7 Tips On How To Learn Fluent Dutch For Free In 3 Months

Those who read my blog on a regular basis know that I love learning foreign languages. In fact, I pick up new words and sentences quite easily and I have a good memory when it comes to memorizing words in different languages. I’m passionate about new sounds, grammar and writing. As a native speaker of Polish, I can also speak English, Spanish, basic Chinese and I understand a lot of German. Last September, when I was back in China from Europe, I decided to start learning Dutch. Why Dutch? As you may already know, I’ve moved to Amsterdam for 10 months to start my Master’s Degree in New Media and Digital Culture at UvA.

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Making notes on the bus to Hong Kong

 

Although everyone speaks English in Holland, I still wanted to be able to communicate with locals in their native language – Dutch. One of my goals right after I came back to China in September 2013 was to study Dutch daily – 30 minutes a day, no excuses, no matter what. Guess what… I made it. I studied Dutch every single day for nearly 11 months even when I was travelling across the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and more. I studied when I was on the bus, on the plane, at the airport, back in my apartment or out and about. In today’s post, I would like to share with you some of my useful tips on how to comprehend Dutch in 3 months. Although I studied it much longer than 90 days, I’m sure you could understand a lot of Dutch and be able to speak it quite fluently after just 3 months without spending a cent! 

Here is how and you can use these tips when learning any foreign language:

1. Deciding what your main purpose of studying Dutch is. 

Before you start learning Dutch (or any other language),you should ask yourself a simple question: why do I want to learn the language? You might want to learn a new language for pleasure, academic and travel purposes, work, communication, culture, religion, food, etc. Once you know that, you can decide on which language ability you must focus on – speaking, writing, listening or maybe grammar.

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My Dutch notes

 

As for me, I wanted to learn Dutch for my studies and travels. I decided to focus on developing my listening and speaking abilities to be able to understand people and have a simple conversation with them.

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Practicing time expressions in Dutch

 

2. Find free learning sources.

There are plenty of free websites you can use to learn Dutch. My favourite one was Taalthuis. It contains all the basic grammar, vocabulary and even pronunciation rules you need and a lot of online tests and tasks.  I used it every two or three days and it turned out to be one of the best sources for me to comprehend Dutch quickly and effectively.

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Learning Dutch with Rosetta Stone

 

I would also recommend Rosetta Stone to everyone who starts learning any foreign language. It’s a language learning software available in 24 languages from the most commonly spoken (such as English, Spanish and Mandarin) to the less prominent (including Irish, Swedish and Tagalog). The Dutch one was divided into 3 levels and it took me about 3 months to complete each of them.

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Writing down key words when studying Dutch

 

With Rosetta Stone, I was able to learn Dutch in real-life scenarios  without translation or memorisation.  I was able to speak, record and listen to my first words and phrases in Dutch and get immediate feedback. I easily installed it on my laptop and I could use it anywhere without having an access to the Internet.  The programme also allowed me to monitor my progress from the day 1 and I could always get back to previous lessons for review. If you studied with Rosetta Stone approximately 2 hours a day, you would be able to speak basic Dutch in less than 3 months, that’s for sure!

3. Look for a language exchange partner. 

That’s the best idea for a quick language learning. I used MyLanguageExchange website to find my language exchange partner. I  paid $5 for a premium account (you can get a basic one for free) and it took me about 2 weeks to finally find someone who wanted to teach me Dutch in exchange of my Polish. Me and my language partner named Yvo from Belgium quickly became friends and we messaged each other weekly or sometimes daily when having some problems with grammar or speaking. 

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More Dutch notes

 

Me and Yvo spoke a lot on Whatsapp and Facebook. Whether I was travelling or not, I sent him some grammar tasks to review, recorded myself  and asked for some feedback, etc. He was super patient with me and so accurate when it came to checking homework or speaking activities. We are planning on meeting each other this summer and travelling through some towns and cities in Belgium!

4. Create a language learning environment.

After a few days of studying Dutch, all walls of my flat were covered with colorful paper notes with different phrases and words in Dutch I could not memorize easily – Past tense forms, de and het articles, famous quotations, etc.

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Language learning battlefield

 

It’s a great way to learn a new language in a quick amount of time for those who are visual like me. I placed different words all over my flat so everything I looked at my bed I saw a note in Dutch saying “het bed”.

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Dutch notes on my wall

 

I also downloaded a free book with all Dutch grammar essentials written in Polish language. I used it a lot when writing a short passages about my hobbies, lifestyle, food, travels, etc.

5. Practice every day, for 90 days.

Consistency is the key to language learning. It’s more efficient to study a new language for 15-30 minutes every day for a year than learning 2-3 hours a day for a week and then stop and come back and stop again. Try to study regularly and you will see first results after a week.

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Using Google translate when translating a story in Dutch written by Yvo for me

 

6. Monitor your progress.

Test yourself weekly to see how it goes. I did a review every week or two with Rosetta Stone so I knew exactly what I had to improve when it come to studying Dutch. I had my good weeks where I completed a lesson with 100% and I had bad days…

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Reviewing lesson 3 with Rosetta Stone

 

when my results were below %100.

You should definitely take some tests online to see whether you are going in a right direction or not. Maybe your grammar is excellent, but you need to work on  your speaking – that’s something you can find out when testing yourself on a regular basis.

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Unit 3 completed successfully

 

7. Enjoy it and never give up!

The longer you study, the better results you can see so the last thing you can do is to give up. There is  always a way to improve your speaking, writing or grammar by studying more often or longer. Ask for help, try to find your way to enjoy your study and keep practicing! This feeling when you understand someone speaks the language you have been studying for weeks is priceless!

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My Dutch notebook

Have you ever learned a foreign language? If so, what language was it and how hard was it to learn in less than 3 months?

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58 Comments

  • It must be at least a little easier to learn a language when you’re living in the environment the locals speak, right? You get to practice everyday right outside your door!

  • Excellent language learning philosophy. I agree, it takes consistency, and of course motivation is so key. I’m currently trying to learn some Arabic. When I have little interactions it motivates me to keep learning more. It really enhances the experience in the land (I’m currently in Oman teaching English). Many people want to practice their English but I still get so much respect for just making a small effort. Fun stuff!

  • Agness, that is awesome! I think it’s difficult for most people to study a language consistently for 11 months, and you managed to do it while traveling.

    By the way, your language “battlefield” is awesome. When I was studying Spanish I put up cards alllll over the house with the words in my second language. Later I started a poster with my roommate with new words or phrases that we heard and wanted to learn. It really did help! Good luck keeping up your studies with Master’s coursework!!

  • Great post, and great tips! I’m going to bookmark it and use once I get back from Finland to also learn Dutch (I plan on living there for a month or so from the end of March 2015)! I hope I have a starting grace, as I’ve already got a Dutch friend & can understand when she speaks Dutch & often comment on her Dutch facebook status’ in English :) so maybe (fingers crossed) it won’t be too difficult to learn (I hope)!

  • Oh agness, this is the motivation I’ve needed to get my butt back in gear to learn more Chinese. I’ve been a total lazy pants about it lately but I can do 30min a day.

  • Gefeliciteerd! Oh my, your language battle operations center looks serious. A great resource that I’ve used myself is DuoLingo.com: the Dutch version is in Beta now. I used Duolingo to learn Spanish while in Latin America, and now I’m using it to brush up my French just for fun.

  • Hi Agness

    How strange, I nearly signed up to the same course as you. I decided to go for Msc Media management in my home country. But I must say you do work hard, always doing something new.

    I have just came back from a Yoga detox retreat in Alicante where the weather was lovely. I am now in the UK and it is winter with rain. YOU have inspired me…

  • Wow Agness, I love that language battlefield! But honestly, learning any new language in three months seems quite ambitious, at least to me. I was never a good learner of vocabulary, until I actually visited a country and needed to say something, then it worked surprisingly quickly… :) I actually always wanted to learn Dutch as well since it seemed very similar to German, but then I never found a good reason to do it. Not only does every Dutch person speak English, but also perfect German… :)

  • These are some really great tips, Agness, especially getting a language partner. I don’t know why more people don’t do this – I have students of EFL who complain they can’t practice with native speakers, but they have constant internet access and they don’t think of doing this! Also, your room full of post-it notes looks pretty scary (so many bright colours!) but if it works for you, that’s great!

  • Hi Agnes,
    Our Polish flatmate used same strategy. She labeled all house with Portuguese words. After a few months she learnt Portuguese!
    My big problem is the consistency. I tryed to learn Italian back in August but lost focus :(

  • Love this post, Agness. You’re inspiring me to get my act together. I recently invested in Rosetta Stone to learn Brazilian Portuguese and I’ve only completed one lesson. I think your tip about studying each day – even if only for 15-30 minutes – is a great one. I also need to find a partner to practice with – I’m going to use italki.com. You’ve inspired me to get back on track starting tonight!

  • Fantastic tips! You are certainly dedicated. I think you have two things in your favour. You really want to learn and you love the process. Without these, I think it’s very hard to learn just about anything new! I especially agree with your point about having a purpose and then using that as your starting point. I have told students to start learning a language using topics they already love and know to get the ball rolling, especially if they are learning a language because they have to, as opposed to wanting to. E.g. read fishing magazines if that’s your passion! Ultimately, it’s always hard work and I think that’s what often trips learners. Have a great day! :)

  • Awesome Agness! Congratulations on being so focussed. You’re really an inspiration. I actually started to learn Indonesian last year. The problem is my only reason has been that I wanted to learn an Asian language and Indonesian should be the easiest one. So I had no real goal by when I should be able to speak it. But nonetheless I loved to learn it, it was something different after learning French, Italian and Spanish which are all quite similar. But then with the preparation of my long-term travel, I learned less and less and stopped at some point unfortunately. Yesterday was the first day I opened my Indonesian App again and now with your motivation, I hope to keep going ;)

    • I’m so happy you started Indonesian again. I bet it must be a tough language, but you can do it. Stay focused!!

  • I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who loves Post-It notes. What a fantastic endeavor and a bit ironic as I just ordered some books and help guides to try and see if I can refresh my German (from high school) over the next several months. We’ll see how it goes. Good post, Agness and tell Cez I said hello as well :)

  • Wow! This is so great and so well thought out! I have no excuse to not doing my Rosetta Stone and this is a kick in the butt to get back to it! You are seriously inspirational. Not just about the traveling, thought that is awesome too. But about deciding on something and sticking to it!

    I’m so glad we get and can’t wait to meet up again! Happy Wednesday!!

    • It was lovely to see you and meet you and I can’t wait for our next chat!! :) Start learning Dutch with Rosetta Stone and you’ll quickly comprehend the language!!

  • Agness, you really amaze me! I wish I had your discipline and focus. I’m lucky if I can get myself to study Latvian once a week! Clearly, I’m not spending my time as usefully as I could be. Thanks for the tips!

  • Fantastic article, thank you! I’m currently in Brazil, and have been learning Portuguese… It’s going quite well at the moment but I’m worried I might lose it a bit once I move to Australia in a few months. Definitely going to follow some of these tips :)

  • Repetition and consistency is really the key to learning new things. I love how colorful your notes are, very persuading and interesting to read on. It really takes a lot of effort when you want to achieve a goal. Great job, very inspiring! :)

  • Agness, you are amazing. I love the photos of your walls, tis a piece of artwork really. :) Thanks for the inspiration, I have on my list to learn Spanish or Italian, will get cracking on it now. You’ve inspired me. When I was in school 15 years ago I studied French & Japanese, I only picked up a very limited amount of both languages, but did find my memory was good at retaining the information and can recall to this day.

  • I lived in Thailand for 2.5 years and went to Thai class twice a week – it was SOOOOO HARD….. I could speak it a bit in the end, but to write it – NO WAY – NOT A CHANCE – I can still write my name though and say a couple of sentences here and there, but if you don’t get the chance to practice and speak a language everyday, you loose it pretty fast….

  • This is so encouraging! I learnt English by moving to the UK years ago and by going to a local college, I took an English course for foreigners which was free at that time and it worked well and pretty fast too. For me being in the country I want to learn the language is essential, I tried to learn Spanish by using duolingo, the online free course, but it didn’t really work out mainly because I haven’t been consistent with it and didn’t get much chance to practice. I must try again because I’d love to learn more languages. Thanks for the tips :)

  • Well done, Agness! Before our hitchhiking trip across Asia we have to brush up our Russian and learn some Chinese, so will definitely try Rosetta Stone. Thanks for this suggestion! Do you know any other free and useful resources for learning Mandarin? Thanks!

  • Thank you for the recommendations Agness! I’ve just completed my first lesson with Taalthuis and I really like how it is set up. I don’t suppose you can recommend a good online dictionary for Dutch as well? Thank you and I hope you are enjoying your first few months in Amsterdam!

  • I would love to learn Spanish. I only speak english and have never learnt a second language. Spanish has always interested me! I was wondering if you know of any websites or apps that would help me learn?

    Thank you Monique xx

  • Wow what an incredible effort! 3 months is a REALLY quick turn around. We learned Spanish while on the road, but it’s still not fluent. We really need to keep at it, but now we’re back in Australia it’s hard to keep it going. Thanks for the heads up on MyLanguageExchange, I’m gonna check it out now. Gelukkig reizen!

  • This is awesome! I love the notes on your wall :P I’m trying to learn Finnish but I find it hard to stay motivated and study consistently. I like to use memrise.com to learn the vocabulary. Thanks for the tips you’ve inspired me to keep on trying :)

  • Thanks for the tips! I also wanted to share something I use Michel Thomas audio classes wherever I go, is really easy and helpful, specially in moments you can’t read or write (I use it in the traffic). :)

  • Hey :)
    I just recently stumbled upon your blog and have gone through a lot of it now. This was mainly because I was wondering how long it would take me to learn Dutch as I am going to the Netherlands to study in TU Delft next year and being Irish/Norwegian, I don’t speak a word of the language. So, when I saw your page on learning Dutch in three months (the exact amount of time I have) I must admit that it got me very excited. Could let me know more about how you managed to learn it so fast? Furthermore, how could do you think I could make my Dutch by the end of 3 months?

    Regards,

    Xavier

  • Hi,
    Great Post. I have 6 months time to learn Dutch before I move there. I have started working on Dutch but I am not regular (typically i spend 4-5 days in a week but not all 7 days). And I do not have set way of learning, I browse through some websites, whatever I like it I start it from there. There is no set structure. Do you think that this will impact my learning curve?

  • Nice article and great tips! I’ve been a teacher of Dutch as a foreign language for 20 years and reading your article, I recognize that you have the main qualities that are required to master a new language: dedication and perseverance. To often I hear ‘I am not talented for languages’, ‘Learning Dutch is difficult’, ‘I don’t have time for Dutch lessons’ etc. If you really set your mind to it, you will learn Dutch quickly. I meet people who come over for one or two weeks of full time training and the progress of some of them is amazing, while others struggle for years and make hardly any headway, despite the efforts that I and my collaborators put into it. As they say: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!”

  • Great tips.
    I’m definitely gonna have to try them out.
    I wanted to learn Dutch after the 1st time I went to Belgium and Netherlands.
    When I came back to the States I tried finding classes for it, but was unlucky.
    So I ended up taking German classes instead. I did 2 Semesters.
    By learning some basic German I was able to pick up a couple of words and phrases in Dutch because they’re both Germanic languages.
    I can’t have conversations in either language but I can read certain words and phrases in both now.

  • I am French but spent the past nearly thirty years in the USA (12 years there, on and off, up to 2008) an the rest in the UK now.  I am married to a great English woman and we have two British Daughters.  I speak français, American, English, Español de América Latina ( Mexico/Costa Rica) and now am seriously going to start learning Dutch!  Ik spreek (nog) niet zo goed Nederlands…Why Dutch?  Easy, for those following fascinating things:  Dutch history of the 1300-1800’s, Dutch paintings, Dutch flowers and even Dutch ceramics!!!!!!!

    English is all right but not enough.  Like some other lingua franca from French to Spanish, Chinese to Hindi , Arabic etc…it is all right to open some doors but the lingo of a country itself which does not speak those, will open FAR more cultural, commercial and exchanges doors. 
    For what you do…Duizendmaal dank

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