Improve Your Dutch, One Day at a Time
Learning vocabulary in a foreign language can often seem like an insurmountable challenge and a time-consuming one at that. Memorising long lists of words in isolation might seem like a fast, effective way to boost one’s vocabulary but most language learners and educators would agree that the best way to learn new words or expressions is to learn them in context and in manageable chunks.
And Dutch is no exception. Knowledge of English, German, and/or French may give you a slight head-start when it comes to mastering Dutch vocabulary but you will still need to put in some considerable time and effort if you want to communicate effectively in het Nederlands. So take things stapje voor stapje (“one step at a time”) and check out these free “word a day” resources!
Created by Arno Verweij in 2009, Het Woord van Vandaag (“Today’s Word”) is a website and mailing list that provides daily bite-size vocabulary lessons to English speakers who wish to improve their Dutch.
Pros: Each entry includes an audio file and syllable breakdown to aid pronunciation, English translations, lexical information, and two or three sample sentences (often drawn from national magazines and newspapers) showing the new word or expression in context. Vocabulary can be sorted alphabetically or chronologically or even by year, month, topic, or lexical category.
Cons: There are no translations for the sample sentences, which means this resource will be of limited use to those who don’t already have a decent command of the language.
Run by self-styled “Dutch guru” Sander Oudkerk, the Dutch Word of the Day blog focuses on teaching language and cultural oddities that aren’t typically covered in most formal language courses.
Pros: The articles don’t just cover matters of vocabulary and grammar; they are also packed with information about Dutch culture, history, and social customs.
Cons: There are very few audio clips available to aid pronunciation and the site hasn’t been updated since July 2016. That said, the site’s archives stretch back to 2006, so there is years’ worth of material for language learners to peruse and work with.
Innovative Language Learning, LLC, has fifteen years’ experience of creating authentic language learning content and although much of it is locked behind paywalls, their free content is nothing to be sniffed at. Take, for example, their “word of the day” tool, which is ideal for beginners and post-beginners alike.
Pros: The layout is simple, effective, and easy to navigate and each entry makes ample use of imagery, audio files and sample sentences to aid retention.
Cons: The words and sentences used are fairly basic so this resource may not be extremely useful for those who are well past the post-beginner’s stage.
Of course, if you’d like to speed up the process, you could always browse through the sites’ archives and study several words per day. Just try to limit yourself to learning no more than new ten words a day to improve retention and avoid burnout. And if you’re looking for an educational, yet entertaining podcast to boost your Dutch listening comprehension, check out my review of Say It in Dutch (Zeg het in het Nederlands).
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