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I find myself saying this a lot on this blog: you must, Must MUST get access to actual spoken and written Dutch if you want to take your Dutch language skills to the next level. I can’t emphasize this enough. I know that a lot of you might find this hard, especially if you live outside of a Dutch speaking country, so I’ve compiled a list of resources that you must, Must MUST start using. I think I’ve made my point clear on this issue. In this blog I am going to cover the most popular Dutch newspapers, and hopefully you’ll be able to find something to suit your own learning level.
Newspapers come in all shapes and sizes, and they are geared towards a specific audience. This list is ordered from easiest to hardest, so try to pick one just a slight step above your own level to push yourself further.
This newspaper is a free daily handed out at all train and metro stations, stands on the side of the road, and convenience stores. This paper is pretty mainstream and because it is meant to be read during a commute, it’s not particularly in depth. You’ll find information on the most major news items of the day, including some pop culture news, a daily crossword, etc. The paper is designed to be read by people from all levels of education, so it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re just starting out with learning Dutch, this is a great place to start by just trying to read the captions under the pictures.
The Spits is basically like the Metro, but a little more flashy and a little more exciting. I’m not sure I would call it more difficult to read than the Metro other than that I think the articles are a little bit longer, but for some reason I find my attention is held longer by this paper than by the Metro. If anyone else has any insight into why that might be, feel free to let me know in the comments!
Telegraaf is what I would call the first level in serious newspapers. I might compare it to USA Today back home. It has a lot of pictures, tends to be a bit sensationalist, and covers a lot of pop-culture news. You’re as likely to find something on the front page about the latest celebrity gossip as you are the economic crisis. But to be honest, it is pretty fun to read, and a fantastic jumping off point. If you can read the articles in this newspaper, you are well on your way and deserve a pat on the back. Just because it’s a bit sensationalist doesn’t mean you didn’t come a long way to be able to read it. As far as I can tell, the Telegraaf is the most popular daily newspaper in the country, not just because it is sensationalist, but because it covers a wide variety of topics that everyone is interested in, from the economic crisis to who won the latest football match to what’s on the television tonight.
Het Parool: http://www.parool.nl/
Het Parool is one step above Telegraaf and is very focused in Amsterdam news. If you are reading this paper regularly, you are definitely at about an “end of high school” reading level and should congratulate yourself. This newspaper will go more in depth into the details of current issues than Telegraaf, has a few less pictures and celebrity gossip columns, and has a focus on events and happenings. It’s still fun to read but will push your vocabulary and grammar just that one step further. I wouldn’t call this academic or intellectual-type reading, but it is a good solid newspaper.
De Volkskrant: http://www.volkskrant.nl/
De Volkskrant is where you start to get into the academic and university level reading. It’s not easy. This newspaper will go into the issues sometimes in great depth, and uses rather heady vocabulary to do so. If you can read this, you can probably read most Dutch and you can stick with this paper to improve your Dutch for a very long time. I like this paper a lot, although admittedly as I was learning Dutch I have been known to get mad and throw it across the room because it’s hard. But I’m also proof that if you stick with it, you will get there. And despite how well I can read, there is always room for improvement. This is a great paper to get you to the academic reading level.
NRC Handelsblad: http://www.nrc.nl/
The NRC is the most “intellectual” newspaper, and as such is also the most difficult to read. I’ll be honest, I don’t read it all the time. This isn’t because I can’t read it, but because it’s just not as enjoyable to me to read: it’s hard! I’ve been told by enough Dutch natives that NRC gives them a headache to take their advice and just let it go. It’s not just that the vocabulary is at a very high level, but this newspaper includes some grammar that can be very difficult to follow. Nevertheless, if you find de Volkskrant easy to read, or just want to push yourself that step further, this would be the next logical step for you to take your learning to that next level. If you can fluently read this, you can fluently read anything.
Now that I’ve given you all these resources, you might be confused as to what to do with them. It’s hard figuring out what works and what doesn’t! In my next post I’ll give you a few pointers for learners of all levels on how to use the newspapers to your advantage and get the most out of your learning experience.