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Learning Dutch? - A Program and A Set of Lessons

- Smartphone Learning Program (narrow pages)

Nederland click to hear ('Holland' / 'The Netherlands' >>) - maps
The Internet makes it possible to hear the sounds of foreign languages at the click of a mouse - you won't find that in a book or a language course on an audio CD. My website makes learning Dutch easier - and more fun too, I hope. Allow me to pilot your course in Dutch.

Learning a foreign language is hard work. If you're serious about Dutch, you'll have to learn about a thousand basic words and how to pronounce them; you'll have to learn how words change like for instance in the plural, you'll have to memorize the verb forms and get a feel for the word order in Dutch sentences.

You've come to the right place for the rigorous learning. All that material is on my website - but next to that my website also offers many pages that are (I hope) interesting or fun to read, telling about the country, the people and the 'culture' (including recipes) - and those pages often have Dutch words and phrases - more relaxed, a different environment from learning words from lists: Sideways Learning

As I said, you should make those one thousand basic words your active vocabulary, words you can call up from memory when needed in conversation or writing. In addition to that, you should build a passive vocabulary for reading and listening, words that you recognize and know the meaning of.
After you've mastered the basic words, I strongly recommend getting a Dutch-Dutch dictionary (where the words are explained/described in Dutch) - this will force you to learn more Dutch and it will put you more in a Dutch mindset, focus you on Dutch, and take you away from the intermediary language. To start with, a small, basic one is probably better than a large one, so you don't get confused by uncommon words.

In the lessons I tried to combine the serious learning with lighter reading like essays and picture vocabulary - but the lessons are a bit light on vocabulary. It would be a good idea to start learning 20 basic Dutch words a day after lesson 4.

We're not in school. You're free to learn Dutch whatever way you think best: set your own goals, follow your own timetable, or just pick up a few words or phrases as needed. If you just want to browse through my pages or hopscotch (rayuela) according to your own plan, that's fine with me. My pages can be a resource and a set of suggestions. But if you'd like some guidance, there's a Method below on the left, and a stricter Lessons Program below on the right. If you're only interested in reading Dutch, go to "Read Only," below on the right, lower down. You could of course also start learning Dutch with just reading, and go to listening and speaking later.

Resource Pages for Independent Study

Beginners:
Intermediate:
Advanced:

Suggested Method

A nice page to start: Colors and Materials - or if you know English well, you could for a first introduction look at and hear the 'recognizable words' on the Easy Dutch pages. They do not offer a complete Dutch vocabulary but will give you a head start.
[A Dutch flag]
A Program Using Smartphone Pages

Then listen to a few longer Dutch texts, like poems and songs, readings from my Dutch short stories, or Readings from the Bible (no religious endorsement implied) - just to hear the language. When you look at the text, you'll notice that Dutch spelling is fairly phonetic.
Regular Dutch may be a little fast for you. The Slow Dutch page might help you get up to speed.
Watching Dutch movies or videos with English subtitles (for instance at: 2bdutch.nl) is also a good way to get an idea of what Dutch is like, and will again be helpful later on.

I would recommend to take the instruction in small doses, like twenty minutes once or twice a day. For most people that will be much more effective than a few long sessions.

It's probably best to study the pronunciation first: How are the letters said in Dutch? Listen to the sound files. Wouldn't pronouncing Dutch words be a nice way to spend some time with a friend? Compare with how I say the words and rate each other's efforts. (The #2 links are not a continuation but another approach to the material.)

1. vowels - 2 - klinkers click to hear a, e, i, o, u
2. diphthongs - 2 - tweeklanken click to hear au, ei, eu, ij, oe, ou, ui
3. long and short vowels - 2 a/aa - e/ee - i/ie - o/oo - u/uu
4. 'voiceless, unstressed E' - 2 click to hear 'schwa'
5. consonants - 2 - medeklinkers click to hear b c d f g h j k l m n p q r s t v w x z
Later you can find all pronunciation together on the reference page.

Check your Dutch pronunciation and build vocabulary by studying my collection of 'recognizable' words, words identical of similar to English: 'Easy Dutch.'

Next to these Desktop pages you could also use the Smartphone pages about the subject, like when you're away from your desk

Then further familiarize yourself with - the spelling rules - (old version.) This is not as hard as it may look, for Dutch spelling is much more straightforward than English - but still, Dutch has exceptions and irregularities - (old version) too - though you might want to save this for later.

Work on Pronunciation Exercises: 1 - 2
Try to say the words correctly, then listen to how I say them; record yourself or invite a friend and work on it together. Listening to the sound files on this page is also good for getting a sense of the language. You could also work on the Listening Exercise.

The Word Order Pages start with very simple sentences you could listen to:

  • 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - old version
  • Smartphone Version
  • Personal Pronouns Sample Sentences
  • At this point it would be good to learn some common Dutch phrases - 2 like

    "goedemorgen" click to hear Good morning
    "dank U wel" click to hear Thank you - polite
    "dank je wel" click to hear Thank you - informal
    "alstublieft" click to hear Please - polite
    "alsjeblieft" click to hear 2 Please - informal
    and:  "Hoe duur is dit?" click to hear What's the price on this?

    From there, I would recommend you try to memorize twenty to twenty-five words a day. The nice thing is, it's not like in school, that you have to learn all the words in the book. Choose words from a field that has your interest or words that you think will come in useful, and feel free to skip words that look less useful. You can always return to them later. Choose the page that appeals to you from the pictures and list below.
    Learning words is not the most exciting thing in the world, but it's probably the best way to start learning a language.

    The mostly-text 'Basic, 'Everyday' Dutch' pages are based on the list of about 850 very carefully chosen 'Basic English' words that Ogden and Richardson came up with in the 1920s. They thought that this basic vocabulary would be enough for almost all everyday communication.
    The Basic Words may not look as nice as the picture pages, but systematic study of the list will be the quickest way to master some useful Dutch. Here's a Old Version of short pages

    You could also start with the Basic 'Everyday Items' picture pages:

    [Brussels sprouts]
    vegetables
    [grapes]
    fruits
    [plate of food]
    dinners
    [loaf of bread]
    other food
    and later choose other subjects that interest you:
    [2 books]
    media
    [glasses, watch, etc.]
    necessities
    [jacket]
    clothing
    [A plate of fava beans, with bacon and potatoes]
    meals
    [a house]
    the house
    [a path]
    the outdoors
    [a mirror]
    beauty
    [Me riding a bicycle]
    bicycles
    [lightswitch]
    electricity
    [bus]
    traffic
    [A collection of woodworking tools]
    tools
    [Cows in a meadow]
    animals
    [a handful of Brussels sprouts]
    food
    [small saucepan: lidded pot with a stick handle]
    kitchen
    [a variety of items]
    more

    Another set of vocabulary pages, not as many pictures, choose subjects you're interested in:
    Family - 2 - Birthday - Medical - Chemistry - Music - Religious
    Military - Medieval - Fairy Tales - Mail - Food - 2 - Random
    Basic Phrases - Speaking Dutch - Travel - Sleep - Weather
    Eating and Drinking - Jobs and Lines of Work
    The Senses - Words - Likes and Dislikes
    Longer, 'Thesaurus' Pages: Life - Change - Time

    Smartphone Versions of the pages above (or part of them) could be useful when you're away from your desk:
    - Basic Words
    - Pocket Pictures Dictionary

    For your passive vocabulary you could (among others) read the hopefully somewhat entertaining False Friends, Alliterations and Easy Dutch pages.
    Dutch Sayings and Standard Phrases

    Complete Vocabulary Overview

    Vocabulary Tests:
    English to Dutch
    pictures to Dutch words
    Listening Tests: 770 'Basic' Words
    - with pictures - start: Everyday Words

    Learn some conversation lines and a few humorous lines. Following your own interests, start memorizing words for smalltalk.
    The best training would be to talk with and exchange letters with a real Dutchman, or with the more formidable Dutchwoman, but lacking those, talking Dutch with a fellow student will already teach you some Dutch. Imaginary conversations and trying to write Dutch are also helpful in learning the language.
    Practice will tell you which words and what grammar you need, and make you look for those. Learning will feel more focused and useful, less like an academic exercise or memorizing seemingly random word lists.
    It's also less embarrassing. It's difficult to show that you're still learning.

    Take breaks from your daily words lists to:

    From time to time, revisit old pages like spelling and pronunciation.
    Dutch Vowel Sounds Compared - Dutch Consonants Review - exceptions.
    Study Common Problems with Dutch

    Once you have a basic knowledge of Dutch you could start reading something simple, maybe Annie MG Schmidt's children's stories, like 'Jip and Janneke,' or 'Pluk van de Petteflet.' Some of her books are also available in audio versions.
    You can find Dutch books at www.abebooks.com or at Amazon.com special orders. The large Dutch online store www.bol.com also has secondhand out-of-print items. Another online Dutch bookstore: www.ako.nl
    Secondhand Dutch books (website in Dutch) www.boekwinkeltjes.nl

    When visiting Holland, do step into a bookstore; you could also look in at the 'HEMA' supermarket chain for their 'Jip and Janneke' series and other children's books and audiobooks (or order online)
    Also have some of the HEMA's famous rookworst click to hear 2 ('smoked sausage') when you're there.
    Unfortunately there's no 'Basic Dutch,' so you'll have to start with children's books.

    The children's Bibles 'Kijkbijbel' (graphics by Kees de Kort) or 'Bijbelse Verhalen voor Jonge Kinderen' (by D.A. Cramer-Schaap and Annemarie van Haeringen) might also be useful when you're familiar with Scripture. Dutch online Bibles: www.biblija.net - Dutch audio Bible: www.voorleesbijbel.nl

    When you can understand written Dutch but have difficulty with spoken Dutch, the pages where I read longer texts will again be useful study material: Listening Overview Page

    Review with the 1-Page Dutch Summary of the most important pronunciation, spelling and grammar Online Dutch newspapers, for instance: Het Algemeen Dagblad or De Telegraaf - start with articles about subjects that you're familiar with from other news sources.
    2bdutch.nl short Dutch videos with both Dutch and English (and other) subtitles

    If not now, when?
    Als je 't nu niet doet, wanneer dan wel? click to hear 2
    [If you don't do it now, when are you?]
    [a picture of me on a tandem bicycle, waiting under a sign  
    'No Tandem Parking']
    Don't wait! - (bicycling)

    Dutch Language Lessons
    - A Stricter Program -

    I hope to publish a new lesson every week month two months or so ...

    Each lesson starts with a Dutch text to listen to, then some grammar, usually some vocabulary, a short side subject like numbers or units of measure, and a little essay about Dutch or Holland.

    Lesson 1
    Listen to Dutch - Vowels (1) - Vocabulary - 'Holland' and 'Nederland'

    Lesson 2
    Listen to Dutch - Vowels (2) - Vocabulary (man, family) - Numbers 1-10 - 'Dutch'

    Lesson3
    Listen to Dutch - Spelling Short and Long Vowels - Vocabulary (Food, House) - Numbers 10-20 - Broadcasting in Holland

    Lesson 4
    Listen to The Dutch Anthem - 'Voiceless E' - The Article - Vocabulary (Clothing) - Numbers 20-100 (#1) - The Dutch Revolt
    - now start learning about twenty words a day from the Basic Dutch list

    Lesson 5
    Listen to a children's song - Colors - Adjectives - Numbers 20-100 (#2) - The Catholic Minority in Holland

    Lesson 6
    Numbers 100-9999 - Time, Days, Months - This and That - Cognates

    Lesson 7
    From A Famous Book - Personal Pronouns - To Be (Present Tense) - High and Low Numbers - Chatham

    Lesson 8
    The Finest Dutch Writing - To Have (Present Tense) - Consonants - Polders: The Reclaimed Land - Weather - Simple Arithmetic

    Lesson 9
    More of The Finest Dutch Writing - Verbs: The Simple Present - Useful Phrases - Ordinal Numbers - The Large Water Projects

    Lesson 10
    Hear More Multatuli - Exceptions and Irregularities in Dutch Spelling and Pronunciation - Street Words - Fractions - Inches and Centimeters

    Lesson 11
    'Render Unto Caesar' - The Past Tense of To Have and To Be - Adjectives and Adverbs (Word Order 1) - Walkabout: Living Room - Feet, Yards and Miles to Meters and Kilometers - The Education System in Holland

    Lesson 12
    Hear More Multatuli - Verbs: The Simple Past, The Perfect Present - The Most Common Verbs - Strong Verbs - Sitabout: Your Desk - Cups and Gallons to Liters - My Home Town

    Lesson 13
    Hear a Dutch Folktale - The Passive Voice - Simple Sentences, Simple Questions (Word Order 2) - Grams and Kilograms to Ounces and Pounds - Elections, Parties and Government in Holland

    Lesson 14
    Hear More Multatuli - The Future Tense - Word Order 3: Secondary Verbs, More Questions, Commands and Suggestions - Outdoors - The Neighborhood - The Metric System

    Lesson 15
    Hear More Nescio - The Dutch Continuous - Word Order 4 - Beauty and Cleanliness - Fahrenheit and Celsius - Thoughts on Things Dutch (Instead of A Blog)

    A few subjects are not dealt with in the lessons, for instance Plurals

    Hop on and let me be your guide to Dutch
    [a picture of an empty tandem bicycle, waiting  in the Dutch
    countryside]
    Fietspad click to hear ('Bike Path') - more bicycling words

    Read-Only

    If you're only interested in reading Dutch, or if you want to start Dutch with reading, you could begin with a text and look up each word in a dictionary - but a little preparation will save you time and make it easier and more enjoyable. Dictionaries may also not list all the various forms of words. I would recommend to read up on a few subjects, so you'll know where to find these words: Dutch words sometimes change spelling when an ending with E is added, like for instance the plural of vloot ('a fleet') is written vloten while the plural of vlot ('a raft,' think of: to float) is vlotten.
    vloot - plural: vloten
    vlot - plural: vlotten
    You can read about this beautiful Dutch dance of single and double vowels and consonants in lesson 3. It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with Dutch Plurals and Adjectives.

    The large entries for prepositions in dictionaries are in my own experience often not very useful. It may be helpful to you to study the basic, literal meaning of prepositions:

    Basic Dutch sentences have about the same word order as English, but more complicated lines are sometimes a little different from English: I may have a vocabulary page of the subject of your reading: Vocabulary Overview

    The 'disambiguation' pages, about common words with multiple meanings will also be very useful to readers.

    The 'Listening Overview' page links to many examples of Dutch texts with English translation.
    If you have time, you could start by reading the Dutch version of a book you're already familiar with. It is said that Schliemann of Troy taught himself foreign languages that way.

    Dutch Language Resource Pages:

    Site Map Pronunciation Words and Phrases Grammar Reading and Listening Hear Dutch Names

    Going to Pieces/Pulp A Short Story in Dutch with a Re-Write in English
    Read about Holland in my Christmas Stories

    Marco Schuffelen - email
    Copyright © Marco Schuffelen 2006-14. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed, or hotlinked to.
    Don't be a dief (thief) - dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2