must learn Dutch: resources

I wanted to go into more detail about my attempts to learn Dutch.

dutch books

Duolingo. I’ve been using DuoLingo for French… because I love wasting time? I don’t know, I really do enjoy the format. Plus, I studied French in middle school, high school and university, so it’s been nice for my ego to blaze through some of the easy levels and refresh those SEVEN years of study. The DuoLingo Incubator estimates that their Dutch course should be ready by next January (grrr, it was September when I checked a few days ago!), but if you’re a bilingual Dutch-English speaker, you could contribute and make it go a lot faster! (And have my eternal gratitude!)

Memrise. I like the format and I like that it quizzes me on new words in different ways. Not only do I have to choose the right Dutch word when I’m given the English translation (and vice versa), but sometimes it makes me type out the Dutch word when it gives the English translation. That’s usually where I mess up, so it helps to reinforce the vocabulary. There’s also a free Android app that I’ve enjoyed using over the past week. My biggest issue with Memrise is that it is just straightforward words on flashcards. I’m currently going through a course on the 1001 most common Dutch words, and I’ve learned several words for “you” (u, jij, je, jouw, jullie) but I’m not 100% clear on the differences between them. I’ve learned that “to go” is “gaat” and “(I) go” is “ga”, but I don’t know how to conjugate for other pronouns (I don’t even know all of the pronouns yet). I know “Ik ben” is “I am” and “je bent” is “you are”, but “zijn” is “to be”, which loses me completely. I do like the feature that reminds me to “water” old words that I’ve previously “planted”; it’s a great way to refresh my memory on words I might not have seen for a day or so. I just wish there were more sentences, phrases, and examples that show how to correctly use the vocabulary I’m learning.

LingQ. I had heard good things about their reading feature, and after five minutes of using this site, I was happy with the layout. There’s a short passage, with a recording, and I’d click on the words to get the definition, marking it as either a word I’d need to remember and study later, or a word I already know that doesn’t need to be studied later. I thought it was great to see words that I studied on Memrise used properly in context. So for five minutes, I was happy. Then I apparently learned too much for free, ran out of my 20 “LingQs” limit (I tried deleting them and it didn’t work), and I couldn’t even see the translations for new words anymore. Since the upgrade starts at $10/month, I’m writing off LingQ.

Lang-8. I don’t think I’ll get much use out of this site for now, since I’m mostly just absorbing random vocabulary from Memrise. From what I can tell, you can post a few sentences in the language you’re attempting to learn, and someone who speaks that language can correct it for you. You can also correct other people’s entries in your native language and earn points (because all of these programs have a point system. Maybe I’m a bit overloaded right now, but it seems meaningless to have A TRILLION-BAJILLION points on any one of these sites).

Busuu. I’ve heard good things, but they don’t have Dutch. Sad face.

Phrasebook and children’s books. I bought the Dutch phrasebook from Lonely Planets after reading Benny’s post on how phrasebooks are an excellent way to start learning a language fast. After going through Memrise and feeling unsatisfied with the amount of usable vocabulary I had after spending so much time with it, a phrasebook seems like the perfect way to get a teeny-tiny base of practical Dutch knowledge. I also bought a Dutch verb dictionary that has 201 verbs fully conjugated, which I feel will be useful when(/er, maybe if) I type out journal entries on Lang-8, and because the lack of verb conjugation on Memrise is another thing I find frustrating about it.

Huis van de Nederlands. I visit it a few days ago, spoke with a man about language courses, and I figured out that I could maybe start an intensive course at the University of Ghent in late May. Then a few days later I received a job offer, so I think classes are a no-go for me at the moment.


Reading Dutch things. I follow a few Dutch-language Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. For now, thanks mostly to Memrise, I know a lot of prepositions, pronouns and articles, so when I look at sentences, I can recognize 90% of the words (or 100% of the words, in the case of this sign I saw on the bus), but my understanding is something like, “Take at home on also even you not at home are.” So, umm, I sort of get it. But not exactly.

Podcasts. So far, I’ve subscribed to several Dutch-language podcasts; One Minute Dutch and One Minute Flemish, Laura Speaks Dutch and a short, Dutch-language news podcast. I’ve already listened to the entire One Minute Flemish series, and it was good to hear the pronunciation. I’m curious how it differs from the One Minute Dutch series, and a little annoyed that some of the phrases are slightly different than those in the Flemish for Dummies videos. Come on, Flemings, cut it out with the new dialects every five kilometers.

I feel like I have to mention Memrise again, because it’s the resource I’m using the most now. If I’m on the tram, waiting in a bank lobby, relaxing at a cafe, or feeding Darwin, I’m most likely on my Memrise app repeating new vocabulary under my breath or silently congratulating myself on remembering a word I had previously learned. It’s not perfect, so I found other resources to (hopefully) supplement, but otherwise I think it’s the clear winner for me now.

We’ll see how the combination of all of this nonsense works out in the end!

P.S. – So far “giechel” (giggle) is the most difficult word I’ve tried to pronounce. Those Dutch G’s are killer.

10 replies on “must learn Dutch: resources”

  1. Oh goodness, I’m feeling very sorry for you. Dutch is so difficult even native speakers like me still make mistakes. Learning it online isn’t going to be easy. I’ll look into Memrise when I get home! ๐Ÿ™‚
    The sign on the bus is something you couldn’t possibly understand right now. It basically says you can now record (opnemen) shows on your tv while you’re not at home
    It’s a bit of a pun, home = thuis but Thuis is also a popular Dutch show on tv! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. ahh! a friend was just telling me about Thuis last night! totally makes sense now ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You think that you can get away with simply mentioning in passing that you got a job offer? Details, please!

  4. Hi Kristin!! Clicked over from Unlocking Kiki when you mentioned PLL. I feel for you about the Flemish – I have a Flemish friend and I can’t understand half of what she says even though I understand Dutch quite well! The u, the gij … huh??
    I live in NL and am also working on my Dutch and totally recommend (Dutch link: – it looks like they were bought by Rosetta Stone but I think the program is the same as it was when I did it. You can do a seven-day free trial (and then sign up again and again for more trials with different emails, not that I did that – cough cough) and it honestly helped a LOT. There are tons of exercises to choose from as well as lessons and vocabulary – everything.
    Anyway, good luck/succes with this crazy language!!

    1. Hi Sophie! Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check that out, good thing I have so many random email addresses that I can use for trials mwahaha ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Also, I just watched episode 1 of season 4 last night, already hooked even though it’s sooooo bad. my husband kept trying to talk to me while it was on and I was like “uh huh, yeah, okay, whatever, SHUT UP THEY’RE QUESTIONING MONA ABOUT RED COAT!”

  5. I’ve just stumbled on your website, and as a native speaker who also happens to be a bit of a language addict, I can’t resist to comment on this post.

    a) “Iโ€™ve learned several words for โ€œyouโ€ (u, jij, je, jouw, jullie) but Iโ€™m not 100% clear on the differences between them.”

    Let’s start with the easiest one: ‘jouw’ doesn’t mean ‘you’, but ‘your’: ‘jouw boek’ = ‘your book’.
    Basically, the difference between ‘jij’ and ‘je’ is on the emphasis you put on the ‘you’. E.g.:
    – “Heb je dat gedaan?” = Did you do that? = Have you done the job you were asked to do?
    – “Heb jij dat gedaan?” = Did YOU do that? = Was it you who did that?
    It’s often quite a subtle difference; it’s not a big deal if you mix them up.
    (In large parts of Flanders and the South of the Netherlands, you’ll notice that many people use ‘gij’ and ‘ge’ instead.)

    Then, there is ‘jou’, which is to ‘jij’ what ‘him’ is to ‘he’. The object form of ‘je’ is just ‘je’.

    ‘Jij’ and ‘je’ are used when referring to one person, ‘jullie’ when referring to several persons.

    As to ‘u’: Dutch, as most European languages with the notable exception of modern English, has what is called a T/V distiction. As you seem to be acquainted with French and Russian, it shouldn’t be a problem to grasp the difference. ‘Jij/je’ is like ‘tu’ in French or ‘ty’ in Russian: we use it when interacting with close friends or with children. ‘U’, like ‘vous’ and ‘vy’, is often called the ‘politeness form’, but I’d rather say social distance is the crucial factor: it’s used when talking to people of a different, especially higher, social position (for example your boss at work, or to elderly people) as well as to people with whom we are not (well) acquainted (e.g. when asking strangers for directions). The possessive form of ‘u’ is ‘uw’.

    b) โ€œIโ€™ve learned that โ€œto goโ€ is โ€œgaatโ€ โ€œ

    Actually, ‘to go’ is ‘gaan’. ‘Gaat’ goes with ‘jij/je/u’ or ‘hij/zij/het’ (he/she/it).

    c) โ€œmy understanding is something like, โ€œTake at home on also even you not at home are.โ€ โ€œ

    It probably helps to know that ‘thuis’ isn’t just the word for ‘at home’, but is also the name of the country’s most popular soap opera (hence the capital T) ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. So now I know where I can go to find out your inner dialogue (“…whatever, SHUT UP”).

    I still think my ramblings were probably more compelling than anything coming from the girl in shiny red pants, or the one dating the guy who looks like he just badly lost a boxing match, or the one who may or may not be sleeping with her teacher…point is, I’m totally not watching and I have really interesting stuff to say.

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