Dutch Phrases: Essentials for Any Traveller

dutch phrasesWelkom! If you’re planning a trip to the Netherlands, or you are headed that way on business or for any other purpose, you probably have a lot of questions concerning the language. As an English speaker, you’ll find that it is not that difficult to get around the Netherlands, even if you are not fluent in Dutch – after all, over 80% of the population is at least conversational, if not fluent, in English. However, you will still find it easier to greet people, get the things that you need, and get where you need to go if you know at least the basic Dutch phrases. And the Dutch will broaden their smiles and welcoming manner even further if you do.

Learning any foreign language can be a challenge, which is why it can be a great idea to check out the many language learning courses on Udemy. Though it takes a lot of practice to be able to learn any language fluently, just learning some of the fundamentals will help you to be polite and respectful when vising the Netherlands. Memorize these basic phrases and you can easily master the conversational basics you need to get around in the country.

Before Getting Started

Before you go out and begin to learn Dutch phrases, there is one thing that you need to know. Unlike English, Dutch has both formal and informal variations of many of its words and phrases. When you are addressing another individual, you must carefully choose which of the types of phrasing – formal or informal – that you use in addressing them.

Most travelers to the Netherlands will find that they are using the formal versions of phrasing with most people that they speak to. Informal phrasing is generally reserved for close friends and family members, although informal phrasing may also be used to speak to children.

Another thing to be aware of as you learn some Dutch vocabulary and phrases is to beware of false cognates. Cognates in the world of language indicate that two words in two different languages mean the same thing, with very little variation in the way that they look or are pronounced. An example of this would be the word “Computer” in English and the word “Computadora” in Spanish.

A false cognate indicates that two words look similar, but actually mean very different things. So be careful – if your new Dutch friend says they need “slapen”, help them find a cozy chair or a bed. They’re not looking to be slapped – just for a little bit of sleep.

Basic Greetings and Expressions

It’s likely that the very first thing you want to learn how to do is to greet people in Dutch. From saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to being able to speak politely with others by saying please, thank you, excuse me, and anything else when needed, these phrases are essential to not only learn, but to master before you even set foot in the Netherlands on a vacation or a business trip.

  • Hello! Hallo!
  • Hi! Hoi!
  • How are you? Hoe gaat het?
  • I’m fine, thank you. Alles goed, dank je. And You? En met jou?
  • What’s your name? Wat is je naam? Or Wat is uw naam? (formal)
  • My name is… Mijn naam is…
  • Good morning! Goedemorgen!
  • Good afternoon! Goedemiddag! 
  • Good evening! Goedenavond! 
  • What time is it? Hoe laat is het?
  • Bye!  Dag!
  • Please? Alsjeblieft? Alstublieft (Formal)
  • Thanks! Bedankt! Dank je wel (informal) and Dank u wel (formal)
  • Excuse me. Pardon
  • I am sorry! Neem me niet kwalijk or Sorry!
  • Do you speak English? Spreekt u Engels?

Conversational Phrases

Once you have the hang of some of the basics, and are feeling comfortable with being able to greet people, you may need to learn some of the phrases that will help you to communicate with native Dutch speakers. You’ll want to be able to ask some basic questions to help ensure that you are able to understand what other people are saying, and that others are able to understand you. The most important for many native English speakers, of course, being “Do you speak English?”, but you should not stop there when it comes to learning phrases. There are many that can help you to not only get around in the Netherlands, but potentially learn even more about the language and to increase your own fluency.

  • Can you help me? Kan je me helpen? Or Kunt u mij helpen? (formal).
  • I understand. Ik begrijp het.
  • I don’t understand. Ik begrijp het njet.
  • How do you say […] in Dutch? Hoe zeg je […] in het Nederlands? (informal) Hoe zegt u […] in het Nederlands (formal)
  • Please say that again. Kunt u dat herhalen alstublieft. (formal)
  • Please speak more slowly. Kunt u wat langzamer praten, alstublieft. (formal)
  • Please write it down. Zou u dat voor mij willen opschrijven, alstublieft? (formal)

Emergency Phrases

Though we would all like to avoid emergencies and emergency situations, they can occur at any time – even while you are on vacation, or in a foreign country on business. Therefore, it is important for you to have a solid assortment of emergency phrases memorized just in case. Whether you need to contact a doctor, get to the hospital, or have experienced a problem such as a theft, these phrases can help you if you end up in a tight spot.

  • Help! Help!
  • I’m lost. Ik ben de weg kwijt.
  • Get the police! Bel de politie!
  • There’s been an accident. Er is een ongeluk gebeurd.
  • I’ve been attacked. Ik ben overvallen.
  • Fire! Brand!
  • I am ill! Ik ben ziek!
  • Get a doctor! Haal een dokter!
  • Where is the hospital? Waar is het ziekenhuis?
  • Please leave me alone. Laat me alleen alstublieft.

 Other Helpful Phrases and Words to Know

You may be surprised by some of the words and phrases that you run across while you are in the Netherlands. In addition to the basics, there are many others that will be helpful for you to know, whether they allow you to fit in better on a trip to the local pub, or whether they allow you to better understand the locals as you spend time with your new Dutch friends. Check some of these out, memorize them, and put them to good use as your enjoy your time in the country.

  • Good luck! Veel geluk!
  • Happy Birthday! Gelukkige verjaardag!
  • Congratulations! Gefeliciteerd!
  • I love you! Ik hou van jou.
  • I need to practice my Dutch. Ik moet mijn Nederlands oefenen.
  • My Dutch is bad. Mijn Nederlands is slecht.

Those are just the basics, and there is plenty more that you can do to learn the language and really start speaking like a native. One of the most important things you can do is boost your Dutch vocabulary, so consider taking an Udemy course to help you memorize any language’s vocabulary. You may also consider taking a course that can walk you through the basics of foreign language learning, which will help you learn faster, retain more of what you learn, and do so even on a budget.

But of course, the best thing that you can do if you would like to learn more is to head to the Learn Dutch Online course on Udemy, which will guide you from the basics and all the way through the more complex aspects of the language. From there you can get the head start that you need to excel at the language and to become fluent enough to converse in Dutch with old friends and new.