How Long Does It Take To Learn Dutch?

How Long Does It Take To Learn Dutch?

The Dutch language is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname are using Dutch as their official language. More and more polyglots all around the world choose this language to study and build up their portfolio. If you’re visiting Dutch-speaking countries or are planning to live there in the future, there’s no valid excuse for you not to learn this superb language. 

Just like other languages, learning Dutch can take a lot of time. Perhaps, one of the most asked questions by beginners is, “How long does it take to learn Dutch?”  It depends on the learner’s effort, time, and acumen in language learning. Besides, depending on your native language, you might find learning the Russian language easier. It might take you a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years to be able to speak Dutch at a native speaker level. 

If you’re still up for it, you might find Dutch one of the easiest and fun languages to learn. Of course, difficulties and challenges will always be a part of language learning. (Dutch is known for its tongue twisters.) This article will learn more about Dutch and how long it takes to retain it for English and non-English speakers. 

Facts About The Dutch Language

Dutch is one of the Top 100 languages in the world. Numerous regions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas use it either as a native or secondary one. Here are some facts about the language and why it’s an interesting one to learn. 

Dutch Is A Part Of The West Germanic Language Family

All languages in the world belong to a language family. The Dutch language is listed as one of the West Germanic languages, along with English and German. Other languages included in this language family are Frisian, Afrikaans, and Yiddish. This means that if you know English or any of the West Germanic language languages, learning the other ones would be a lot easier. Hence, Dutch is quite an easy language to learn if you are a fluent English speaker. 

About 30 Million People Speak It

Almost 30 million people speak Dutch all around the world. There are three countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname) that use it as their official ones. There are 24 million Dutch native speakers in more than six countries as of the latest data available. Over 5 million Dutch speakers are second language learners. Not to mention all  Dutch speakers who learned the language natively but have migrated to other countries. 

Dutch Is The Easiest Language To Learn For English Speakers

The Dutch language is quite unusual because it sounds like English and German at the same time. Suppose you’re a foreign speaker; you might be mistaken Dutch for a heavily accented English.  One of the biggest reasons why Dutch is easy to learn for English speakers is because it belongs to the West Germanic language family. Both German and English are also members of this group.  

Dutch Borrows A Lot Of Words From Other Languages

At first hearing, there’s a chance that you’ll mistaken Dutch as heavily accented English. The reason for this is the heavy usage of loan words. Did you know that the loan words in Dutch amounts to 75% of their vocabulary? These borrowed words are often from other Germanic languages like German, and English. You can also find words from Romance languages like Spanish and French. 

Dutch VS Deutsch

The Dutch language is considered as the middle ground between English and German. Although it doesn’t use umlaut vowels, it is still notorious for compound words. Coincidently, Dutch is also often mistaken for the German word, “Deutsch,” which is used to describe the German language. Deutsch is what German speakers use to describe their language as a whole, and is separate from the Dutch language. Kinda similar to how you Japanese speakers call their language “Nihongo”. 

A language family plays a big role in how long a language can be learned by a learner. And this includes the Dutch language. You can learn more about the length of time to study Dutch below. 

How Long Should You Study Dutch Before Getting Proficient? 

As mentioned before, a language group is a collection of languages that are very similar to each other. The easiest languages to learn are those included in the same group as the learner’s mother tongue. Each learner has its individual pacing and learning style. However, language benchmarks can show the extent of time a learner will need to learn a foreign language based on their mother tongue.

For example, a person who knows Spanish should have an easier time studying other romance languages like Portuguese. 

The US Foreign Service Institute used “English” as the benchmark for their study of language difficulty. This 70-year study recorded the average time for English speakers needed to reach fluency in a foreign language. Based on this data, fluency in English can show how many weeks is typically needed to learn Dutch.

For English Speakers

English speakers will need at least 24 weeks or about 600 to 750 hours of official Dutch classes to acquire fluency in the language. It’s actually on the easy spectrum and is considered by a lot as the easiest language to learn if you know English. It ties up with other languages like Danish, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Swedish. 

The languages mentioned above are called the Category I languages based on FSI’s data. Coincidentally, these languages are either Scandinavian or Romance, which is very close to the West Germanic language family. 

Although German is a part of the West Germanic group of languages, it is categorized as a Category II, along with Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Malay, and Swahili. German speakers might still find the Dutch language easy to learn, but not to the degree to which native English speakers would. 

For Non-English Speakers

Non-English speakers picked up the shorter straw in this one. Natives of the Category IV languages (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) will have a harder time learning Dutch and all of its sister languages because it has the most different rules. 

Language categories used in this article are based on FSI’s study, which spans 70 years. The data shows the difficulty of learning a foreign language if you’re a native English speaker. Additionally, Category I languages (which includes Dutch) are those which are easily adapted by English speakers. Hence, the farther your language is from Category I, the harder it would be for you to learn Dutch. 

Take note that even the best English speakers in the world would also face some challenges while learning Dutch. Check out the most challenging parts of learning Dutch below. 

What Are The Most Challenging Parts Of Learning Dutch? 

1. Hard Pronunciation

Although Dutch has tons of loan words from other languages, the pronunciation can still be challenging. In fact, the variation of numerous loan words might’ve caused its notorious hard pronunciation. For example, if you want to describe someone as a “cutie,” you need to cough up the word “schatje.”  Take note that there are also masculine, feminine, and neuter words in Dutch. 

2. Specific Order Of Conjugated Verb

Like English, Dutch uses the same Subject-Verb-Object structure or the SVO pattern. Following the structure is the easiest part, using the right words and the conjugated verb is the hardest one. One of the main differences between Dutch and English is that Dutch uses the main conjugated verb in the second position. Here’s an example:

Standard English: I cannot find my pen because it is far too dark

Dutch (In English Translation): I can my pen not find because it far too dark is.

3. Notorious Compound Words

Just like its German cousin, Dutch is known for being notorious for using compound words without space or hyphen. This causes longer words that are harder to decipher for those who are just starting yet. One such example of this compound word usage is the “wapenstilstandsonderhandeling”, which means ceasefire negotiation.

4. Diminutives

Dutch people use a lot of diminutives in their daily conversations. Diminutives are words that have modified roots to emphasize the smallness of an object. In English, it’s similar to the addition of -ling at the end of the word to specify the subject’s smallness or age (e.g. duckling). Dutch has tons of diminutive words, and these more specific and used more often than their English counterparts. Some of the essential diminutives that you must know are -je, -pje, kje, tje, ‘tje, and -etje.

5. Soft And Hard “G”

The Dutch “G” sound has two variations: soft (zachte) and hard (harde). Each G is used in different parts of the Dutch-speaking population. For example, speakers from the northern area of Europe will likely use the hard G based on their dialects. Meanwhile, the soft G is used by speakers dwelling in the southern part of Europe. 

Hard G is known as the “guttural G” because it is often produced by the sound coming from the throat. This sound is produced by imitating the sound you make when you gurgle with water. On the other hand, soft G is similar to the soft “ch” and is overall an easier sound to learn for foreign learners. 

6. Numerous Dialects

There are more than ten dialects used by Dutch-speaking countries. However, there are five main dialectal groups:

  • Brabantian (North Brabant, Antwerp, Flemish Brabant, and Brussels-Capital)
  • Dutch Low Saxon (northeastern Netherlands)
  • Hollandic (most widely used Dutch dialect)
  • Zeelandic (southwestern parts of Netherlands)
  • Limburgish (used by Belgian and Dutch provinces called Limburg). 

7. Most Dutch People Would Rather Study English With You

And last but not least, most Dutch speakers are also English learners. In reality, most of these learners would rather master their English studies. Hence, it’s more likely that they will learn more English from you than you learning Dutch from them. 

Final Thoughts

 

To summarize, speakers of English and similar languages have a better chance of mastering Dutch in a shorter amount of time. FSI reported that the time it can take to master Dutch is 24 weeks or five months for English natives. Unfortunately, non-English speakers and learners with a Category IV mother tongue will take longer Dutch sessions to master it at a professional level. Language learning, in general, is easier if you have a tutor or study mate. You can check out JustLearn’s verified tutors and language speakers to speed up your Dutch study.

Is Dutch a Germanic language?

All languages in the world belong to a language family. The Dutch language is listed as one of the West Germanic languages, along with English and German. Other languages included in this language family are Frisian, Afrikaans, and Yiddish. This means that if you know English or any of the West Germanic language languages, learning the other ones would be a lot easier. Hence, Dutch is quite an easy language to learn if you are a fluent English speaker.

How many people speak Dutch?

Almost 30 million people speak Dutch all around the world. There are three countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname) that use it as their official ones. There are 24 million Dutch native speakers in more than six countries as of the latest data available. Over 5 million Dutch speakers are second language learners. Not to mention all Dutch speakers who learned the language natively but have migrated to other countries.

Is Dutch easy to learn for English speakers?

The Dutch language is quite unusual because it sounds like English and German at the same time. Suppose you’re a foreign speaker; you might be mistaken Dutch for a heavily accented English. One of the biggest reasons why Dutch is easy to learn for English speakers is because it belongs to the West Germanic language family. Both German and English are also members of this group.

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