By Ruud Hisgen (Direct Dutch Institute) for I am Expat
Need some help with finding ways to boost your Dutch? Here is a useful list with tips that could help you improve your Dutch language skills. The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing. If you see learning Dutch as a chore, you’ll never improve your Dutch. So, see these activities as some kind of game or sport. If an activity becomes boring, forget it and try something else. Good luck!
Here are some ways to improve your Dutch that involve speaking the language:
Improve your pronunciation and intonation
Read a short article or a chapter from a book, but instead of reading it quietly, read it out loud. If you do this for ten minutes every day, it will be really helpful. It will improve both your Dutch vocabulary and, of course, your pronunciation.
Listen to your own voice
Take out your smartphone and record yourself. Select a short text from a book or a newspaper article (depending on your level) and use a dictionary to look up all the words that you don’t know. Then read each sentence out loud and record it. The tempo of your reading should be half as slow as the tempo that you use in your native language.
Listen to yourself and check whether you have pronounced all the letters in the words. Listen carefully. Then do it again, slower. Play your recording to a Dutchie you trust and ask them to correct you. If there is no Dutchie in sight, send it to one. Ask for a reaction. Do this at least once a week and you’ll find that your Dutch friends will understand you better.
Most learners of Dutch focus on speaking. Yet, they forget how important it is to comprehend the language. You cannot react properly to what somebody is saying when you haven’t got a clue what the message is. So, you must train your ears to make sense of Dutch sounds.
Watch a Dutch film or series once a week. Netflix and YouTube have some interesting films that you can watch with Dutch subtitles. However, if you’re looking for a greater variety and a better quality, you should get a subscription to NPO Start. For a few euros per month (in 2020, it is a mere 2,95 euros per month, the first month is free) you can watch interesting documentaries, films, series, comedies and soaps on your computer screen … The list is endless.
Watching a feature online has two advantages: You can stop the film or replay it in order to look up a word and almost all films and programmes have Dutch subtitles, so you can listen and read at the same time.
Nothing works better to increase your vocabulary than reading Dutch texts. Have a notebook ready and write down all the words that you don’t know and look them up in a dictionary. Don’t be discouraged. The first pages will always be the hardest. As your reading of the text progresses, you’ll find that the number of words that you have to look up goes down.
Try to read articles from a quality Dutch newspaper once a week. Examples of Dutch newspapers are Algemeen Dagblad, NRC, Volkskrant, or Trouw. Choose a subject that will interest you.
If you have children, or if you are one at heart, read Dutch children’s books or poetry. A good example is the Annie M.G. Schmidt anthology Ziezo. However, any of Annie’s books will do. Many of her books have been filmed, so you can also combine reading, watching and listening. A lot of Dutch people grew up with her texts, so this will always make for lively conversation.
For more information see my previous article on IamExpat.
If you are at B1+ level, try reading a Dutch literary novel. Pick something you enjoy reading about. It could be a thriller or a historical novel about the Netherlands. A great example of short stories would be De dierenverhalen by Toon Tellegen. He wrote some wonderful fables about animals, which are widely read and enjoyed by adults, often because of their philosophical, psychological and funny aspects.
If you want to read a novel, try reading Kader Abdollah’s Het huis van de moskee. He writes a gripping and humorous tale of Iran (Abdollah’s motherland) in the seventies and eighties. He taught himself Dutch by reading Annie M.G. Schmidt and uses simple Dutch, which makes this novel an excellent read for anyone trying to learn Dutch.
Writing and spelling
Practice your spelling and vocabulary in the following ways:
BeterSpellen.nl is a website which provides Dutch spelling exercises. If you create an account for this website, you will get four short spelling exercises every day. You can start at the lowest level (level 1F), and once you are getting the hang of it, you will automatically go to a higher level. These exercises will only cost you five minutes a day, and it’s completely free.
Your mastery of Dutch writing will only improve if you do it frequently. Start a diary and write a few lines every day. Try to write as simple as possible and don’t translate. After a while, you’ll discover that you’re improving, and a big advantage is that you keep track of your experiences in this country which will unlock all its treasures to you because you have found the key: the language.