I’m Learning Dutch Super Quickly (And You Can Too)


This post has nothing to do with sheep

When we met, I thought there was something a little odd about Boyfriend’s accent.

To the untrained ear, it sounds like a perfect example of Queen’s English. But when he admitted to the other pub quiz members that he’s not British, I got it. He was Dutch, and I’d spent enough time around Dutch people at Nintendo to know that “more-perfect-than-perfect” accent anywhere.

As a person who loves languages, I love any excuse to start speaking something new and so I started studying Dutch in secret, with the plan to just come out with a load of it one day and amaze him.

Here’s a thing – I am terrible at keeping things quiet when I’m excited about them, so of course I let de kat out of de zak way too soon.

But luckily, I am learning pretty quickly, so it now means that I can drop Dutch into normal conversation pretty easily. The Boyfriend says I am a genius to be able to learn so quickly. Ha. I wish. I just have a winning method for picking up languages, and I would like to share it with you now.

You can use this method on a whole range of languages (though there are limits, as I’ll explain).

Step One: Get Dutch into my brain.

When I was studying Japanese, I found that sitting over books all day got me absolutely nowhere. It was only when I started to use the podcast Japanesepod101 every day that things seemed to fit into place. Walking to university took about 30 -40 minutes, and I would listen to the podcasts during this time.

It made a huge different to have the language going into my ears passively. When I went to Japan and had Japanese all around me the whole time, it was even better and my brain turned into a sponge.

The languagepod101 series are quite good, but I have found something even better: The Michel Thomas series. This is how I learnt German when I moved there.

Michel Thomas was an absolute dude of the highest rank. Being Polish, he escaped the Nazis eventually after being captured and tortured a bunch of times, and then after the war he escaped to the US. You should totally read his wiki page because he is really awesome.

His language tapes aren’t the traditional kind where you’re repeating after the teacher, who, without hearing you (since they are a recording, of course) says that you’re doing well. He has two students in the room, and it is to them that he teaches. I swear they choose really simple people to play these roles (maybe to make the listener feel better about themselves?)

The languages are built up brick by brick. For example:

Do you want

Do you want it

Do you want it to eat

Do you want it to eat or drink

What do you want

What do you drink

And so on…until you think to yourself “hang on, I think I might be speaking a whole new language!”

I listen to the Dutch tapes (which sadly doesn’t have Michel himself as the German ones do, but this real “mumsy” kind of woman who sounds like she’d give you a massive hug, a glass of milk and a cookie when you make mistakes) in my car either to or from work. Each CD has about 15 tracks on it, and I get through them in a week, with me listening through it at least twice before moving on.

Step Two: Get Words In My Eyes

When I studied French at school, I hated it. Up until GCSE (16 years) I remember mainly making posters and memorising a small speech about my work experience (a lot of which I can still recite to this day). After GCSE I took it up at A Level, and the difficulty jump was massive. Even though the class had just 6 of us in it (because that’s how many people were stupid enough to take A Level French), the teacher was tired and gave us lists and lists of words to learn, so we could understand the books.

I did really badly at it; I had zero motivation (I only took it so that I could take Japanese at university) and sitting memorising loads of stuff just is not my bag.

My teacher told me that since I “could not grasp French, you should just give up on Japanese since you’ll get nowhere with it”. 10 years later, I am fluent in Japanese, conversational in German and can also get by in Chinese, Korean and now Dutch. I wouldn’t even try to use French.

Unless you have the type of brain that loves lists of stuff to memorise, then this is not a good method to learn a language. But you need to know loads of new words, right?

There is another way. Let me introduce Duolingo.com to you.


Duolingo is a free, online, language learning programme which is nothing short of awesome. It works with you translating lots of sentences which get progressively more difficult and are split up into categories like “prepositions” and “clothes”.

You can see above there’s the sentence in Dutch, which looks a bit intimidating. But you can hover over the words to remember which each one is. They used to penalise you for this, but the website has changed over the years and it doesn’t anymore.

It gets you to do sentence after sentence and slowly, you’re learning grammar, vocabulary and word order without much effort at all. What’s more, there’s a points table and you can connect with friends on there. I have a friend in Germany who, apparently, is learning every language under the sun right now and so I always try to keep up with her.

Dutch is quite hard visually because it’s not said as it’s written. “Goed” is said something like “hhuuid”, with lots of throat-usage while you’re at it (steady, sailor). So if you want to properly learn the language, you need to be using something to learn to read and write it.


There are, of course, more steps to this method. But frankly, I’ve not got there yet. I plan to use memrise.com to build on my vocab when I get better, and also to speak with the boyfriend when I can. There’s a Dutch manager (quite high up) who I had to give some documents to the other day. In an email to him today I tagged onto the end that I am studying Dutch and he told me that when he’s in the office next time we can chat in Dutch. EEEEK. I think bullying myself into Dutch situations is the best way to improve; it’s how I got to be good at Japanese, after all.

Lastly, you can follow these two steps and learn languages super fast as long as your language is listed in both Michel Thomas courses and on Duolingo. The listening course is a little limited and sticks to European languages, but Duolingo has an ever-growing range these days (including Irish and Turkish and other cool things like that!)

If anyone has awesome language-learning tools to recommend to me, I’d love to hear them!


  1. There were 6 people in my A-level German class as well. Irrelevant, but I thought I’d share ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I need to learn Swiss German now. So far I understand maybe 30-40%!
    bevchen recently posted…Letโ€™s talk about Swiss pricesMy Profile

    • Charlotte says

      6! I think there were 3 in ours.
      I thought Swiss German would be more similar to actual German than that. I guess there aren’t so many language tapes for it, either…

  2. When I met my boyfriend, he’d been living in the Netherlands for years and was fluent in Dutch (despite being Scottish). “I’m going to learn Dutch too” I decided… 3 years later and I still can’t speak a word. This has given me a kick up the bum plus some very handy hints, thanks!
    Janet recently posted…April reads: Part 2My Profile

    • Charlotte says

      It’s a lot easier than you’d think! Don’t compare yourself with him though – people learn differently so just find your own groove with it.

  3. Constant reading and studying is definitely not my thing either, the information just doesn’t stay and i forget it within the hour ๐Ÿ˜ i’ve really been wanting to pick up a different language and this has inspired me so much, thank you!
    Sapphire recently posted…โ˜† Taobao FOCUS Shopping Service ReviewMy Profile

    • Charlotte says

      No worries! I hope it’s of help!
      There are so many different ways to study, I wish schools would understand that!

  4. I’ve never heard of languagepod101! I used Duolingo for a while to learn Spanish, but didn’t really stick with it. I feel like I should learn another language. I watch too much Korean dramas, so I actually picked up a lot of words, so maybe I should learn Korean…hmmm.
    Sara Strauss recently posted…Inspired By: April’s Best Selling BooksMy Profile

    • Charlotte says

      You should come back to Duolingo so I can add you!
      And I totally learnt loads of Korean through kdramas!

  5. How interesting to hear that you’re learning Dutch! I have a tip: go to the NPO website and watch Dutch TV shows (turn on the Dutch subtitles so you can read along at the same time). I really like the program The Wilde Keuken because it’s so quirky.
    Jen recently posted…Kingโ€™s Day: we got it all rightMy Profile

  6. Michel Thomas is actually what I recommend to every single person wanting to learn a language – I was speaking Spanish pretty fluently in just 8 hours! Amazing ๐Ÿ™‚
    Vanessa recently posted…Cyril the SquirrelMy Profile

  7. Hi there Charlotte,interesting read there. I love speaking dutch, how I learned was all about the passion and the love for Netherlands. Something that I would advise someone who doesn’t do lots of reading is to watch Dutch movies and try out some podcasts. It is something that I have seen working for many people as it helps polish the pronunciations and the fluency. Thanks a lot for sharing this.



  1. […] Charlotte is learning a new language, and making me want to as well! (This link is a bit older, because I’m way behind with my […]

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