One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit the Netherlands is that almost everyone, from schoolchildren upwards, speaks excellent English. You will also find signs and menus in both Dutch and English. So why bother learning the language?
It might not be necessary to speak Dutch in order to communicate with Dutch people, or to enjoy a holiday in the Netherlands. But if you make the effort, native speakers will really appreciate it and will be even more welcoming towards you.
Many British families visit the Netherlands for holidays. Excellent roads and public transport, along with a comprehensive network of safe cycle routes, make it easy to get around, and there’s plenty to see and do, from museums and art galleries to canal cruises and activity parks.
Your cultural experience will be much richer if you can read the newspapers and magazines, understand what’s being said on TV, and visit the cinema. The comic books for which Belgium and the Netherlands are famous will pack more punch when you read the original text rather than a translation.
As well as the Netherlands, Dutch is spoken in the Flemish part of nearby Belgium, giving you a passport to this country too. Knowledge of the language helps you appreciate the differences between the two cultures.
With a stable economy and low unemployment rate, the Netherlands is a good place to work, whether it’s in one of the big cities, like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, or somewhere smaller. Clean, safe towns, a strong sense of community and an environmentally friendly ethos mean this is also a great place to live and raise a family. If you already speak Dutch, you will have a huge advantage in the job market, as well as an entry to the local community.
Dutch is closely related to both English and German. When you first look at the written language, you may find the spelling difficult to understand, but once you tune in to it you will be surprised how many words you can recognise or guess.
Just as in English, there are regional variations and accents. Hollandish is spoken in the western region of Holland, Zeelandish in Zeeland, Limburgish in Limburg and the Rhineland. The most widely spoken dialect, and the one closest to the national standard, is Hollandish.
Hollandish is also sometimes used in reference to the form of the language spoken in Holland, as opposed to the Flemish variety used in Belgium.
The traditional options for learning a new language are to take lessons, either as part of a class or one to one, or to learn by yourself using books or tapes, but in the modern world it can be hard to make time for study. Advances in computing and internet technology mean that new options are available, with multimedia courses like Babbel available online or like an app for download on your tablet or mobile phone.