Basically, to people with some level of familiarity of German and English, I’d like to talk about Dutch.

I can understand written German okay I think, far better than I can speak it. Same with English really.

With spoken Dutch, I do not understand anything except maybe the occasional greeting or something.

But I think I can understand written Dutch fairly well, at least judging by samples on the Dutch Wikipedia. (By fairly well I mean that I can guess the meaning of many if not most sentences.)
I’d say I understand written Dutch more than written Spanish perhaps, which I’ve studied (albeit lazily) for a while. Also when I don’t know a word in Dutch, often if I look it up I can find a similar word in German which I also do not know. And even when I have no clue what a sentence means, I can recognize the grammatical structures in the sentence.

What do you think on this? Is Dutch a freebie language if you understand English and German? Or any other thoughts on Dutch.

I’m thinking about learning it.

I can read Dutch, but when I hear it, standard Dutch from Belgium is far easier for me to understand than Dutch from the Netherlands.

Recently I had two guided tours. The tours were in German, English and Dutch in the one case, French, Dutch and English in the other case. I was very amazed that I understood about 50 to 70 percent of the spoken Dutch.
I’m a native speaker of German. My English is on a high intermediate, maybe advanced level.
I guess I would be able to understand about 90 to 100 percent of Dutch after a listening period of 2 or 3 months. I’m sure it would take me a lot more time to speak (because of grammar and pronunciation).

In my experience, reading is more easy then listening. You have a lot of time to think of what is written.

For me it is a bit like for Vera. When I am in Amsterdam it is as if I were in a dream (one of those where one is a spectator only, but in a nice way). I feel totally at home but cannot speak back.

I know some German native speakers, who are learning/have learnt Dutch to study at university here. For German speakers it will be fairly easy to understand written Dutch, because many words are similar. (eg. verstehen = verstaan, antworten = antwoorden, etc.). Maybe if a Dutch person doesn’t speak too fast, it will also be easily intelligible for German speakers. Dutch grammar has much in common with German grammar, so that won’t be too difficult either.

However, Dutch pronunciation is totally different, and in my experience it’s really difficult for German speakers to get rid of this German-like pronunciation in Dutch. (eg. the word ‘fantastisch’ is the same in Dutch and German, in German the end ‘sch’ is typically pronounced like the ‘sch’ from the word 'schule, while in Dutch it’s just pronounced as an ‘s’!). There are more examples like this.

I think it won’t be a freebie language if you know English and German (btw. only German will help you substantially with studying Dutch, Dutch doesn’t have that much in common with English - the grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary is totally different, etc.) From a good level in German, you can start from a basic level in Dutch and improve your skills more easily than learners without knowledge of German. But note that it’s not the same and it won’t be effortless.

A good German friend of mine has studied Dutch for some time and now he speaks it really well. He told me he put a lot of effort in it to reach fluency. He told me that on first sight they look really similar, but the more you delve into the language, the more differences you will find.

If you’re thinking about studying Dutch, I recommend you to focus a lot on your pronunciation. If you need help, just contact me.

Interesting to hear how much spoken Dutch you guys can understand.

Makacenko - Yes, you’re right. It’s almost always easier to read than listen for me.

vincentd - Hey, thanks for the feedback.
About pronunciation, I think that happens in a lot of languages with similar words. One sees the word Situation in German and wants to pronounce it exactly like English. I think after a while of listening to it though, the desire to pronounce it like German will diminish.

Do you speak German? I’m interested in an example of grammatical differences if you have time.
I can think of some basic ones (the verb conjugation is not in the same pattern; there are more personal pronouns in Dutch) but from looking over Dutch texts, it seems like a lot of the later difficulties from German are just repeated.

SolYViento - I will reply to your question as soon as possible. Right now I’m quite busy with my study at university.

SolYViento said: “What do you think on this? Is Dutch a freebie language if you understand English and German? Or any other thoughts on Dutch.”

“Free” – No

“Massive discount” – Yes

vincentd - No problemo, take your time. If you don’t feel like it though, please don’t feel pressured.

“Free” – No

“Massive discount” – Yes

Yeah, I see what you mean.

First of all, as a Dutch speaker I can understand written German fairly well. If German speakers speak slowly and with basic vocabulary, then I can understand spoken German as well. I studied German for two years in school, so I have some knowledge of the language. However I do not claim that I can speak it. I’m planning to do an erasmus next year to Germany.

To give you an example of a grammatical difference between the two languages:
Dutch is kind of simplified compared to German, since there are no cases (only the nominative and accusative, just like in English). There are still three genders: the male/female article is ‘DE’, the neuter article is ‘HET’. In most cases the genders are similar in German and Dutch, though naturally there are a lot of exceptions.
The declensions of the adjectives are very different from German.

For instance: the word ‘mooi’ means ‘beautiful’, so we could say ‘het meisje is mooi’, which means ‘the girl is beautiful’. ‘het mooiE meisje’ means ‘the beautiful girl’, but when you write ‘een mooi meisje’, which means ‘a beautiful girl’, you write ‘mooi’ instead of ‘mooie’.
Similarly: ‘de man is mooi’, ‘de mooiE man’, but ‘de mooiE man’.

I have spoken with many foreigners, even with people who have mastered Dutch at a very high level, but they still make many mistakes to this. In German this is more complicated, because of all the cases, and you don’t just add ‘e’ to the stem, but depending on the case ‘es, en, …’.

The verb declensions are different. Some verbs have different meanings too, the number one example is: the German verb’mögen’ vs. the Dutch verb ‘mogen’. In German ‘mögen’ means ‘to like’, while in Dutch ‘mogen’ means ‘to be allowed’.

The different tenses are very similar, though the conjugations and irregular verbs are different (past tense, past participle, etc. - you will have to study them).

Another very difficult item in Dutch is the word ‘er’. If you are interested in hearing more about this, just ask me. This structure is not used in German like it is in Dutch. It’s really complicated where to put it in a sentence, because mostly for this word there is one fixed place (and foreigners sometimes put it somewhere else, so that it won’t sound natural anymore).

The last thing I’d want to tell you about it the similarity between the German and Dutch separable verbs (which is also very difficult without the knowledge of German). For instance, in Dutch we have the word vóórkomen (1) and voorkómen (2).

(1) Ik voorkom = I avert/prevent
(2) Het komt voor = It occurs

more info here: voorkomen - Wiktionary

More questions? Maybe if you have some more specific ones, just ask me.

I have a German teacher (native German speaker) and he went to a Dutch university. He says he has learned the language in one year. Now he speaks a very high level of Dutch, almost native, BUT he can’t get rid of his German accent, so you will always know he’s from Germany. I think it’s possible for someone with German being his/her mother tongue to learn Dutch quite easily.

This doesn’t always apply to native English speakers. The Dutch and German pronunciation are very similar to each other, which cannot be said about the Dutch and English pronunciation. But it’s certainly easier for an English speaker to learn Dutch as it is for someone speaking a Romance language.

In addition to what vincentd says about Dutch grammar, my German teacher seems to have difficulties with when to use ‘jij’ or ‘je’, they’re both meaning ‘you’, although ‘je’ is sometimes used instead of ‘jouw’ (your) (but this is only in spoken language). I don’t really think there is a grammar rule for this, you just have to feel it I guess.

English too has separable verbs. The English grammar tradition is just too busy calling them ‘phrasal verbs’. It’s just that the system has weakened in English and it’s certainly not productive any more. Look at Dutch ‘geloven’ vs English ‘believe’. Dutch made ‘beloven’ into ‘promise’ but the ‘be’ on both are etymologically linked. Old English is much stronger in this regard. I believe that in Middle English, some were still creating some new verbs using some of these particles/prepositions. Recently, it’s not very many but download? upload?

understand vs stand under, go for vs forgo, etc

Just curious, imyirtseshem, how come that you know that much about Dutch? Have you got Dutch relatives or friends?
And on topic, I never thought of it that way, it’s quite funny.

I’ve been learning Dutch for a couple years now. Germanic languages are some of my favourites. :slight_smile:

En lukt het een beetje?

And if you wanna practise you can always ask me!