Pronunciation in Dutch

Posted on 21. Dec, 2009 by in Dutch Language

One of the biggest obstacles when learning Dutch is pronunciation. In my time in the Netherlands, I’ve found that I can get away with grammar errors, spelling errors, and mixing up all kinds of things, as long as I properly pronounce the words. The trouble with Dutch is that it contains sounds that are often incredibly difficult for native English speakers to wrap their heads around.

I also have a personal theory that English speakers are more accustomed to hearing their language spoken with a variety of accents, whereas the Dutch are far less accustomed to this because they are so adept at speaking English with foreigners. But that’s a different story. If you really want to be understood in Dutch, you have to try very hard to speak like a Dutch person.

A great way to start wrapping your head around the sounds is Luister, Luister, Luister! (Listen, Listen, Listen!) Listen closely to the pronunciation of Dutch words, and repeat. And repeat it again. And repeat it again. And once you think you’ve got it sounding just right, repeat it once again for good measure.

Now, not all of us have the luxury of hearing Dutch spoken every day around us, and even if you are one of those people, the best resource for Dutch pronunciation will always be Dutch people. I personally don’t like to walk around the streets muttering words over and over to myself, so from the privacy of your own home, have a look at the Jeugd Journaal.

Link to the Jeugd Journaal (opens in a separate window)

The Jeugd Journaal is a broadcast of the daily news tailored towards a slightly younger audience. It’s a bit easier to understand than the regular evening news, and often times more fun. At least I think it’s more fun. So have a listen online to the Jeugd Journaal, see how much of it you understand, and try to repeat some of what you hear.

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5 Responses to “Pronunciation in Dutch”

  1. Mark 21 December 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    Good stuff.

  2. Jackie 21 December 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    My husband (who is an American) recently mentioned that you always recognize the Dutch when they speak English. Does this mean that because Dutch is difficult to pronunciate they can’t perfectly pronunciate other languages?
    I was listening to “Hollandse Kerst Sterren” (D Disky # KE883572) and you will hear perfect examples….

  3. sarah 22 December 2009 at 4:29 am #

    Hi Jackie,
    I don’t think that because Dutch is someone’s native language it is any more difficult for that person to pronounce English than any one else. It’s just all around difficult to lose the accent of your native language when speaking a foreign language. We all have that.
    My intention was that the pronunciation of the Dutch language should be a priority when learning the language because native Dutch speakers have a harder time understanding non-native speakers if the pronunciation is too far off. Hope that helps!

  4. Viviana 22 December 2009 at 6:54 am #

    Apparently for Spanish native speakers, Dutch pronunciation is less harder to learn.

    Consider this:
    1 – Dutch is a phonetic language comparable to Spanish which is also phonetic.

    2 – The G sound is Dutch is the J sound in Spanish.

    3 – Vowel pronunciation is the same except for the U which sound is longer and less stressed.

    http://www.artofwordsbiz.wordpress.com

  5. sarah 23 December 2009 at 7:46 am #

    Sorry Viviana, I’m going to have to disagree with you on your first point. Dutch is in many ways phonetic, but there is a lot which is not.

    The best example I can think of is that native Dutch speakers drop off many “-n” ‘s at the end of a word. So “Ik wil niet werken” is pronounced “Ik wil nie(optional t) werk-uh”. “Ik ga naar de keuken” is “Ik ga naar de keuk-uh.”

    They also tend to drop the pronunciation of the “t” at the end of a lot of words as well. This even causes confusion for Dutch native speakers when they have to remember if a word has a “t” or a “d” at the end.


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