As a native Dutch speaker and Dutch teacher, expats are often asking me the best way to improve Dutch skills quickly. While taking high-quality lessons from an experienced teacher (like me!) is of course the most efficient way to develop your Dutch skills, there are many other things you can do every day to dramatically improve your Dutch and put into practice what you are learning in class.
I believe that you can only learn Dutch efficiently if you put yourself into situations where you need to actively use and practise the language in everyday situations in the Netherlands. I have developed a calendar of recommendations, each day with a new tip to improve your Dutch within your day-to-day life. By following this guide, I promise that one month from now you will feel more confident speaking and using Dutch.
My top tips to improve your Dutch quickly and naturally every day
1. Perfect the Dutch pronunciation of your address
Input your full address (street, number, city, AND postal code) into Google Translate and press the audio button so you can listen to the pronunciation… you might be surprised that you’ve been saying it incorrectly for a long time! This is something you will say a lot, and being comfortable saying it with proper Dutch pronunciation will give you a boost of confidence.
2. Watch “het Jeugdjournaal” (Dutch news for children)
You can watch twice-daily news videos on the NOS Jeugdjournaal website, so you can stay up-to-date on Dutch and international news with simpler language and clear delivery. Improve your Dutch for free while learning about current affairs!
3. Download a Dutch dictionary app
I like the Muiswerk woordenboek, available on iPhone App Store or Google Play. Many definitions include pictures and longer descriptions, and common abbreviations are also offered. It’s also great if you don’t know how to spell a word, as it will predict what word you may be looking for based on how you spell it.
4. Listen to Dutch music, and read along with the lyrics translated
Make a free account on Lyrics Training and practice your Dutch while listening to music! Try songs like “Parijs” by Kenny B or “Ze huilt maar ze lacht” by Maan.
5. Ask someone to speak slower in Dutch
It’s common that the Dutch people around you will switch to English once they realize you are not fluent. Rather than accept this and move to English, gather up the courage today to instead ask if they could continue to speak Dutch, just slower: Kun je alsjeblieft langzamer praten?
6. Join a local Facebook group (that isn’t just for expats)
While local expat groups are of course a great resource and way to meet people, look to see if there are other groups in your cities based on your interests that locals use as well. This will expose you to Dutch language posts, but also to local Dutch-speaking events and people.
7. Learn Dutch words related to your hobby
Hobbies are something we speak about a lot, and yet, it can be these specific and niche words that we learn last. Let’s change that! Think of 5-10 words you use a lot to speak about your hobbies, and translate them into Dutch. These will help you have personal conversations in Dutch much easier!
8. Greet a neighbour in Dutch
It can be as simple as Dag buurman/buurvrouw!, but putting yourself out there to speak Dutch in the hallway or on the street is important to practicing your Dutch language skills every day!
9. Learn how to use a few common (yet uniquely Dutch) words
Dutch is a language with many unique words. Using lekker to talk about something enjoyable or pleasant (Heb je lekker gegeten? – Did you enjoy your meal?) or the exclamation jammer, an equivalent to “Too bad!” or “What a pity!” (Ik kan niet op je verjaardag komen. Jammer! – I cannot come to your birthday party. Too bad!) will make your Dutch, even limited, sound much more natural and fluent. And you can’t forget gezellig, the untranslatable Dutch word to describe a person, place, event, or thing with a spirit of coziness, friendship, conviviality, or comfortability.
10. Add Dutch subtitles to Netflix movies and shows
If you are watching Netflix in the Netherlands, most shows and movies will have the option for Dutch subtitles. Simply having them there will naturally help you draw connections between the Dutch words and what is being spoken, especially words similar to English (which are many!).
11. Read and make a Dutch recipe
Try making a Dutch recipe like erwtensoep, boerenkoolstamppot, or wentelteefjes by following along with their recipes in Dutch. Language learning and delicious eating all in one!
12. Join a Dutch language exchange
Speak with other local Dutch learners in a casual, friendly environment. This is a great way to practice your Dutch without fear of judgement! You can find Dutch language exchanges via Facebook, MeetUp, and more.
13. Read an advertising brochure
If you live in the Netherlands, you know the Dutch love advertising flyers. Why not actually flip through one and read it? This is especially helpful to practice your Dutch food vocabulary because the pictures are right there to reference.
14. Ask a question in a shop in Dutch
Be brave today and ask your question in Dutch. Even if it’s simple, choosing to work harder by asking in Dutch is the kind of practice you’ll need to progress rapidly! For example, Hoeveel kost de kaas? (How much does this cheese cost?) or Hoeveel weegt dit stuk kaas? (How much does this piece of cheese weigh?).
15. Select Dutch as the language of your phone
By simply changing the language of your phone, you can improve your Dutch understanding with a huge amount of vocabulary you will learn just by exposure. Don’t know the Dutch words for “phone”, “calculator”, or “calendar”? You will soon!
16. Listen to the conversations around you
That’s right – I’m encouraging you to eavesdrop! The next time you are out shopping, take out your headphones and just listen to see if you can recognize any of the words or conversations happening around you. You might be surprised at how much you understand, which will give you a boost of confidence!
17. Learn to say your age and birthday in Dutch
This is something else you will say a lot that is personal to you, and learning to say it in Dutch will help you in any appointments or when speaking with a customer service representative on the phone.
18. Send someone a message in Dutch
Send a message to a friend in Dutch, or write a comment in a local Facebook group in Dutch instead of English.
19. Pay attention to the street signs in your neighbourhood
You can learn a lot of vocabulary just by looking around! Translate words you don’t recognize in an app while walking. For example, Active Dutch’s address on Groenoord means “green place”!
20. Make a restaurant order in Dutch
Whether in person or order takeaway over the phone, it’s a perfect time to practice. I have a whole section about eating at a restaurant in my free ebook, 12 Everyday Conversations in Dutch.
21. Learn common Dutch names and their pronunciations
Dutch Review has two great articles about Dutch girls names and Dutch boys names to read! It will give you a lot of confidence to be able to recognize, pronounce, and spell common Dutch names correctly.
22. Make an appointment in Dutch
Another speaking challenge for you! If you need some help with this, download my free e-book, 12 Everyday Conversations in Dutch.
23. Read a news article in Dutch
I mentioned the NOS Jeugdjournaal website earlier, a news website for kids. They also have news articles you can read, written in simpler language perfect for Dutch learners. Read an article about something you already know about for an easier task (context helps understanding!), or local news you don’t know about for an extra challenge.
24. Ask a Dutch person about their favourite Dutch word and its meaning
You likely have a favourite word in your own language, and most Dutch people have their’s too! Ask and you are sure to learn some new and interesting vocabulary! Mine is stokoud, meaning “very old”.
25. Turn off auto-translate from Dutch in Google Chrome
If you use Chrome as your browser, it will often auto-translate Dutch pages for you. By turning off auto-translate, you will improve your Dutch by giving yourself a push to try to read things yourself in Dutch, only switching to English if necessary.
26. Make small talk about the weather in Dutch
The Dutch weather is always changing, even within the span of an hour or two, so Dutch people are always talking about it. An easy way to improve your Dutch is by talking about everyday topics like this, so start the conversation on a chilly day by saying: “Koud hè!” (Cold, huh?!).
27. Watch a Dutch TV show
Even if at first you need to add English subtitles, watching Dutch shows like Undercover or Toon (both available on Netflix) will expose you to new vocabulary, and listening is one of the best ways to improve your Dutch skills as you are first learning!
28. Find a local volunteer opportunity
By volunteering locally, you will not only get a change to improve your Dutch speaking skills with locals, but also contribute to the community and feel more connected. Many cities have their own volunteer job boards, including Den Haag and Amsterdam.
Want to learn even more?
Interested in furthering your Dutch skills with classes from an experienced Dutch teacher? I offer group lessons both in person and online, as well as private lessons customized to your learning goals. Learn more about my courses by clicking the button below.