6 Tips for improving pronunciation Dutch

In this blog I want to talk about one of the things that people who are learning Dutch struggle with: pronunciation.

Teachers from the Dutch Summer School get this question a lot:

Is my pronunciation good enough?


How can I improve my Dutch pronunciation?

In general, I can say, if you speak English or you have learned it as a second language there are some sounds that are difficult.

BUT IMPORTANTLY, in general, these aren’t obstacles to making the message understandable.

And yes, people from the Netherlands might hear that you’re not from the Netherlands. But isn’t that always the case?

Everyone who speaks Dutch has a certain accent. If you are born in the North of the Netherlands, people will hear this. If you are born in Den Haag, people hear this. If you are born in Paris. People will hear this.

Nevertheless, of course, I totally support you if you want to improve your pronunciation of Dutch.

Tips to help yourself. Here are my tips to improve pronunciation.       

  1. Listen to people who speak Dutch to improve your pronunciation.

This may sound a bit strange, but it’s really good to start by listening. A good way to do this is watching Dutch movies or television with Dutch subtitles. This way you can connect the sounds with the letters. This is also a good way to start because people in the movies don’t usually have a very strong accent.

If you live in the Netherlands, Dutch is pretty much everywhere. This makes it a lot easier, of course. But don’t get carried away and secretly listen to everyone. The Dutch are open to other people and cultures, but don’t get too creepy!

  1. Learn about the different sounds

Like I said in the introduction, in general most sounds are similar to English. The biggest difficulty you will have are the sounds that come from the back of your throat, the guttural sounds

The diphthongs, like eu, ij or ui are also known for being quite tricky to master. In this course you can learn all about the Dutch alphabet. You can find special videos about these diphthongs here

  1. Practice practice practice

And now comes the most interesting part. You’ve got to put the theory into practice. Pronunciation is one of those things you have to practise to improve. It’s one of the essential things we do at the summer school. If you do not live in the Netherlands, you can try to contact people online.

Tongue twisters might be a fun way of learning certain sounds.

  1. Break down words

It’s not only sounds and letters that can be quite difficult. Long words too, for example: verantwoordelijk (responsible). First, split this into parts: ver – ant – woor- de – lijk.

Then start from the back:

  • lijk
  • delijk
  • woordelijk
  • antwoordelijk
  • verantwoordelijk

In Dutch you can create words by joining nouns together, these words are called compound words. For example, studentenuitwisselingsprogramma (student exchange program). Just the same here, a way to learn how to pronounce this is to break these words into parts and start from the back. This word takes a while, but in the end, you are probably capable of pronouncing it in fluent Dutch!

  1. Listen to yourself

For people who don’t have an opportunity to speak with others, I have even heard about students who recorded themselves and listened back! With your smartphone that’s really simple.

This might sound like a strange thing to do, but it can be really helpful!

  1. Join the Dutch E-Summer School or Dutch E-Winter School

To enable Dutch learners to put the grammar and vocabulary into practice I started the Dutch Summer School. During the classes, that are now online, we look at all  aspects of Dutch, and pronunciation is one of them.

Good luck!

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School