Is Dutch really that difficult?
“Dutch is impossible to learn, it’s completely different from English, the grammar is very complicated, the Dutch sounds are impossible to pronounce and, after all, you don’t really need Dutch if you’re living in the Netherlands, because they all speak perfect English.” That’s what your English speaking friends may tell you. Moreover, many Dutch people will try to convince you that their language is one of the most difficult ones in the world. Consequently, Boucke and White, writers of The Undutchables concluded: “the more you try to learn Dutch, the more the Dutch refuse to speak Dutch to you, and the more they complain that you haven’t learned it.”
However, in fact Dutch is not that difficult: the grammar is relatively simple, Dutch is very similar to English, and it is very important to be able to communicate in Dutch if you want to make your stay in the Netherlands more worth while.
(This article was first published in the ACCESS Newsletter in The Hague in 1995).
Why learn Dutch?
More than twenty million people in the world speak Dutch. Generally speaking, the Dutch have a good command of English. So why should any non-Dutch person in his right mind go through the hassle of learning Dutch? For various reasons. You might like to get to know the Dutch better, the people and their culture; perhaps you have Dutch relatives or have to live in the Netherlands for a few years; you may need Dutch for business reasons, or wish to take part in Dutch social life; or maybe you just have linguistic or historical interests, and simply like Holland, Belgium and their people. Whatever the reason, learning Dutch will make you an insider rather than an outsider in these countries.
A total submersion in a Dutch environment, even for only a few weeks, lends an invaluable extra dimension to Dutch language acquisition. In Holland you can quickly increase your fluency and build up a wide vocabulary, because you have the chance to apply passive knowledge actively in your daily life.