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Do German speakers have an easier time learning Dutch?


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I speak German and English fluently, but I have always been interested in becoming fluent in Dutch. A lot of the words already seem understandable to me, since they are similar to German words. What do you think? I sometimes watch news broadcasts in Dutch just for fun, to see how much I can understand. Trying to listen and understand seems harder than trying to read Dutch, though!

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I'm a native Dutch speaker myself, so I'm perhaps not the best qualified person to answer this. However, my husband, who is a native English speaker, says he was indeed able to pick up Dutch  much quicker because he already had a good working knowledge of German. He wasn't fluent in German though.

The two languages have the same root, and a lot of vocabulary and grammar are indeed similar. So I would say that being fluent in German will give you a definitive advantage in learning Dutch.

The biggest issue people seem to have when learning Dutch is finding natives to practice with. Even though my husband speaks Dutch quite competently now, most people in The Netherlands insist on speaking English to him as soon as they hear his accent. But that is, perhaps, a discussion for another day.

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I don't know either of those languages, but I understand what you mean because I have the same experience with Japanese and Chinese. I speak fluent Chinese and because of that, I can understand Japanese (a little bit).

That's the interesting about language -- you don't really have to completely know a language to understand it. If you know a language that's kind of similar, then you'll more or less understand bits of the foreign language.

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Thank you for the responses, guys. It sounds like it should be possible for me to pick up Dutch, then... I can see how finding a native speaker to practice with would be pretty hard, though. I can hardly find other German speakers in America!  :wink:

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I'm a native speaker of German as well. I'm pretty sure it is a huge advantage when it comes to learning dutch. When I see a dutch text, I can understand quite a lot of things (and I do not have ANY knowledge of dutch at all). As someone else mentioned already, speaking is a "different pair of shoes". --> It is more difficult to understand spoken words. Still, it makes me smile when I hear some dutch words for the first time and sometimes I can immediately understand them (dutch sounds really funny to me).

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I do have some understanding of German, we had to learn it in high school, but not so much that I could have a decent conversation in German. However, I can read german texts and I can understand more or less what it's about. So that works the other way too.

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Weirdly enough, my linguistic professor had this dicussion in class today. He said something about people living in West (I think it was West) Germany having an advantange when learning Dutch.

So my question is... for those of you who know German and had an easy time learning Dutch, did you speak a dialect from West Germany? Or I guess what I'm trying to ask is -- do ALL German speakers have an easier time learning Dutch or only those who come from a specific region?

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That's actually really interesting to hear, Miya. My family and I were all born in West Germany. I was born in Southwest Germany, Baden-Wuerttemberg, to be specific. My father especially enjoys listening to Dutch news broadcasts. I think he was born in West Germany close to the border of the Netherlands.

I was always confused why it was easier to read Dutch than to understand it by hearing it spoken... Glad I'm not the only German speaker who feels that way!

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  • 5 weeks later...

Germans definitely have it easier when learning Dutch. Dutch is actually derived from German and is a Germanic language. My German friends in Holland only had to do a conversion course, not start from scratch. The hardest part apparently, is trying to block out your German so that you are not constantly using it instead of Dutch, as it is so similar, for instance using `ich`, instead of `ik`!

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Yeah, they do. I am Dutch myself and i've learned German on High School, and I noticed that the languages are almost identical. The only difference is the grammar, but the basics are really the same. Like 70% of the words are looking the same.

When I heard German when I was a kid, I could understand most of it. I know I learned it from Dutch to German, but I am sure it is as easy vice versa.

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  • 2 months later...

I believe it's true. I also have an easier time learning German (as a Dutch speaker) because a lot of words are similar. The only hard part for me in learning German is the grammar. The vocabulary has always been very easy and fun to learn.

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  • 1 month later...

I've always found it very hard to learn German. I'm a native Dutch speaker and I can understand a lot of German, but when actually trying to learn the language and speak it, I get stuck.

I always find myself 'Germanising' Dutch words to make myself understood :) The grammar is the hardest part though. Especially the German cases are confusing.

I always thought it was hard to learn German for Dutch speakers, as many things are similar, but actually aren't similar. So it gets very confusing. And I thought it was the same the other way around for German speakers trying to learn Dutch.

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  • 2 months later...

It's of my understanding that German speakers have it very easy when learning dutch, because many of the words that are used in dutch are also used in German.  The only huge difference is how differently most words are spelled in dutch, that can be confusing to German speakers, I believe.  The pronunciation of most words is very similar to the pronunciation in German tho.  So in that aspect I think German native speakers have it easier.

English speakers have it a bit less easier than Germans do tho.  But knowing English is definitely a an advantage. It's better than trying to learn dutch without knowing any word of English. My own boyfriend has said it several times.

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