Sprechen sie Deutsch? (Do you speak German?) This is a common phrase a foreigner in Germany will be asked.
Dutch and German are both fascinating and unique languages. Dutch, predominantly spoken in the Netherlands and the northern part of Belgium, borrows most of its vocabulary from the German language.
However, the two have unique aspects that set them apart. Though sharing vocabulary, Dutch grammar differs from German.
For instance, Dutch has two genders: common and neuter. In contrast, German has three: masculine, feminine, and neuter. In terms of popularity, German is a common language in Europe and worldwide.
Since it’s the official language in Germany and Austria, more than 130 million people can effortlessly communicate in German.
Which is then better to learn? As an English speaker, it can be challenging to decide between learning either language.
So, if you are torn between learning German or Dutch, this article will help end your dilemma.
Which is easier to learn, German or Dutch?
Although Dutch and German are two closely related languages, it is easier to learn Dutch. This language resembles English’s grammar better than the German language.
Dutch recognizes only two genders versus German with three. It is less challenging for an English speaker to grasp the Dutch common and neuter genders correctly.
Further, Dutch pronunciation and syntax more closely match English than German does.
Reaching German fluency may take 30% more time and effort. Linguistically, Dutch resembles English more than any other language.
Here’s a fun fact: You know plenty of Dutch words as an English speaker. Water, dune, and warm words mean the same thing in Dutch.
Other have near similar spelling making it easy to comprehend. For instance, kat (cat) and straat (street).
Unlike the German language, Dutch has no case system. As an English speaker, it is challenging to understand and correctly apply des, dem, etc., and you will often be grammatically incorrect.
Conversely, with Dutch, you do not have to worry about any case system, similar to English.
Which is better to learn?
Both Dutch and German are fascinating languages to learn. However, the German language edges out Dutch in its overall relevance and practicality.
First, German boasts more speakers than Dutch in Europe and globally. In Europe, native German speakers are approximately 100 million (more than 13% of Europeans).
The figure is higher than English European natives, whose number is less than 65 million. However, these figures only account for native speakers.
Dutch, in comparison, has about 17 million native speakers. As an economic powerhouse in Europe, Germany can be an ideal place to start a business or find employment. As such, it is more logical to learn German than Dutch.
English is widespread in Europe, and it is easy to find multi-lingual people. However, there are more English speakers in the Netherlands than in Germany.
More than 90% of Dutch citizens can comfortably speak English. In Holland, it is way easier to find people that converse in English better than you will Dutch.
Being excellent English speakers, Dutch citizens often switch to English if they detect you are having trouble speaking Dutch.
In contrast, only 56% of Germans speak English fluently. It will be challenging if you visit Germany without knowledge of their language.
Even people in a higher professional setting may be unable or unwilling to converse in English. Therefore, it makes more sense to learn German as you will use the language more than Dutch.
Is Dutch the hardest language to learn?
Despite what you may think, Dutch is pretty easy to learn. However, it has some challenging aspects.
First, pronunciation can prove difficult due to unfamiliarity with some consonants like ng, nk, and others.
Also, some words can be very challenging to articulate correctly. Consider the following words vogelverschrikker (scarecrow), vliegtuig (airplane) and gelijkwaardig (equal).
Also, word order in Dutch can be confusing. The language pays very close attention to word order, and any misalignment can change the entire meaning.
Despite these challenging aspects, Dutch is simpler to learn for an English speaker than other languages.
If you contemplate, Dutch has complicated grammar and pronunciation; the German language, for instance, is more complicated.
Dutch with two genders makes learning easier compared to German with three genders. Also, Dutch borrows plenty of vocabulary from the English language.
This shared trait ensures that you already know some Dutch words. Here are a few: manager, bar, editor, and sorry. Another aspect that makes Dutch easier to learn is the shared similarity in the alphabet.
In context, for a native English speaker, the most difficult languages to learn are Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.
How long will it take to learn Dutch?
It depends. Your situation is different from that of everyone. How long it takes depends on multiple factors such as your ability to understand, experience with language, the time you spend learning, and the medium of learning and practice. There are several CERF levels of competency; here are a few of them:
- A2 –can hold conversations
- B1 – can converse more fluently, describe events
- C1- professionally fluent
Professional Dutch working proficiency would take an English speaker about 575 hours or 23 weeks. It takes about 200 hours to progress through the CERF levels.
The key to learning fast is consistency, practice, and, more importantly, patience with yourself.
How long will it take to learn German?
It is considerably more difficult to learn German compared to Dutch. As with learning any language, there is no definite time to learn German.
On average, it would take an English speaker 750 hours or 30 weeks to reach professional working proficiency.
German has more complicated grammar and vocabulary; thus, it would take longer to learn the language than Dutch.
Learning and eloquently speaking a foreign language can be fun and thrilling. Both Dutch and German offer exciting opportunities and unique challenges.
So, the answer to which language is better to learn is subjective. In short, German should be the choice if you want a language that offers more opportunities.
The language boasts more speakers in Europe and globally. Also, it may seem redundant to learn Dutch if most of their natives are excellent English speakers.
However, if you are seeking a language that is easy to comprehend, Dutch is an easier language to learn.