Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Eight Ways to Improve Your Dutch Language Skills

Dutch is not the easiest language to learn and depending on your personal circumstances it can be tricky to pick it up. Some expats have to attend a compulsory inburgeringscursus, which includes Dutch language lessons, but if you are from the EU then such courses are not obligatory and it might be a little harder to get yourself motivated to attend evening Dutch classes. Sometimes an employer will pay for you to attend language tuition, and sometimes even in work hours.

Whatever your situation, living in the Netherlands means you need to have some level of Dutch language skills to get around, even if it is just to be able to read traffic signs and shop notices. Here are some ways to improve your skills:
  1. Formal language tuition: after a few years here I realised that although I understood a lot of Dutch and could certainly get by, my writing and grammar was not up to scratch so I went for a few lessons. I went to Poldertaal in The Hague and I can highly recommend Gerrie Soede and her methods, but there are lots of other teachers and courses around the country.

  2. Read Dutch newspapers and magazines: the more you read, the more vocab you pick up and you'll soon find that you can get by when you are out and about.

  3. Watch Dutch TV: and by this I don't mean Dutch spoken TV, but take the time to watch English spoken programs on Dutch channels. You will easily pick up new Dutch words, their meaning and spelling from the subtitles whilst being entertained.

  4. Story time at the library: obviously this works best if you actually take a child of the right age with you, otherwise you may get strange looks. This is a great way not only for your children to pick up Dutch, but you too. You will learn theme based words and Dutch songs, as well as the opportunity to take books home with you from the library (again certain conditions apply - library membership is recommended as stealing library books is frowned upon). This leads on to my next tip....

  5. Borrow Dutch books from the library: particularly handy if you borrow the Dutch version of a book you have already read in English. This way you know the story and already have the gist of the book and can concentrate on the vocab.

  6. Be strict: if you have a Dutch partner and in-laws ask them to be real mean and speak only Dutch to you. This is how I gained a lot of my Dutch - not that I asked my in-laws to stop speaking English to me: they just did. However, it works a treat because you are forced to speak Dutch and concentrate!

  7. Books or CD's: Hugo's Dutch in Three Months is a good example of a helpful book to move your Dutch along

  8. Talk to Dutch work colleagues: if you work with Dutch people ask them for help to get you speaking more Dutch in the workplace. You could set up Dutch conversation sessions one lunchtime a week with a group of you to motivate you, over lunch in a meeting room or in the staff lunchroom. Make it fun!

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