TIPS FOR STUDYING DUTCH
Tip no. 1: Listen!
Listen to the dialogues on the cd’s of your course book as much as you can. Play them in your mp3 player while transmuting to work, while doing dishes, working out etc.
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.
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, so you don’t learn the words with the wrong pronunciation in mind.
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” at for example www.bol.com.
you will find the lyrics of many songs.
If you look up minidisco songs (Minidisco.nl / youtube), you will find nice songs for very young children about subjects such as my house, doing the shopping, being ill, the body etc.
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
Popular Dutch music
Other popular artists singing in Dutch are Marco Borsato, Jan Smit, Nick en Simon, Trijntje Oosterhuis, Paul de Leeuw, Nielson, Spinvis, Angela Groothuizen, Miss Montreal, Maaike Ouboter, Jeroen van der Boom, Glennis Grace, Do, Gerard Joling, Blof, and (from a bit longer ago) De Dijk, Doe Maar, Frank Boeijen, Hans De Booij, Conny Vandenbos, Henk Westbroek, Henny Vrienten, Stef Bos. (Artists singing with too strong accents, like Andre Hazes, have been left away from this list.)
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!
Mnemonics / memory tricks
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.
When using the vocabulary list to learn the new words, don’t only say them out loud, but also write them down and check the spelling.
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.
You can order a “Spreek Nederlands met mij” button through your teacher.
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.
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’.
The number 1 dictionary for Dutch is the Van Dale dictionary. Make sure you use the paper version or paid online version (the free online versions are very concise, especially if you translate to languages other than English )
For idiomatic expressions and sayings you can check http://www.woorden.org/spreekwoord
You can check the spelling of a word on
Here you find the official word list, with the (latest) official spelling
For the very 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.
On your smartphone, you can use the apps Bravolol and Linguee. Linguee offers a lot more different translations and examples of how it can be used, and also uses the internet as a resource when it is not in the dictionary itself. Bravolol has the option of listening to the pronunciation of the word, which is reasonably good, although it sounds rather like a computer created version of the word, and especially the stress in the word is not always clear or correct.
All the above options are better than google translate, which often doesn’t give the right translation in the specific context.
A better option if you want to hear how a Dutch word is pronounced, is the website:
where you can enter a whole sentence to hear how it will sound.
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, with grammar exercises and the answers, Basic Dutch by Oosterhoff is a good option.
If the price is something to take into account, an much cheaper option is the book Dutch grammar you really need to know, by Gerdi Quist and Dennis Strik, which explains all the grammar, although less extensively and sometimes less clearly, and also contains exercises with keys. The e-book is only 3,99.
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.npostart.nl (which replaced ‘uitzending gemist’), where you can watch many Nederland 1, 2 and 3 programs after they have been on tv. If you get the paid version NPO START PLUS (2,95 / month) you have a bigger choice of films and series, and can watch them long after they’ve been on television.
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 (most of them with Dutch subtitles):
Expeditie Robinson (adventure / reality tv)
Wie is de Mol (adventure / reality tv)
De Luizenmoeder (comedy)
Flikken Maastricht (police series)
Flikken Rotterdam (police series)
News, documentaries etc:
NOS Journaal (the news)
Jeugdjournaal (the news for children)
Nieuwsuur (news and background)
3 op reis (travel program)
Zembla (critical documentaries)
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 with humour)
De wereld draait door (also known as: DWDD) (popular, but host talks very fast!)
Humour and satire :
Sluipschutters (with npo start plus, or on youtube)
Zondag met Lubach
Spangas (teenager series)
Unfortunately, children’s television is (almost) never subtitled. There are some very nice programs though that are interesting too for adults.
Beginners of Dutch can find at the TV sender Nickleodeon, and of course on DVD or youtube, 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 (although the series is not really interesting).
For the more advanced:
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 npostart.nl but only live on television:
– nature documentaries, usually on Ned. 1 or 2,
or nature documentaries for children on Ned. 3, like ‘Freek in het Wild’, or ‘De Dodelijkste 60’.
the soap series Goede tijden slechte tijden (on RTL 4).
You find a nice mix of history and humour in the youth series ‘Welkom in / bij…..’ : Welkom bij de Romeinen, Welkom in de IJzeren Eeuw, welkom in de Gouden Eeuw, Welkom in de 80-jarige oorlog, Welkom in de jaren ’20 en ’30, and Welkom in de jaren ‘60.
‘Klokhuis’ also offers a fun mix of education/information (for children) and humour.
Willem Wever :information and science for children. You can search and watch these videos also (with subtitles) on http://willemwever.nl/televisie
‘Brugklas’ is a soap series about a highschool class, for children from 11 to 14 years.
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: 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.
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.
On http://www.wetenschap24.nl/programmas/labyrint/labyrint-radio you find a scientific radio program.
There are many podcasts you can download and listen to.
A popular Dutch news podcast is Met het oog op morgen.
Scientific podcasts are for example Onbehaarde Apen, De Universiteit van Nederland, and De Universiteit van Vlaanderen.
Reading the news
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 (Metro, Spits) in print, that are relatively easy to read.