Met vriendelijke ‘groenten’! Why learning Dutch is so difficult.


As a Dutch language trainer at BLCC, I work every day with non-Dutch speakers who would like to master Dutch (better). They do so for different reasons: for work or because they have recently moved to Belgium.

All these trainees have one thing in common. Namely that they find learning Dutch quite difficult. Especially for those who do not have a Germanic mother tongue.

However, why is this the case?

Why is Dutch so difficult to learn?

The spelling of our Dutch mother tongue is an initial challenge: after all, vriendelijke groenten is so similar to vriendelijke groeten. Think also of verassen and verrassen, koning and konijn, ik ben mooi instead of moe, and so on.

Confusing, don't you think? Not only spelling proves challenging.

The conjugation of verbs with -dt, de- and het-words, the plural on -en or -s are no slouch either. There are so many rules for using 'er' that trainees get dizzy. Then there is the correct and fast application of inversion and word order in the subordinate clause while talking.

For native speakers, these are natural. You don't even have to think twice about it. And just when you have explained all the 'basic' rules, the exceptions lurk around the corner.

The pronunciation of our diphthongs is another matter. Many languages do not contain an 'ui' 'ij' or 'au' sound. The dreaded 'sch' and 'g' consonants have been notorious for centuries and until today are pure horror for most trainees. We also have such long words in Dutch as identificatienummer.

To make things worse, most Flemish people don't even speak standard Dutch. They use an colloquial Flemish that is even more difficult to understand. Not to mention the various dialects such as West Flemish 😉  

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