Dutch Language Blog

Shopping and Not Understanding Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Dutch Vocabulary

Speaking in your target language is the best way to practice. One of the suggestions from the integration material I’ve received from the Dutch government has been to go out and interact with people at stores. I agree that it is a great way to practice, but one of the challenges of the Dutch language is that, in practice, Dutch becomes one long word. Just like the native speakers of any language, the Dutch tend to cut words or the words transform as they are spoken. For example, I know Kan ik u helpen? but when a sales clerk asks me this very question, to me it sounds more like Kani-uhelpn? (all of it really fast). Somehow the k is lost, the i becomes part of kan, and the u becomes part of helpen. 

Because of this challenge, it is very important that you ask people to repeat themselves or even to speak slower. I have found that Dutch people don’t mind speaking English, but also that they don’t mind helping you while you learn Dutch. Would you mind if a language learner asked you to repeat yourself in your native language?

In order to be prepared, I have compiled a list of things you can do in order to prepare for these face-to-face encounters:

1. You can do some of the work at home. If I am going to ask for anything at a store, I tend to practice it or look up the unknown words such as postzegel, bon, maat, etc. before I leave my apartment. This preparation makes me feel confident and lets me speak more fluently.

2. If you don’t understand someone when they speak to you, you can start with Sorry (just make sure you use the dutch r) and then add one of the following, depending on what you would like to say:

-Kunt u het nog een keer zeggen? (Could you say it one more time?)

-Kunt u het even herhalen? (Could you repeat?)

-Wat zegt u? (What did you say?)

What bedoelt u met _______? (What do you mean with _______?)

3. You may run into the situation that something comes up and you don’t know the word in Dutch and thats OK. Take advantage that most Dutch people speak English and ask them what the Dutch word is. You will not only learn a new word, but you will also practice speaking and listening skills. You can use the following phrases:

Hoe zeg je _________ in het Nederlands? (How do you say _________ in Dutch?

-________, zeg je dat zo in het Nederlands? (_______, do you say/call that like that in Dutch?)

-Hoe heet dat in het Nederlands? (What do you call that in Dutch?)

4. Although this may sound silly, make sure you thank people for helping you! The more you speak, the more comfortable you will feel with the language. So as you leave the store, don’t forget to say Dank u wel and if someone wishes you a fijne dag, make sure to respond with het zelfde (and if they don’t, wish THEM a fijne dag!).

Speaking is one of the hardest part of learning a language, but it is also the most rewarding. These tips will make your every day interactions feel a lot smoother and will boost your confidence level. So go out and visit all types of stores, and ask for anything you can come up with, even if you have no intention of buying!


More useful vocabulary and phrases:

Ik zoek ____.- I am looking for ________.
Hoeveel kost het? – How much does it cost?
bon– receipt
postzegel– stamp
maat– size
meer– more
minder– less
groter- bigger
kleiner- smaller
een andere– another one
andere kleur– another color
andere maat– another size
dank u wel– thank you very much
fijne dag– (have a) lovely day
kopen– to buy
betalen- to pay


Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Dutch with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!