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Common Mistakes Students of Dutch Make

Dutch is one of the easier languages to learn, especially for native English speakers. As a part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages, it shares some similarities with English. Still, all languages have their learning curves and it’s easy to make common errors. Some mistakes are more easily made than others, and getting to know them in advance is a good learning tactic.

PHOTO_1 (5)Dutch windmill via hisa fujimoto / Wikipedia

Keep in mind certain peculiarities of Dutch grammar and pronunciation, and make an effort to familiarise yourself with them; this will greatly assist in getting your Dutch off the ground as quickly as possible. Some common mistakes to keep in mind are as follows.

Incorrect word order

In general, word order is the same as English in main clauses, i.e subject-verb-object. However, subordinate clauses switch the order, making sentences subject-object-verb instead. Adverbs are placed differently, and that often results in errors in sentence structure. This might not make you impossible to understand, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind if you want to become as fluent as possible.

PHOTO_2Dutch orthography via Johannes Rossel / Wikipedia

Confusing de and het

These are gendered articles. Where English only has one definite article (the), Dutch has two. De is used for both masculine and feminine, while het is neuter. It’s easy to forget which goes where, and often the only way to get this right is sheer memorization. One helpful hint to remember is that plurals are always de.

Side note: when it comes to gender, don’t forget the gendered versions of “friend” – vriend and vriendin. Male friends are vriend, female friends are vriendin – making a mistake with this could cause some offence!

Mispronouncing particular vowels and consonants

Pronouncing Dutch words can be a true hiccup while learning. You may be tempted to pronounce particular vowel and consonant combinations like you do in English, but this will lead to confusion if you try and speak to a native Dutch speaker. Sounds like “oe”, “v”, “ch”, “sch” and “g” are pronounced differently to their counterparts in English. “Oe” is pronounced like the “oo” in “food”, for example, while the “ch” and “sch” sounds are quite guttural, much like the “ch” in the Scottish “loch”. The “v” sound is usually pronounced more like the English “f”. Meanwhile, the “ij” as in vijf (five) is usually pronounced “ay”, i.e “fayf”.

PHOTO_3Map of the Netherlands via Scipius / Wikipedia

The biggest mistake: not practicing when in the Netherlands

If you’re in the Netherlands, whether working, studying or settling permanently, it can be easy to not speak Dutch at all. Strange though it may seem, the Dutch are generally proud of the fact they can speak English well and more often than not, will respond in English to anyone with an accent. This makes it easy to live in the Netherlands for years without learning anything but basic pleasantries. If you want to really improve, resist the urge to be complacent and be sure to ask Dutch speakers to respond to you in their language to help you learn. This is the best way to become comfortable with speaking, and will speed up your fluency. Something else that will make you feel comfortable? Language classes with a native-speaking Dutch tutor. Ready to get started? Contact Listen & Learn today and learn more about our personalized package options!