The majority of Dutch people know English to a level where you will not need to worry about talking to them and understanding each other. So, there will not be a language barrier for you in the Netherlands even without learning Dutch. But learning even just a little of the local language will make your time in the Netherlands easier and will help you connect more with the locals. And yes, we know Dutch is hard. We know Dutch isn’t pretty. But another language is always a plus.
There’s a galaxy of Dutch courses and schools to choose from, with classes to fit every lifestyle and budget available. Once you have learned the basics in a course, join a conversation class or group, where you can put your new language skills into practice.
Further, in Amsterdam, and most of the bigger cities in the country, there are free Dutch classes sponsored by the government. They are with a 6-month duration, in a location close to your address, in groups of 10-15 people. Not only are the classes free, but also all the materials and books for it are also gratis.
Moreover, all the mail regarding governmental documentation will be in Dutch and unlike the websites, it is not that easy to google translate mail on paper. Therefore, knowing a little Dutch will help you with your taxes, address registration, bank documents, etc.
It will probably take you more than six months just to master pronunciation, but the more you persevere the more you will be rewarded. Remember: no pain, no gain!
Important things you’re missing out by not learning Dutch:
- Zondag met Lubach (the Netherland’s answer to the Daily Show).
- Reading the news without Google Translate making weird translations.
- Reading the comment section of controversial Dutch news stories (with some popcorn in hand).
- Being able to do basic things, like reading/signing contracts, without having to show it to a Dutch friend or hiring a lawyer.
- Knowing your legal rights, so you’re not being ripped off by someone who claims to be working in your best interest.
- Reading Herman Koch’s novels in the original language.
- Going to the movies and watching a foreign language film. (The subtitles will be in Dutch, so good luck with that.)
- Being able to hold a conversation in a store or bar without feeling ashamed that you have no idea what to say back.
- Not forcing others at work, parties, and public spaces to switch to English JUST because you’re close by. I love that Dutch people are so considerate about English speakers, but it’s really uncomfortable when someone switches a presentation originally prepared in Dutch to English just because a non-Dutch speaker is sitting there.
- The hundreds of Dutch accents that exist across the country. It’s insane to me that you can go 20 minutes and the accent is completely different. I personally find the Limburg and Brabant accent the nicest sounding. Travel around the Netherlands and listen!