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The Dutch language

The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch.

Dutch is a West Germanic language and the mother tongue of most inhabitants of the Netherlands, many in Belgium and Surinam.

Dutch is also an official language of the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

In the European Union, about 23 million people speak Dutch as first language, and an additional five million as a second language.

There are many dialects spoken at regional level.

The best way how to learn and practice the Dutch language is to make friends with a native speaker. Don’t be shy to address them in Dutch and ask them to correct you when you make a pronunciation mistake! Not pronouncing Dutch correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of Dutch grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly may cause you lots of frustration!

Hereunder we’ll try to explain how to pronouns some Dutch letters and consonants by giving you some examples.

ch / g - try to say the letter ‘g’ making a guttural sound through your throat
Example: ‘Gezellig!’
It is considered to be one of the most important words in Dutch, meaning that something is familiar, warm, friendly or cozy.

sch - s followed by guttural ch sound
Example: Scheveningen
District of The Hague where the popular Scheveningen beach is situated. If you can pronounce properly this place it means that you are already on the right track of learning Dutch!

v - like v, but much closer to f
Example: Van Gogh
Try to pronounce the v closer to f and the g through your throat, otherwise they will never understand that you mean the famous Dutch painter!

j - y as in yes
Example: Ja, which simply means Yes!

sj - sh as in ship
Example: Sjoelen
An old Dutch board game which is kind of similar to shuffleboard, only more ‘gezellig’.

tj - ch as in chip
Example: Poffertjes
Typical Dutch pancakes. Very small but taste great.

o - aw as in paw, with lips rounded
Example: fort
Like the English fortress, only shorter.

u - u as in dirt, but very short
Example: Doe je muts op!
Wear your winter hat! Something your mother would say during winter.

i - ih as in bit
Example: Niksen
Which means doing nothing. The Dutch lifestyle concept of doing nothing.

aa - ah as in father, but longer
Example: Daar is de maan!
This is what you say when you see the moon hanging in the sky.

ee - ay as in hail, but shorter
Example: Nee, which simply means No!

ie - ee as in neat, but shorter
Example: Friet
Like frites, but then typically Dutch, regardless of what they say in Belgium.

oo - oh as in boat
Example: Brood
Bread, which the Dutch eat at lunch in all varieties.

oe - oo as in pool, but shorter
Example: Koe
The Dutch cow, essential for the milk during lunch.

eu - ur as in hurt, but with lips rounded
Example: Gezeur
Translated as nagging, only more whiny.

uu - ew, but with lips rounded (sound does not exist in English)
Example: Duur
When something is expensive.

ei / ij - y like in shy
Example: Blij
The Dutch word for happy, for example when something is not ‘duur’.

ou / au
Example: Trouw
Means loyal, also the name of a Dutch newspaper.

aai - combination of aa and ie, sounds like the ye in bye
Example: Saai
Means boring, does not apply to learning Dutch.

ooi - combination of oo and ie, like the word Boy
Example: Mooi
Means beautiful, does apply to the Dutch language.

ui - combination of a and uu, (sound does not exist in English)
Example: Fruit
The same as in English, only a different pronunciation.

oei - combination of oe and ie
Example: Doei
Means bye bye. Good luck with learning!