July 25, 2022

How to Expand Your Vocabulary in Dutch

by Mateusz Wiącek

If you’re one of the brave souls trying your luck at learning a new language, first things first: pat yourself on the back. Learning a new language isn’t easy. Especially Dutch, which is a tough language to master. Let’s look at different ways to expand your Dutch vocabulary to ease you into it.

Over time, linguists, psychologists, and teachers have developed numerous techniques to improve how you learn. Although it’s also a matter of personal preference, some techniques are definitely more successful than others.

In this article, we’ll go over various ways to expand your Dutch vocabulary online as well as offline to see if there is a clear winner when it comes to learning a language. Let’s dive in! 

Ways to expand your Dutch vocabulary

The way you learn a language boils down to multiple factors. How much time have you got? And what’s your budget? We could go on and on.

Here at Taalhammer, we think learning a language should be accessible to everyone. Therefore, we’ll go over the options that are just that: hassle-free and readily available. 


Flashcards are cards containing a cue or hint on the front and the answer on the back. When you look at the cue on the front of a flashcard, you’ll actively stimulate your memory for a piece of information. This is called active recall. You’ll pull the information out of your memory. 

Research on the usage of flashcards often yields mixed results. According to one study, there is something you can do to make studying with flashcards more effective, which is to make it personal. 

A simple example: if you’re trying to memorise the word fiets (bike), and you own a bright blue bike, add an image to your flashcard showcasing a bright blue bike. This way, you’ll make a personal connection to the answer, helping you to recall it faster. 

Physical vs. digital

The choice between paper and digital flashcards ultimately depends on your preferred way of learning. Both could be a great tool to improve your Dutch vocabulary. 

Writing by hand does help you to memorise information better, which could be an argument for using hand-written paper flashcards to learn the Dutch language. But usually, you write a flashcard once and not over and over again for the same word. It does offer you a little break from your screen, which is always the healthier option. Plus, there’s the added bonus that you concentrate better off-screen

However, with physical flashcards, you must rely on discipline to repeat certain words. Digital flashcards based on algorithms speed up the process of repetition. And digital flashcards can be way more practical when you have many of them. Unless you’re planning on taking a shoebox filled with flashcards on your daily commute. But be honest, would you really? 

Last but not least, digital flashcards don’t consume paper, making them an environmentally friendly option. Taalhammer is one of the tools that implements a full-fledged spaced repetition algorithm, which is arguably the most powerful technique to improve your brain’s ability to recall what you study.

Pro Tip: Add in images

If you’re looking for a quick hack, combine your Dutch vocabulary flashcards with images. We briefly mentioned adding a personal touch; remember the bright blue bike? Time to get creative – learning a new language should be fun!

To memorise the answers even more quickly, exaggerate the image to make unusual connections. You’re guaranteed to remember an elephant riding a bike much faster than a nondescript bicycle!

It’s also a great way to memorise the more abstract Dutch words, such as plezier (fun). We’re visual learners, so giving visual meaning to the words will help you remember your flashcards faster. 

In Taalhammer you can create your own flashcards with easy using our AI editor.

Start with the basics

Rather than getting ahead of yourself trying to learn the most difficult grammar rules, it’s always a good idea to start at the very beginning. Knowing the basics will boost your confidence and help ease you into speaking Dutch. 

Hello, bye, and thanks

Saying hello, good morning, goodbye, or thanks in Dutch is an easy way to kickstart the process of learning Dutch. It will help you to get used to speaking Dutch in everyday life. Additionally, Dutch people appreciate it when you are making an effort to greet them in their native language, even when it’s the only thing you can say.

See youTot ziens
Good morningGoedemorgen
Good afternoonGoedemiddag
Good eveningGoedenavond
You’re welcome.Graag gedaan

Introducing yourself

Most conversations start with introducing yourself. We’ve put together a short Dutch vocabulary list with simple sentences to introduce yourself. 

I’m Peter.Ik ben Peter.
My name is Mary. Mijn naam is Mary.
I speak a little bit of Dutch.Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands.
I want to speak Dutch.Ik wil Nederlands spreken.
I work here.Ik werk hier.
I don’t work here.Ik werk niet hier.
I live in the Netherlands.Ik woon in Nederland.
I don’t live in Amsterdam.Ik woon niet in Amsterdam.
I’m from England.Ik kom uit Engeland.

Dutch nouns for beginners

After knowing how to give a smashing introduction in Dutch, you might want to spruce up your vocabulary with some basic nouns. Wondering which ones you should learn? That’s totally up to you!  

Essential Dutch words you need to know when you are a beginner depend greatly on who you are, where you work, and what your hobbies and interests are. You’ll expand your Dutch language vocabulary much more quickly when you learn words and phrases that you’ll use daily, rather than using the 1000 most common Dutch words. 

If you love cycling, you might like to learn some basic Dutch words related to fietsen (cycling), like fietspad (cycling path), fietsband (bicycle tyre), or fietspomp (bicycle pump). When you work in a Dutch office, it’s helpful to know what kantoor (office) means, where your bureau (desk) is, and who your collega’s (colleagues) are. And when you are a foodie you might like to know what bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) are, or spruitjes (Brussels sprouts). Using flashcards with images is an excellent way to memorise all of these Dutch nouns.

The Taalhammer app very much focuses on learning the content that is applicable to your life. You use its editor to easily add your own words and sentences and add these to your learning. Every time you create something it also automatically adds audio and pronunciation, the so-called International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You can also search within a database of millions of example sentences and use the built-in automatic translation.

Man on snowboard looking at a mountain.

Listen to Dutch (and repeat!)

You could remember all the Dutch words in existence, but if you can’t pronounce them correctly, it will get you nowhere. The fastest way to improve your Dutch pronunciation is by listening to Dutch. 

Important side note: you shouldn’t solely listen to other people speak Dutch, but to yourself as well. Dutch has a significant number of vowel sounds and diphthongs. You might find the Dutch pronunciation tricky initially, but practise them from the start and you’ll notice how quickly you’ll improve.

Here are some tips to improve your Dutch pronunciation quickly:

  • Practise reading aloud, for example, words that only differ by the vowel sounds. Think of: beek, bek, kaas, kas, bos, boos, guur, geur.
  • Watch Dutch YouTube videos with subtitles in Dutch, or Dutch television.
  • Listen to Dutch podcasts or Dutch radio.
  • Install a read-aloud extension to convert a Dutch website content into audio.
  • Ask Dutch people to correct your pronunciation.

Online resources

If you thought the only way to listen to Dutch is a trip to the Netherlands or a Dutch friend, think again! There are countless ways to listen to Dutch without being the awkward bystander. With this list, you’ll have a wealth of resources you can fall back on. All you need is an internet connection and you’re good to go. 

  • Watch Dutch YouTube videos. You can watch Dutch language tutorials, but you can also follow Dutch vloggers: these are the 20 most famous Dutch vloggers
  • Watch Dutch television online
  • Check out Dutch news channels. Nu.nl is a free news portal. You can also subscribe to Dutch newspapers like volkskrant.nl, telegraaf.nl, or ad.nl. The Jeugdjournaal is a news channel for children, which means they’ll use easier language. 
  • Follow Dutch social media channels on Instagram, like thebestsocialmedianl with funny social media news or the news parody account De Speld
  • Listen to Dutch podcasts, Dutch radio, or Dutch music on Spotify.
  • Go to oefenen.nl for basic Dutch language exercises. These are free exercises, but you have to register to get access and the website is in Dutch.
  • Use Taalhammer to quickly build your Dutch vocabulary, work on Dutch pronunciation, and build confidence to speak. It allows you to shape your learning experience by adding your own content. It uses full sentence practice, which is the most efficient way to build speaking reflexes and acquire grammar without learning grammatical rules. Its content has been carefully crafted by linguists for super-easy acquisition.
  • Install a read-aloud extension that will convert the content on Dutch websites into audio to practice your Dutch pronunciation.
  • Subscribe online to the Dutch dictionary Van Dale, where you can search words and listen to their pronunciation effortlessly. 

Learn Dutch sentences

Another way to expand your Dutch vocabulary is by memorising basic Dutch phrases. Think of basic questions, negotiations, and affirmations. This is considered by experts to be the best way to learn a language in general. For every new word that you learn, you should learn a few short sentences that show how to use these words in context. If you create those example sentences yourself, you increase the chance of remembering them by 60%. The Taalhammer app is one of the tools that can support you in this.

Besides the common Dutch phrases we mentioned earlier to greet and introduce yourself, we’ve selected some additional phrases and questions. Don’t worry; these fit perfectly into a Dutch vocabulary for beginners. See them as your survival kit during your first conversations in Dutch.

Actually, learning using full sentences is one of the most effective way to learn a language. You can read about it in this article.

Basic Dutch questions

Who are you?* Wie ben jij? (informal) 
* Wie bent u? (formal singular and plural)
* Wie zijn jullie? (plural informal)
Are you Dutch?* Ben jij Nederlands? (informal)
* Bent u Nederlands? (formal singular and plural)
* Zijn jullie Nederlands? (plural informal)
Where do you live?* Waar woon je? (informal)
* Waar woont u? (formal singular and plural)
* Waar wonen jullie? (plural informal)
Where do you work?* Waar werk je? (informal)
* Waar werkt u? (formal singular and plural)
* Waar werken jullie? (plural informal)
Where does he/she work?* Waar werkt hij/zij?
Where is the supermarket?* Waar is de supermarkt?
Where is the station?* Waar is het station?
Do you speak Dutch?* Spreek je Nederlands? (informal)
* Spreekt u Nederlands? (formal singular and plural)
* Spreken jullie Nederlands? (plural informal)
Can you speak slower?* Kun je langzamer spreken? (informal)
* Kunt u langzamer spreken? (formal)
Can you help me?* Kun je mij helpen? (informal)
* Kunt u mij helpen? (formal singular and plural)
* Kunnen jullie mij helpen? (plural informal)
Do you have a car?* Heb je een auto? (informal)
* Heeft u een auto? (formal singular and plural)
* Hebben jullie een auto? (plural informal)

Basic Dutch phrases

Yes, I speak a tiny bit of Dutch.Ja, ik spreek een heel klein beetje Nederlands.
I live here.Ik woon hier.
We live in Amsterdam.Wij wonen in Amsterdam.
I am learning Dutch.Ik leer Nederlands.
Nice to meet you.* Leuk om je te ontmoeten. (informal)
* Aangenaam kennis te maken. (formal)
I want to learn Dutch.Ik wil Nederlands leren.
I have a car.Ik heb een auto.
They have a bike.Zij hebben een fiets.

Basic Dutch negotiations 

I don’t understand.Ik begrijp het niet.
They don’t speak Dutch.Zij spreken geen Nederlands.
She is not Dutch.Zij is niet Nederlands.
I don’t have a bike.Ik heb geen fiets.
I don’t live here.Ik woon hier niet.

The most successful way to learn Dutch

The fastest way to make progress when expanding your Dutch vocabulary (which is the case for any language) is by memorising sentences. Instead of trying to remember long lists of random words, learn basic Dutch phrases instead. 

This is also how you train in the language with Taalhammer. Its Core Collections have been crafted by linguists and language experts using artificial intelligence. As a result, you don’t learn just a random list of sentences! You learn the most frequent words and language structures, in a way that speeds up retention and helps you respond in real conversations.

To make our case, we’ll go over three reasons why learning sentences is the most successful way to learn a new language:

  1. Your brain will memorise Dutch vocabulary better

Your brain prefers the structure of sentences over individual words to memorise things. This has to do with our love for stories. A sentence closely resembles a tiny story, making it much easier to memorise. 

  1. You don’t have to know Dutch grammar rules to speak 

Our brains are wired for simplicity. Therefore, learning a lot of nouns and applying grammar rules while simultaneously trying to speak feels like rocket science. The human brain is notoriously inefficient in applying grammar while speaking. 

Sure, you should use grammatical rules as references. But by learning sentences, you’ll learn the structure of the language first, setting you up for success. 

  1. It keeps you motivated while learning Dutch

It’s a common myth that you need motivation to start something; it’s actually the other way around. Once you start learning a new language and things go well, you’ll feel motivated to continue. By learning sentences, you’ll kickstart the process, giving you a confidence boost and a surge in motivation. 

Repetition is key

We’ve gone over multiple ways to expand your Dutch vocabulary and explained why learning sentences is the most successful way. But there is one vital piece of information missing. 

The crucial importance of repeating. 

The world is flooded with online and offline resources that help us learn a language. This overload of language content can easily cloud your judgement, making it challenging to filter out valuable parts that actually work. 

What happens next is awful yet inevitable. You’ll feel demotivated and frustrated, and you’ll lack discipline to do what really matters: repeat. 

The only way to become proficient in a language is by repetition. This isn’t any different when it comes to learning sentences. You could kickstart your learning process by memorising 20 sentences in a single day, but if you fail to repeat them, you’ll forget them in the blink of an eye. If you want to memorize a lot you can make use of the Spaced Repetition Algorithm!

Taalhammer – Language learning that works

One way to combine learning sentences with repetition is through our app. Allow us to introduce ourselves: we’re Taalhammer! We have mentioned some useful tricks and features, but Taalhammer combines them all for the most efficient learning experience. We offer you curated content and an editor to add your own examples, and we support it all by using listening and a smart repetition system to stimulate your memory even further.

In case you haven’t noticed yet: we’re true language fanatics. We have discovered the best way to learn a new language through thousands of tests and conveniently implemented our findings in a single app so that you can learn from anywhere. 

Our comprehensive app is focused on expanding your vocabulary by learning in an efficient, hassle-free way. We like to call it “Language learning that works”. 


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