A Crash Course in Dutch


Goedemorgen! Today I’m introducing you to the Dutch language, although I imagine you’ve already heard it around. With its characteristic ‘gr’ sound and propensity for long words (arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering, for example), Dutch is clearly a Germanic language. It may lack the melodiousness of the romance languages, and require some work to master the sounds, but there are many reasons to learn Dutch. 


Perhaps you can relate to my first day in Amsterdam. I went into Lidl full of confidence (call it Dutch courage) and cruised through to the checkout, ready to hit them with my finest Duolingo phrases. However, I was stopped in my tracks when the cashier asked me ‘wil u de bon?’. The bon?! The fight or flight instinct kicked in, my palms clammed up and all Dutch phrases went out of the window. I contemplated running out, but sheepishly announced that I was English and succumbed to the shame of monolingualism. 


If you experienced this too, do not fear. Read on and we’ll master the basics of spoken Dutch. It’s a common misconception that Dutch is only spoken in the Netherlands. In fact, the language has 23 million speakers across the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname and within some Caribbean islands.




What to say when you want to ask for something in a shop:

This conversation might start with the shopkeeper asking ‘kan ik u helpen?’ (Can I help you?). 

You can reply: ‘mag ik een…. Alsjeblieft?’


E.g. mag ik een kopje koffie alsjeblieft? if you want a cup of coffee.

This is Pronounced mag ik ain kop-ye koffie als-ye-blieft.


To upgrade the sentence even further, you could request oat milk instead of cow milk. To do this, you add ‘met havermelk’. 


Other things you might want to buy include een bier (beer), een broodje (a bread roll), or een ticket.


Ok… easy enough?! Next up you’re going to have to pay. 


How to ask to pay by card 


The cashier may ask you how you want to pay: Hoe zou u willen betalen?


Lets say you want to pay by card. You would say:

Mag ik pinnen?


If you want to pay in cash, you’d say:


mag ik contant betalen? (Betalen means pay).


If you’re asking a question, you must prepare for a reply. Hopefully, it will go smoothly and you can indeed pay by card. But if not, the shopkeeper may say “Nee, sorry, we accepteren alleen contant geld”.

If this is ok for you, you can say ‘dat is prima!” (that’s fine) or “geen problem” (no problem). Geen is a very useful word and is pronounced ‘heen’.


However, if this is a problem, you will need something to say. How about: 

‘ik heb alleen contant geld. Ik kom later terug.’ This means that you’ll come back later.


How to say you desperately want a bag and a receipt, thank you


Next up, you will probably be asked if you want a receipt:

Wil je de bon? 

But unlike me on my first day in Amsterdam, you will have a reply !

If you want the receipt, say, “ja, graag”

And if not, then “nee dank u”


The end is in sight. There is but one final hurdle. Do you want a bag?!

‘wil je een tas?’. If you read the last bit then you’re already equipped to reply! 


Talking about yourself (international student edition)


What is your name? (wat is jouw naam/ hoe heet je)

Any of these work: 


Mijn naam is….

Ik heet….

 Ik ben….


How old are you? (Hoe oud ben je?)


Ik ben …. jaar oud. 


 19= negenteen, 20= twentig, 21= eenentwintig 22= twee­ën­twintig


Where are you from? (waar kom je vandaan?)


Ik kom uit…. (pronounced ‘out’)


Spain= Spanje, Italy= Italië, England= Engeland, France= Frankrijk.


Oh, is that near Milan?

 oh, is dat in de buurt van Milaan?


No, it is the opposite side of the country.

 Nee, het is de andere kant van het land.


Where do you live? (Waar woon je?)

ik woon in amsterdam.


What do you study? (wat studeer jij?)

Ik studeer…..

Economie (economics), law (rechten), computertechnologie (computer science)


How long are you here for? (hoe lang ben je hier?)

Ik ben hier voor een semester/ een jaar


I like the bike lanes: ik hou van de fietspaden


I don’t like the weather: ik hou niet van het weer


I miss the food: ik mis het eten


One more word: lekker

I leave you with the most useful word, lekker. The uses of lekker are endless. It basically means tasty or good. Usually it’s applied to food, but it is also more widely used.


Example 1: it is tasty! 

Het is lekker.


Example 2: sleep well.

Slaap lekker.


Example 3: a good looking person 

Een lekkerding