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What Language Do They Speak in Amsterdam?

by Rafal Sulowski

So you are planning your visit to Amsterdam, or you have to move here because of your job. Now you wonder what language do they speak in Amsterdam? What’s impressive everyone can speak English in The Netherlands. Doesn’t matter the age, gender or nationality. You can communicate with anyone and most of the people know English very well. But let’s get straight to the point.

Photo by misign || Pixabay

What Language Do They Speak in Amsterdam? The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch and the people of Amsterdam speak Dutch. You can communicate easily with anyone in English. There is also a large English speaking expat community.

In this article, I will elaborate on the topic of language in the capital of the Netherlands. It is very interesting because there are almost 180 different nationalities, so you can imagine that it is the real tower of Babel. But don’t worry you can communicate with anyone in English or in Dutch. I will also write a little bit about the Dutch Language. I live in the Netherlands for 6 years and I want to share my experience on learning Dutch.

How hard is it to learn Dutch?

When they ask me if Dutch is easy or difficult to learn? I say, Yes. It depends what is your mother tongue and what languages you already know.

Dutch is pretty easy to learn for native English speakers. It’s also easy for Dutch people to learn English with a perfect accent. In fact, if you are an English speaker you should know that you can even adopt the Dutch accent of a first-language speaker. Of course, it takes a lot of hard work. I am not saying you are going to speak fluent Dutch in a month but it won’t be that hard.

You need more practice when your native language comes from a totally different language family, for example, Chinese or Arabic.

My mother tongue is Polish and for me, it was pretty difficult to learn Dutch. Grammar and pronounciation is totally different. But with some practice, it was easier and easier. I know basics and I can communicate but I am far from speaking Dutch fluently.

Should I learn Dutch?

The answer is very easy, of course, it’s good to know as many languages as possible. If you come here just for a short period of time you’ll be good with English. You can communicate with anyone even when it comes to bureaucracy. But of course I encourage you to learn Dutch and later on I will mention the best ways to learn this language.

Do They Speak English in Amsterdam?

As I mentioned before Dutch people speak English very well. I have heard a few times an opinion of native English speakers that Dutch speak almost perfect English. I was very surprised when I realized that even old people can speak English better then me.

Best Way to Learn Dutch

What is The Best Way To Learn Dutch? The best way to learn any language is full immersion. Imagine a child that focus most of his effort on trying to understand people around him. This is the most effective way of learning. Spend all your time focusing on new language.

The best ways to immerse yourself in a new language are:

  • Listen to radio, audiobooks, audio courses
  • Install one of Learn Dutch apps on your phone and learn daily at least 10 words
  • Go to school, private course ( pay students for private classes )
  • Surround yourself with Dutchies. There are free meetups for people who want to learn Dutch, where you can exercise. Meet locals and try your new skills.
  • Learn just before you fall asleep for the best results
  • Watch Dutch TV series, or go to the cinema

My favorite way is to listen to audio courses. They are great because you can learn while driving a car, doing groceries, cleaning your house or walking a dog. You can do two things simultanously and you don’t lose any time.

There is one course that helped me a lot during my Dutch Adventure and it is called Rosetta Stone. Check this out on Google.

You can also sign up for a free course. Those courses are provided by the municipality ( gemeente ) Actually they are not free for everyone, but if you have a small child, don’t have a job etc. then you may apply for a free course. You should contact your gemeente because in each town rules are different.

How long does it take to learn Dutch?

For the purpose of this article, let’s say that you want to learn a foreign language on intermidiate level. It means you can communicate on any subject and you can express yourself freely in most common situations.

When it comes to learning a foreign language it depends on what kind of language you are willing to learn and at this point, we have 3 groups of languages:

1 group

These are languages similar to your language. So if you speak Polish, in this group there are other eastern European languages such as Czech, Russian, Ukrainian. We need 600 hours to learn a language from this group.

2 group

In the second group, there are languages that are very different from our language and by saying that I mean grammar, pronunciation etc. For me, a polish guy, these are languages such as western European languages, English, Scandinavian languages. You need +/- 1100 hours to learn these languages.

3 group

In this group, there are totally different languages with a different alphabet, accent, rules, for example, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese. Learning these languages is going to be a challenge as you need around 2200 hours. Keep in mind that amount of time is enough to learn a new language to an intermediate level.

When you think about it, you don’t need that much time to learn a foreign language. 600 hours sounds good. But if you have an approach of a regular Jon Doe and you learn 2 hours a week only on a course you attend – then it takes years.

There are ways to learn a language much faster. Learning 2 hours a week won’t bring good results. It’s because a brain doesn’t work like that. Your brain prioritize information it gets on a daily basis. In this era of information if it wouldn’t prioritize you would go crazy.

When you learn only 2 or 4 hours a week your brain thinks it is not that important and it doesn’t memorize a new skill.

When you want to learn a foreign language you need daily repetition and full immersion. It will give you the best results. We think that language is some sort of knowledge. It’s not. It is a skill and you need to exercise it daily. The best thing you can do is to learn Dutch at least 20 minutes a day, so your brain understands that this is a priority for you. Learning at school, conversation or watching movies should be something extra. The most imporatant is that you learn daily and focus at least 20 minutes only on learning.

The information I am sharing here with you comes from the American Foreign Service Institute.

Netherlands Language Translation to English

So you are looking for the best online translation from Dutch to English. Of course, you can use Google translate for some basic translation. It will allow you to understand a general context and most of the time this is enough. But, if you want to learn Dutch you need something more advanced and I can recommend you a very good online dictionary Interglot. Follow this link. This online dictionary doesn’t only translate Dutch to English but also provide conjugations, examples, definitions and related words. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate whole sentences, but it is one of the best online dictionaries I know.

How to say Thank You in Dutch?

In the video above from the Learn Dutch with DutchPod101.com youtube channel you can learn some basics. In this episode you learn how to say Thank You in formal and informal way.

How to Say Hello In Dutch?

Here you have another video from Learn Dutch with DutchPod101.com about greetings. You will learn how to say hello, good morning, good evening etc.

24/7 Online Youtube Dutch Course

While searching for some youtube videos with basic Dutch lessons I found this amazing youtube 24 hours 7 days a week live learning channel. You can turn it on anytime and start learning. It’s a cool idea and definitely a great value. Highly recommended.

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