Learning Dutch as a foreigner – especially as an English speaker – can be difficult, but not for the reason most people expect when learning a new language.
Most Dutch people speak English, especially in the international cities of the Randstad: Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam, among a few others. The Netherlands leads the ranks in terms of English proficiency among adults, so it is no wonder that English speakers who try to learn Dutch may struggle – so many Dutch people automatically switch to English, and with such an international environment, English is often the only common language in a group.
But some people don’t learn as well in a classroom or simply find book-based learning less stimulating. Amsterdam-based Dutch language school Koentact shares some fun and social ways to learn a language outside of the classroom.
Play a board game in Dutch
You already know the rules, so you can still play the game! Many classic board games are available in Dutch, and some lend themselves particularly well to language learning. With Cluedo, you’ll learn vocabulary about specific objects and rooms of a house, and each player must pose a question during their turn – a great way to practise sentence structure and learn some Dutch conversational phrases.
Pictionary and Scrabble both help with vocabulary, and you can even modify the rules to suit your skills: using an English-Dutch dictionary to help out, for example, may result in a point deduction. To improve reading comprehension skills, try Monopoly or – for a greater challenge – Trivial Pursuit.
Get social to learn Dutch
One of the most helpful ways to learn a language is, naturally, to speak it as often as possible. While it can be intimidating to use Dutch in everyday life – and, as mentioned, most Dutch people speak English – there are group events and meetups you can attend to make language learning a fun, social experience.
Social networking platform Meetup lists plenty of casual events throughout the Netherlands that bring together foreigners and Dutch people to encourage mutual language practice. The Amsterdam Language Café, for example, offers single-language nights where one language is spoken, as well as All Languages Parties where you’ll hear many different languages in just one evening. Besides Meetup, there are Facebook events and those organised by language schools to encourage students to get together to socialise and to learn.
But language-focussed meetups aren’t the only ones you can attend to improve your Dutch. Pick a hobby – any hobby – and there’s more than likely a meetup dedicated to it. Foodies, computer programmers, sports fans, nature lovers and more will all find a meetup that’s suited to their interests, and because plenty of Dutch people will attend, there’s always the opportunity to learn while enjoying a favourite hobby.
Sing (Dutch) karaoke
Head out with a group for a karaoke night with just one rule: every song you sing has to be in Dutch. Fuelled by some Dutch courage, soon you’ll be belting out the classics like any native. Try songs from favourite Dutch singers such as Marco Borsato, Jeroen van der Boom, Andre Hazes or Willeke Albert. Slower songs are easiest, of course, but once you’ve gotten past the nerves you may just find yourself picking out some of the newer, faster hits.
Watch a Dutch game show
Change the channel from your regularly scheduled English-language programming and tune to one of the many famous Dutch television shows. The Netherlands is actually an entertainment powerhouse, having produced some of the most famous names in TV – Endemol Shine Group’s Big Brother and Fear Factor are just two of the most well-known shows.
Some popular game shows that you can not only listen to Dutch but play along with are Eén tegen 100 (One vs 100), where one contestant must answer questions correctly and eliminate the 100 opponents, or Rad van Fortuin (Wheel of Fortune), which is based on the American game show. Make it a game show night – invite your friends and challenge each other to play along.
Download a Dutch-language app
Considering most people are now glued to mobile screens almost 24 hours a day, there is plenty of time to play with language-learning apps. Duolingo is one of the most well-known apps specifically for language learning, but there are plenty of games that can be set in Dutch and just played during your commute or downtime.
While games to learn Dutch and outdoor fun is good for learning, language classes do serve an important role. Take the knowledge you learn inside the classroom and bring it outside – you’ll learn more Dutch than you’ll realise!