Why learn Dutch?
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 vacation in the Netherlands, but if you make the effort to learn Dutch you will be able to access the real Netherlands in a way that most tourists can't.
Dutch for work and pleasure
The Netherlands may not be as popular a travel destination as Hawaii or Cancun, but it's cultural offerings far exceed those more popular tourist hotspots. From museums and art galleries to canal cruises and festivals, there's plenty to see and do. Excellent roads and public transportation, along with a comprehensive network of safe cycle routes, make it easy to get around.
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 in 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 also 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. Being able to speak Dutch will give you a huge advantage in the job market as well as a way into the local community.
Train your brain
It's been proven by numerous studies that speaking a second language improves memory, multi-tasking skills and decision making. It's also been shown to keep your brain more resilient in old age. Understanding more languages means having more connections in your brain; more connections mean a faster, stronger, better brain. Even if you never visit the Netherlands or Belgium, learning the language can bolster your mind's overall performance.
About the language
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 start to listen and tune in to its bouncy rhythm you will be surprised how many words you can recognize 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.
Learning to speak Dutch
The traditional options for learning a new language are to take lessons, either as part of a class or one-on-one, or to learn by yourself using books or tapes, but in the modern world it can be hard to find time to study. But Babbel's interactive courses are available online or on your tablet or smartphone so you can always easily fit in ten minutes of learning, no matter where you are.