the dialogues on the cd’s of the course as much as you can. Play them in your mp3 player while transmuting to work, while doing dishes, working out etc.
Listen to the cd’s a few times before you start reading the transcription of the dialogues. This is important, because if you start by reading, without having listened enough, you will make up the sounds in your head, which might be very different from the correct pronunciation. For example: most students pronounce ‘we’ the wrong way, as it is spelled just like the English word. If you would first hear the word twenty times, and only then read it, you won’t make that mistake. So if you just start learning Dutch, try to listen mostly, and read only texts of which you have an audio recording too.
Preferably put on the text book dialogues, Dutch songs or radio/television as soon as you wake up in the morning, when your brain is fresh and absorbs language much more easily.
Put on Dutch radio and television as much as possible, even when you don’t have time to listen attentively, just to get used to the sound and melody of the language.
If you buy (extra) study materials, choose a method that comes with many CD’s, not one that allows you to listen only online or from a CD-rom, so that you can listen anywhere.
If you look up ‘ prentenboek’ on youtube, you find many young children’s picture books read out loud.
If you have Dutch friends, ask them to read picture books for you. In the public library you’ll find thousands. If you are not yet very familiar with Dutch pronunciation, make sure someone reads them for you and don’t read for yourself, for the reason explained earlier.
In short: listen! listen! listen! listen! listen!
Listen to Dutch songs, they are a lot easier to memorize than other texts. And more fun too.
My recommendations in Dutch music:
My favorite songs for real beginners are those of Dirk Scheele, they are about daily life, fun to listen to and easy to understand. You can buy the cd box with 4 cd’s “ De Liedjesspeeltuin – Alle Liedjes Bij Elkaar” for 16,99 euros at for example www.bol.com.
you will find the lyrics of many songs.
On the CD “ Peuterplaat” by Minidisco.nl, you will find nice songs for very young children about subjects such as my house, doing the shopping, being ill, the body etc. To listen to audio fragments and order the CD or get the itunes link go to
The CD is useful both for absolute beginners and those having studied Dutch a few months.
For the latter category, the other Minidisco cd’s are useful too.
Very nice songs to listen to and learn from are those of Ageeth de Haan, on the cd’s “ Vlinder” , “ Hou je vast” and “ Stap maar in” . You can listen to them on Spotify, download on itunes or order cd’s at bol.com. They are perfect for students who have been studying Dutch for a few months.
For the more advanced students, I recommend the songs of Guus Meeuwis. I especially like the songs Het is een nacht, Brabant, Bloemen, Toen ik je zag, Terug naar toen and Oude schoolplein (the last three of them because of the many past forms of irregular verbs). You can listen to the songs on youtube and look up the lyrics for example at songsteksten.nl
In case you wonder why I don’t include some the most popular singers in this list, it’s because they have a strong accent (like André Hazes), the music is too loud to understand the words well or because there are linguistic mistakes in the lyrics.
Watch the BBC video
“How do you become fluent in 11 languages?” on
and an interview with the writer of the book ‘Language is music’ on
Pay special attention to what these two polyglots say about the usefulness of music/ songs and listening to the language!
Use MNEMONICS to remember difficult words, linking them to words you already know. How to use your memory very effectively is described by (among others) Tony Buzan in Brilliant Memory, and Use Your Perfect Memory. In short in comes down to: link new and already known things together, make the connections funny and crazy, and visualize it all.
To remember worst (sausage), make a sentence like That’s the worst “ worst” I’ve ever eaten! And visualize eating an awful sausage, to remember it well!
To remember ‘hout’ (wood), you can say “ Hij houdt van hout”, visualizing a man with wooden shoes in his wooden house eating with a wooden fork and knife.
To remember ‘zei’ (irregular past of zeggen, to say), you can make the sentence ‘Zij zei: Ik woon in Zeist’.
It often helps to realize where words have come from. If you know that a schildpad (turtle) is literally a shield (schild) tod (pad), you will remember the word more easily, especially if you visualize a turtle and a tod with a shield on its back together.
Get conversation practice!
Say “Sorry, ik spreek geen Engels” if people start speaking English to you!
Don’t worry about making mistakes, the Dutch will appreciate you speaking Dutch anyway. Just make sure you are being polite, using Dank u/ je wel, ga maar, alstublieft, ja leuk, ja gezellig, nee dank u etc. the proper way.
If you have a Dutch partner or friends, ask them to do the conversation exercises of the Contact! method with you. Make sure they don’t correct you too much, but only help you make yourself understood better.
Watching television: Dutch subtitles on television
There is an option to have Dutch subtitles for many Dutch programs. For Nederland 1, 2 and 3 (the public broadcasting companies) you can find the subtitles on Teletekst 888. You can also have subtitles if you watch programs on http://www.npo.nl/uitzending-gemist , where you can watch many Nederland 1, 2 and 3 programs after they have been on tv.
You have to press the capital T under the video screen, next to the volume button, and then select TT888. This option sometimes only appears when you watch the video full screen. It’s availabe for Windows, Mac and Linux users, but you will need Flash to have the undertitles. (Flash requires Adobe Flash Player, which can be a problem for ipads).
Some interesting programs with Dutch subtitles:
news, documentaries etc:
NOS Journaal (the news)
Jeugdjournaal (the news for children)
Nieuwsuur (news and background)
3 op reis (travel program)
Zembla (critical documentairies about what’s wrong in our society)
De beste vrienden quiz (quiz for teenagers)
De Wereld leert door (short interviews with scientists)
De kennis van nu
Labyrint (very interesting programs, often partly in other languages though)
Proefkonijnen (semi-scientific entertainment)
Klokhuis (information and science for children)
Checkpoint (fun experiments for children)
Willem Wever (information and science for children) You can search and watch these videos also (with subtitles) on http://willemwever.nl/televisie
De wereld draait door (also known as: DWDD)
Humour and satire :
Spangas (teenager series)
Easier but without subtitles:
At the TV sender Nickleodeon, and of course on DVD or youtube, you’ll find the children series Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. The same words and sentences are repeated a lot, so it’s very practical to learn Dutch with.
On www.schooltv.nl/beeldbank you find many short educational movies, made for school going children from 4 to 18. The entire text is written out.
Usually not on uitzendinggemist.nl but only live on television (and on youtube):
– nature documentaries, usually on Ned. 1 or 2,
or nature documentaries for children on Ned. 3, like ‘Freek in het Wild’ / ‘Freeks wilde wereld’ / ‘Freek op safari’, or ‘De Dodelijkste 60’.
– the soap series Goede tijden slechte tijden (on RTL 4)
During the day you find on Nederland 3 (and uitzendinggemist) a lot of children programs that use easy language, for example Sesamstraat.
You can of course also look up movies and songs at youtube.com. (Unfortunately, the automatically generated subtitles on youtube movies are useless.)
Look up on youtube: Bookbox learn Dutch, here you’ll find animated childrens’ stories with subtitles. If you search for ‘Bert en Ernie’ (those from ‘Sesamstraat’) you’ll find many entertaining videos. As Sesamstraat is designed to let young children learn about the world around them in an easy and playful way, these video’s are very useful for learners of Dutch.
On http://www.vpro.nl/a-z-index you find programs made by broadcasting company VPRO, which makes programs for the higher educated cosmopolitan citizen. You can search for specific kinds of programs. Click to get a short description.
you find a scientific radio program (without subtitles).
You can read the news on many websites, like nu.nl, volkskrant.nl and nrc.nl, to name just a few. On the train station and many other locations you’ll find free newspapers in print, that are relatively easy to read too.
Looking up words:
When using an online dictionary, a good option is :
It lists many possible translations, and gives many example sentences of how words can be used, as well as idiomatic expressions (under ‘uitdrukkingen en gezegdes’).
It has translations into English, German, French and Spanish, but the English version is a lot more complete than the others.
A useful option is also the ‘vervoegen’ option on the right side of the screen, where you can find the conjugation of a verb.
To find a specific expression in a long list, you can use the browser option ‘find’ (under ‘edit’) to find the expression (or, on a Dutch computer: ‘zoek op deze pagina’, under ‘bewerken’). For example, you search the meaning of ‘aan de hand zijn’. First look up ‘hand’, click on edit; find, type ‘aan’, and you find all expressions with both ‘hand’ and ‘aan’.
A very good dictionary on paper and CD-rom (the online version is very concise) is Van Dale.
On the CD-rom version you have a ‘find’ option in the program, to search within an entry.
The online version, www.vandale.nl has translations into English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Swedish, but the non-English versions even more concise (incomplete) then the translations into English.
For the more advanced students a Dutch to Dutch dictionary is often a good option, as found on vandale.nl, or, especially for idiomatic expressions and sayings, on
To really understand a word and how it is used, the above are better options then google translate, which often doesn’t give the right translation in the specific context.
If you want to hear how a Dutch word is pronounced, you can look it up at:
You can check the spelling of a word on
Here you find the official word list, with the (latest) official spelling
For the advanced student:
Sometimes dictionaries and grammar books cannot help you with a question. For example, should it be ‘ten slotte’ or ‘tenslotte’? You can look those things up at www.onzetaal.nl.
If you want to look up Dutch grammar rules, explained in English, www.dutchgrammar.com is a good option. You can look up things for free, but you can also buy it as an e-book for a very small amount.
If you want a book with all the basic grammar explained in English, and grammar exercises with keys, Basic Dutch by Oosterhoff is a good option.