When avid minds contemplate language learning, overwhelmingly, Romance languages leap to to the forefront.
They seek out French courses or they want to learn Spanish, giving little thought to any Germanic language including the German language itself - which is really odd, seeing as English is considered Germanic in spite of more than a quarter of our vocabulary originating from French.
What about you? Are you actively thinking of learning a new language but haven’t yet decided on one?
How about learning Dutch?
Superprof now provides you with 10 great reasons to learn this language that is spoken by more than 28 million people around the world.
The Dutch Language has an Amusing Vocabulary
By no means are we suggesting that every Dutch speaker must be a clown but many Dutch words do provide a sometimes comical insight into societal norms at the time those words were incorporated into English.
In fact, one word we commonly use to describe our American counterparts has its rather amusing roots in Dutch.
Yankees is, by all attestation, of Dutch origin – and that is where the certainty ends.
Variously interpreted as Little John, the feminine diminutive Janneke or John Cheese, there is little doubt of its derogatory intent.
It seems the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam (now New York) did not care for their Connecticut neighbours, leading them to call those English settlers by all sorts of demeaning names. Undaunted by the ridicule, those New World patriots even went so far as to include it in patriotic songs.
Might that be one of society’s earliest instances of reverse psychology?
The study of this word’s etymology proves that Yankees were indeed British subjects whose descendants became American over a century later.
Today, nobody on British soil considers themselves a Yank and Americans glory in the title.
Other amusing words that come from Dutch include:
blunderbuss – from donder meaning thunder and bus originally meaning box
dapper, meaning bold or sturdy – vastly different from today’s interpretation!
geek: from gek, meaning fool (again, a wild divergence from its modern meaning)
knapsack originally represented a snack bag
Poppycock: from pappekak, meaning soft dung
quack: literally somebody who dabbles in ointments (original word kwaksalver)
slim, in Dutch: bad, sly or crooked
And from the long list of English words originating from Dutch, one last, most interesting term: (military) tattoo.
To get soldiers back to the barracks in time – before they could become completely inebriated, military drummers would make the rounds at the appropriate hour, signalling innkeepers to doe den tap toe or turn off the taps.
The practice has since evolved into the pageantry and precision we are treated to every year, so far from its bawdy roots...
Indeed, the Dutch language has made our own tongue so rich, especially if you consider how some of our words came about!
Learning Dutch is Relatively Easy
Because the Dutch language peppers our vocabulary so liberally, students of the Dutch language are constantly surprised to discover just how many Dutch words they already know.
Besides, Dutch is our mother tongue’s closest relative, meaning that many native speakers of English have a much easier time learning the language of the Netherlands than they would should they endeavour to learn Italian or Portuguese.
It is true that this new language you propose to learn has some sounds that don’t exist in English, such as the trilled R and the dorsal fricative – the ch sound, but they are pretty easy to learn.
One difficulty many Dutch learners report is in article usage.
English has one article, the, to represent German’s three articles: der, die and das (masculine, feminine and neutral) Dutch falls smack in the middle, calling for only two: de and het.
The challenge lies in memorizing which article goes with which noun, as they are not guided by grammatical gender rules like German articles are, nor are they generic as the English article is.
It is true the Netherlands is overwhelmingly English-friendly, with a reported 86% of the people capable of conversing in English.
Don’t let that be the reason you shy away from this delicious-sounding language!
The fact is that Dutch is not spoken only in the Netherlands but in neighbouring Belgium, as well as Aruba, Sin Maarten, Curaçao and Suriname.
Fancy a winter holiday in the sunny Caribbean?
Learning to speak a host country’s language shows your interest in and respect for the country, the culture and the people so, even if you learn just enough Dutch phrases to get by on your next holiday, your efforts would be sincerely appreciated.
But don't stop there! If you're going to learn a new language, you should learn more than just a few expressions you can use on holiday!
Besides, to certify your Dutch language skills, you would have to go to the Netherlands!
What About Studying Abroad?
Even though the Netherlands has approximately 1,700 mostly graduate-level programs that are taught in English, you may participate in Dutch language classes offered to foreign students which, in turn, will give you insight into Dutch culture.
Just think of all of the events you will be able to enjoy more thoroughly when you speak the language!
Understand Linguistic Quirks
The Dutch certainly have coined their share of words and phrases that, unless you are familiar with the language, would sail right past you.
The Dutch so love their bicycles that they have built an entire lexicon of slang phrases that incorporate bikes – fiets, (pronounced feets... no one is really sure why).
If you wanted to indicate you suddenly get what the other person is saying, you would exclaim ‘On that bicycle!’ - a phrase whose meaning would completely escape you if you weren’t in tune with the language and culture.
As you learn to speak Dutch, you might be perplexed at their use of acronyms in everyday conversation: zgn, aub and ipv, just to name a few.
You could think of their use as similar to texting: brb for be right back, for example, or idk for I don’t know.
Dutch people, in general, are an efficient lot; a sterling example of the less is more principle, reflected in their conversation. They certainly do not mean to confuse the hapless foreigner.
Watch Dutch Movies!
Granted, the Dutch movie industry is not widely renown but some of their BNs – famous people are, Rutger Hauer and Famke Janssen among them.
In fact, Dutch cinema has a long history and its Documentary School is known worldwide. But, for all that the Dutch film industry has been the butt of many jokes, some of their films are definitely worthy of praise.
As a language learner, you might try taking in Turkish Delight or Amsterdamned with the original soundtrack playing so that you can get some listening practice in.
After those two selections, you might go for a bit of comedy with Flodder... after which you may delve into their wide selection of family movies.
Although Dutch cinema doesn’t make a big splash on the international scene, there certainly are plenty of titles to choose from on Amazon and elsewhere!
And what a great learning experience it would be, hearing native speakers discourse!
Speak English Better
This benefit of language learning applies to any language, not just Dutch.
You can never understand one language until you understand at least two – Geoffrey Willans
Granted, much of our native language is rooted in Dutch, but that factors little in the nugget of wisdom quoted above.
Rather, it is the idea that you are stepping outside your own circle of linguistic experience to absorb the vernacular of a completely independent culture – kind of like how we never know how lovely home is until we return to it.
Learning Dutch will give you a new appreciation for the English language: its subtleties and nuances, its grammar and its fluency.
Now aren't you keen to go find resources to improve your Dutch?
Give Your Brain a Boost
The overall brain-boosting benefits of learning a second language are well-documented: your memory improves, you get better at multitasking and even your ability to conceptualise increases dramatically.
Did you know that learning languages can help stave off dementia?
Now, in the run-up to the biggest shopping event, you might find that language acquisition can even help you make more rational decisions amid all of the Black Friday sales adverts.
Might you gift yourself and your family language lessons this year?
The brains of people who speak more than one language actually work differently, studies show. Such a linguist arrives at solutions faster and tends to be more decisive.
Aren’t those qualities you might need to advance at work?
Learn Dutch to Get Promoted
Recent analysis shows that companies prefer to hire and develop employees who can speak more than one language, in part because of the cognitive advantages such workers bring, but also because our society is becoming more diverse.
Even if that company does not yet operate on the global commerce stage, surely there are still local clients and customers who might not speak English.
Another benefit of hiring people with proficiency in more than one language is that such workers expand the company’s horizons: perhaps there is currently no trading with Holland but those connections might soon be in the works!
As for you who are intent on learning a foreign language, you may consider the possibility of a pay hike a good incentive to sign up for language courses...
Explore Dutch Cuisine
Just as you don’t have to learn Mandarin to appreciate Chinese food, you don’t actually need any language training to enjoy traditional foods from the Netherlands.
However, food being integral to a country’s culture, learning how to speak Dutch may give you the incentive to try out a few traditional recipes.
Especially in these cold months, you might want to try stamppot: mashed mixed with veg, served with smoked sausage. Or you could enjoy bitterballen with your evening pint.
Those consist of a savoury beef mixture coated in breadcrumbs and fried golden brown. Sounds delish, doesn’t it?
Learning a language is surely not a prerequisite to enjoying tasty foods – after all, you don’t need to learn French to eat a baguette, but acquiring language skills yields so many benefits including cultural comprehension that we understand perfectly why you endeavour to learn a foreign language.
And now, you have ten good reasons to sign up for that Dutch language course you’ve long been considering!