Tips on how to learn a new language


Start learning Dutch today!

Are you planning on staying in the Netherlands? For a few months or even several years? Are you already practicing your Dutch? Are you still struggling? Language learning can be challenging. With practice and dedication, you can overcome difficulties and improve your skills.

I’ve been living in the Netherlands for 23 years. My mother tongues are Armenian and Russian, and English was a third language. Learning Dutch was not an easy task. The Netherlands seemed strange to me with their unfamiliar culture, customs and mentality.

I do not have a “talenknobbel” (look this up in a dictionary) as the Dutch would say. However, I was convinced that I must learn the language of the country I choose to live in.

Learning Dutch can be an exciting and fun journey! Here are my tips to help you get started and that are applicable to learning any foreign language.

  1. Start with the Basics. Begin by learning the Dutch alphabet, common greetings and essential phrases.
  2. Take a Course. Consider enrolling in a Dutch language course. ALTEN provides lessons as a solid foundation for your grammar, talking and writing skills. Of course, you will learn how to read and pronounce Dutch. There might be a waiting list for the course but in the meantime…….
  3. Get a job. My first job was behind an assembly line at Acer factory which I got via an employment agency. I was just in the Netherlands for one month at that time. Connect with native Dutch-speakers at your work or other learners for conversation practice. Go for a walk together, get a drink to experience the language first-hand.
  4. Talk to children. If you don’t dare to talk Dutch or feel embarrassed doing it, start communicating with children. Maybe you have friends or acquaintances with kids. Try to mimic them to improve your pronunciation and intonation. They would probably correct you many times and explain things again and again. Their “lessons” will make them feel older and wiser and may result in a special connection between you.
  5. Read in Dutch. Start with children’s books (you can even read them together). Start with simple ones-with one or two words in them. Nijntje is a good book to start with. Read a book with stories of “Jip en Janneke”. It is fun and easy for beginners. There is a Dutch expression “in Jip-en-Janneketaal” which means “explained in a simple language”. This is just a beginning! Move on to the next “level” books. For me that was a column bundles of Yvonne Kroonenberg. Easy reading, funny columns in an accessible language. Move on gradually to news articles, blogs or simple novels.
  6. Watch Dutch Media. Start watching children’s programs and cartoons. “Fabeltjeskrant” is a good one to start with. Tune into Dutch TV shows, movies, which you already know with Dutch subtitles; You Tube channels to improve your listening skills and get used to the rhythm of the language. Just check if it is still fun for you and in sync with your level of Dutch at that moment.
  7. Immerse Yourself. As you are mastering your reading and communication skills, ask people around you to speak Dutch to you. This may force you to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with your knowledge. Speaking with native Dutch speakers in different situations is one of the most effective ways to improve your language skills.
  8. Keep a Vocabulary Journal. Maintain a journal to jot down new words and phrases you come across. Review and revise them regularly. Try to use new learned words in different circumstances. It may result in funny situations and a good laugh. It may feel as a set back in your learning but remember that learning a new language takes time, so don’t get discouraged. Celebrate your progress along the way.

There are numerous apps (Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise), sites and video courses helping you in your journey. Listen to podcasts and e-books, play games.

Stay motivated and enjoy the process of discovering a new language and culture.

Just take action. Start today!