Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Dutch (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Dutch gives you access to the world of over 23 million native speakers, mostly in the Netherlands, but the language is also spoken in Belgium and Suriname. Dutch is considered one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. It is arguably English’s closest cousin, although North Germanic languages like Norwegian and Danish make strong claims.
Because Dutch and English only split from common roots in the first century AD, the languages still have a lot in common. Dutch grammar follows rules that are halfway between English and German, but it shares thousands of cognates with English – words that sound the same and have the same meanings. Both languages have also adopted lots of vocabulary from the Romance languages.
Consider this sentence in Dutch: Wat is jouw naam? Add a letter here and subtract a letter there, and a completely recognizable English sentence emerges: What is your name? Not only is Dutch relatively easy to pick up, understand and start speaking, speaking it gives you a huge head-start to understanding the other Germanic languages and even offers insight into how English works.
With Babbel, you can learn Dutch without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
Having a little Dutch in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. The Netherlands has a prosperous economy that is largely centered around international trade. The Dutch tend to learn English and not the other way around. Because so few people speak Dutch, learning the language gives you a rare skill and can make you an in-demand specialist.
Traveling – Even though most people in the Netherlands speak English, they obviously don’t speak it to each other. When you can speak Dutch the country opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never even guess.
Living Abroad – When you speak Dutch well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand the idea of staying longer in the Netherlands becomes tempting. Cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam offer opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad, and professionals looking for good pay and a higher quality of life.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Dutch as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Dutch Culture, Unfiltered – The Dutch-speaking world is responsible for gorgeous (and delicious) art and culture. Whether you want to intimately study the work of Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, experience the dozens of different cultural festivals that span the spring and summer months, or tour the country sampling world-class cheese and beer, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. And if you are among the 5 million Americans with Dutch roots, learning the language will help you to illuminate your heritage.
Ways to Learn Dutch
Although Dutch is not widely-spoken as a second language, there are still many ways to study it:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already studied a language this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap and you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
Online Dutch Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that don’t require buying a new module.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there ways to learn Dutch for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Dutch for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Dutch and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in a Dutch-speaking country. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Dutch vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. The Netherlands offers another challenge to the immersion learner: most people will happily speak English to you. This might be convenient for the casual tourist, but could be a disaster to anyone thinking that they will pick up the language simply by being around Dutch people. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming Dutch radio and TV online, watching Dutch movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Dutch grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to get started with Dutch. Books could get you reading Dutch after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Dutch for free on the web. From Dutch grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Dutch online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Dutch with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad-free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Dutch, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Dutch program:
Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. Your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices – so you can learn anytime, anywhere.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Dutch with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager, where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try a free Dutch lesson with Babbel and see for yourself just how enjoyable learning can be.