We have seen that there are many similarities in Dutch and English, that the grammar is relatively simple, and that with a few pronunciation rules you will be able to deduce the correct pronunciation. Our final question then is: is it really necessary to learn Dutch?
Yes. First of all, even a little knowledge of the Dutch language will provide many practical advantages in everyday life. You will be able to read things in the street. You will find out that doorgaand verkeer, a word seen on many traffic signs, is not a Dutch village, but means through traffic. Shopping will be much easier if you can speak and read some Dutch. In the beginning you’ll see that it is indeed possible to get by with English. But even though shopkeepers, for instance, will speak English to you in the beginning, most of them will sort of expect you to speak some Dutch after a while. Especially in simple situations like going to the shop.
And how about social life? If you go to a Dutch party, they may speak English to you in the beginning, but as soon as they want to tell a joke they’ll switch to Dutch. You won’t understand them and you can’t say anything. After a while you won’t be invited to Dutch parties anymore. If you speak some Dutch, however, you’ll be able to communicate with them. Don’t forget that you don’t have to speak a language perfectly to be able to communicate. The Dutch also make mistakes when they speak English. Their problems: word order and pronunciation/spelling.
Apart from practical and social advantages, there’ll be cultural advantages. Just imagine being able to understand a Dutch newspaper or magazine, or Dutch television. The vocabulary will give you an insight into Dutch society and its inhabitants.
Because we are such a small nation, we use many diminutives (beetje, meisje, vorkje, dorpje). Because there is so much water and because there are so many windmills, wooden shoes, flowers, and bicycles, we have many expressions with these words (e.g. hij heeft een klap van de molen = he is crazy, lit.: he was hit by a windmill; wat heb ik nou aan mijn fiets hangen? = what kind of a mess am I in now? lit.: what’s hanging on my bike now?).
There are more words that are typically Dutch and are important to know such as gezellig for cosy, leuk and lekker for nice. The Dutch slogan zuinigheid en vlijt (lit.: thrift/economy and industry/diligence) comes from Calvinism and makes you understand why the Dutch are known as hard-working but also as stingy. The word verzuiling (lit.: “pillarization”) is essential for understanding the Dutch national character. You can still see the remnants of the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Socialist, and Conservative “pillars” in names of Dutch schools, broadcasting corporations, newspapers, political parties and so on.