Learning a new language is always a bit of a challenge. Having to learn Dutch seems to have an exceptionally bad reputation in this regard. What is it about the Dutch language that scares people, besides from a few grammatical complications?
Is it the sounds, the melody, or the intonation that discourages people? We asked internationals in the Netherlands how they felt about the Dutch language, when they heard it for the first time. To summarise the answers: like a quacking, angry, grunting and coughing duck from the Sims, who speaks one long word with no beginning and no end. Ah, thank you, we are so flattered 😊.
You can read the 52 answers below. Oh, and don’t worry fellow Dutchies, some of the comments are actually quite nice.
First time I made contact with the Dutch language, it sounded very much like tree branches cracking, or glass breaking or someone trying to talk with something stuck in their throat. I couldn’t make any words, there was nothing I could link it to. Mere weird sounds. Luckily now, it’s been a year since I’ve been living here and it is much more bearable to my ears.
The first time I heard Dutch I thought it was a weird but sweet language.
To me, the Dutch language sounds like a German person trying to speak French but he’s drunk out of his skulls to even get his 15 syllable word out. Lots of throat clearing and spits in between, like a drunk person trying to make sense.
Dutch sounded strange at first, a bit like German but more sophisticated in a way. I was intimidated by the new sounds I heard coming from other parts of the throat/mouth than I expected, but overall it gave me the impression that it’s a cool language spoken by cool people and it made me want to learn to speak it eventually so I could also sound cool.
Difficult! But interesting- quite similar to German but also very different.
To be honest, it was very overwhelming. It sounded like complete gibberish!
When I first heard Dutch it was impossible to comprehend it. It does have some similarities to English which makes it easier for some parts, but the pronunciation, vocabulary and word order makes a pretty difficult language to master.
When I heard the Dutch language for the first time I felt it was direct/pointed – as I could not understand anything.
I found it interesting and nice to hear – but frankly, I also felt scared as I got the impression that it was a language that might be difficult to learn. Over time, I became braver and confident that I will be able to master the language if I put the time and effort into it.
The first time I’ve heard Dutch I thought “What am I doing here? Are this people going to start a fight?”
First time when I thought this language is ridiculous , and super hard and I will be never able to learn it. Now I am super determined to do it and I hope I will be able to achieve it.
When I heard Dutch language first time, it looked like something terrible. But now I want to learn this language, to understand and to speak.
Suuuuuper confused!! I thought was some kind of weird dialect! Luckily my fiancée (who is Dutch) has been helping me to understand a bit more!
The first time I heard the Dutch language I had the feeling that is not from this continent. Is a very different language and I hope that I will be able to understand a bit more.
I feel a great sense of frustration. I don’t even understand when one word ends and when another begins.
Listening Dutch for the first time I felt scared. I am not any more since my little one is 17 months old and I need to like it for her.
It felt like I was suddenly in the Sims world.
I found it different than the languages I heard before. The pronunciation is quite difficult for me but the fact that majority of the words (as far as I know) are related to English makes it interesting for me to learn Dutch language. But I was surprised by the how the English alphabets are pronounced separately.
When I first heard the Dutch language itself, I thought it sounded like an older “Zuid-Afrikaans”. When they speak quickly it sounds like something from the game “The Sims”.
It made me feel like all words were stuck together in one very long word. It sounded very foreign (I’m more use to Latin languages), a mix between English and German.
When I first heard Dutch the thing that surprised me most was how pretty the language sounded when native speakers spoke it. I think it’s a really beautiful language! To my Indian ear, it sounds sort of like French mixed with German spoken with a Scottish accent. Very cool.
It was really interesting for me to hear Dutch for the first time! I didn’t know what to expect or how it would sound. It was nice to be able to get a few words since they are sometimes similar to English or German
Even though I speak Italian, English, Portuguese, Spanish… Dutch language has always been really hard to understand to me. By trying to read it, it looks like a mix of English and German.
When I first heard the Dutch language, it was so frustrating because the similarities between Dutch and English sounds would confuse me into thinking people were speaking English, but on closer inspection, I wouldn’t be able to understand any of it. I spent the first few weeks focusing very hard on people’s conversations, or the announcements on speakers, because I kept thinking it was English. But over time, I began to also distinguish Dutch sounds that aren’t in the English language, such as the “sch”, “g”, “v” and “w”, and other double vowel sounds.
When I first heard the Dutch language I had the impression that is was very strange. I was quite bewildered by the pronunciation but at the same time surprised that I could understand some words because it sounds similar to German.
I felt that it would be very hard to speak it with a cold as it has a lot of back of throat pronunciation.
When I heard the language for the first time I found it fast and difficult to follow. When I tried to concentrate on the pronunciations and the vocabulary while someone spoke, I found out that it is a mix of English and German and the words are put in a very simple way. You speak what you think in Dutch!
I found Dutch from the first time on special and very interesting.
Interesting mix of English and German sounds with too many scratchy G’s
I felt Dutch is a very difficult language but I am trying to find similarities with other languages.
The first time I heard Dutch it was about 20 years ago and thought it sounded a bit ugly and very odd. But now it sounds so much nicer, as I get used to hearing it and not so closed minded now that I live in Maastricht.
It felt like being hit in the face with a fish… I must have looked like a stunned mullet… No idea!
On the very first moment, Dutch felt like mix of Italian (because of the stress on certain pronounciation/letters grrrr…) and Arabic (because of the rhythm while speaking). After little observation, it even felt like almost English words pronounced funny. (Good Morning – Goedemorgen, Yes – Ja, No – Nee, Bye – doei)
Then learnt to manage with just 3 responds when someone talks to me in Dutch,
1. say as many ‘Ja’ as possible 🙂
2. ‘alles is goed’ or just ‘is goed’
Jokes apart, I personally feel Dutch is not a difficult language to understand/listen, but could be bit challenging to speaking and requires practicing. And, I am keen to take up the challenge and speak Dutch with my friends soon.
Dutch is a beautiful language to learn. Recently moved to Netherlands as a expat I am very much interested to learn Dutch culture.
I felt like I never heard a similar accent and that the language was very unique. Also I was very excited to learn some of the most common words and phrases of the Dutch language.
Me and Dutch.. growing up in Germany,I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of our closest neighbours language!
Fast forward, after living in Ireland, Canada and the UK for 15 years, I meet my Dutch boyfriend.. and after 3 years of long distancing, the impossible happened and I find myself moving to the Netherlands! After a few months in Ede, it’s growing on me… though the train announcements still manage to make me twitch with their hard G’s!
My honest answer to the question: First impression of the language was that it was not a pretty language. The ’g’ sounded harsh and daunting.
Dutch language sounded like a duck, that was quacking. A very deep G, that comes from the throat
I found the mix of English, French and German a bit weird to be honest. Now I need to learn and I don’t know where to start. I find it fascinating and I can’t wait to be able to speak Dutch!
When I was listening to people speaking Dutch together for the first time, I was struggling a lot to see if it’s more similar to English or German. I know they are in a same family of the languages with the same root, but it’s pretty amazing to see the similarities and the differences.
I just thought it’s a one very long word. I couldn’t figure where they place a space between words in a sentence, especially when speaking fast.
When I heard Dutch for the first time, I felt challenge in my gut. I was at first anxious because I didn’t speak German (thought it sounded really similar) but then realized that I didn’t need German language at all.
The first time I heard Dutch language I thought that the speaker is growling due to some kind of throat problem (disease) but when I heard that more often, I simply had to laugh 🙂
Hearing the Dutch language for the first time surprisingly gave me more then one emotion. I was a late teen when I heard my now partners family interacting with each other in Dutch. My first impression was actually about the emotion and tone. I honestly thought they were arguing! The speed was fast, very fast and the tone was flat and deep. This was very different to my language English.
I remember asking “Wow, what happened ? Why were you fighting with your Mum and sister? They laughed and explained they were in no way fighting, but just having a good discussion. I felt silly and confused at the time. Now living in the country, and hearing it again years later I can understand the Dutch people and culture and come to love and appreciate it.
The first time I heard people speaking Dutch I wandered if they are talking or trying to spit out some saliva (honest thought). I feel different now, as I am more familiar with the sounds of this language.
The first time I heard the Dutch Language I thought I would have a hard time learning, because the pronunciation of G would put extra effort on my throat. I find it hard and yet I’m very much interested and it’s a challenge for me.
It’s a very different language…… Hard to learn…. Learned a new way to pronounce ‘G’.
It was last year when I first heard Dutch and I knew it must be a very difficult language to learn, especially for a Latin person. I still feel sometimes that some Dutch people speak the language as if they are sick all the time, but I became more familiar with it now that my boyfriend is Dutch.
It seems very complicated, but incredibly exciting to try and master!
When I first heard Dutch, I felt 3 things: excited, curious and (honestly) overconfident. The first word I learned was “Gefeliciteerd!” which is still my favorite Dutch word. When I was still living in the US, my Dutch partner taught me numbers, telling time, and how to order food.
At the time, I was quite comfortable learning these terms and very motivated to learn. But then, I moved to join my partner in small Dutch dorpje. Far from home. Where hardly anyone spoke English. And all my confidence was broken. Since then, I have tried different things on my own: language apps, websites, books, YouTube, etc. But each time I would get frustrated and then stop. Recently, I made a decision to recommit to learning Dutch.
When I first heard the Dutch language I weirdly enough found it to sound quite melodious. I was also super excited to find out how many words are similar to those in other languages I speak, such as Romanian, English and Spanish.
Somehow I focussed on the famous ‘kh’ sounds from my first ever Dutch sentence.
And then in mind I could hear on loop the famous Hindi Movie dialogue ‘Kh.. kh from the Epiglottis’. You have to watch the movie to get it. Still trying to get a hang of it. No Offense though.