Dutch is difficult for… the DUTCH – Typical mistakes Dutch people make speaking Dutch

Maybe you already know this, but learning Dutch is not a walk in the park. It’s a long and sometimes difficult and frustrating process.

One of the things that can be really difficult for people who are learning Dutch is making mistakes. And like I said before, this is part of the process!

But maybe this helps: Dutch people make a lot of mistakes themselves!

Not only in writing, with all the difficult grammar and spelling, but also in pronunciation, the Dutch are far from perfect!

Let’s see what the Dutch do wrong!

The Dutch pronounce some words wrongly

You might think this is strange, but for Dutch people, some Dutch words are really difficult to pronounce.

Some examples:                                       

  • Enige (the only one) is often pronounced as enigste
  • Avocado, is often pronounced as advocado, so with a D after the first a. This is wrong, it is pronounced a-vo-ca-do.
  • Espresso: many Dutch people think this is pronounced as expresso.

And then there are words in Dutch that are just difficult to pronounce because of the unusual order of letters.  For example,

meteorologisch (meteorological) is considered to be very difficult to pronounce.

Another one is defibrilleren (defibrillate).

If we look at the writing level of the Dutch, there are a lot of things to improve for the Dutch people. There are some notorious words, the best known are:

  • interessant (interesting)
  • professioneel (professional)
  • abonnee (subscriber)

Ask a Dutch colleague or a Dutch family member to spell these common words correctly. Chances are they will get it wrong!

Let’s look at some grammar mistakes Dutch people make.

Grammar mistakes made by Dutch people

Especially in the last couple of years people have started confusing ‘zij’ with ‘hun’. So if you are saying, ‘They have an important meeting’, increasingly often, Dutch people will say

‘Hun hebben een belangrijke meeting’ instead of ‘Zij hebben een belangrijke meeting’.

Dutch researchers say it’s quite possible that this will officially change in the future and zij as a subject will disappear.

Me fiets, me moeder

When you study Dutch, you will soon learn the possessive pronoun.

‘Ik praat met mijn broer.’

Due to Dutch laziness, or because it’s easier to pronounce, mijn is being increasingly replaced by me.

‘Ik praat met me broer’ 

You can compare this with jouw which can be je. And don’t forget, this is correct.

✅ Dat is je fiets

❌ Dat is me fiets

So, the second one is still considered completely wrong!

Ik irriteer me

Another part of Dutch grammar that you will encounter if you are studying Dutch at A1 / A2 level are reflexive pronouns.

As you may know, in Dutch there are a lot more verbs with reflexive pronouns compared to English. But sometimes Dutch people don’t know when to use them correctly.

A well known mistake is ‘Ik irriteer me’. Correct is: ‘Het irriteert me, dat…’

I have to admit, sometimes the rules are quite strange.

‘I realize’ can be said in two different ways in Dutch. One has a reflexive pronoun, the other one doesn’t.

  • Ik besef dat … (without a reflexive pronoun)
  • Ik realiseer me dat … (with a reflexive pronoun)

Groter dan / als

Another frequently made mistake. In general, students find the comparative in Dutch not the most difficult part. It’s not far from English. But Dutch people seem to find it difficult.

One of the most commonly made mistakes is to say ‘Ik ben groter als jij’ instead of ‘groter dan jij’.

Het team die…

Yes, the articles and all their effects in Dutch. Notoriously difficult when you are learning Dutch.

But Dutch people make mistakes with this as well. Not only when speaking. Because you don’t formulate a complete sentence in your head when you start speaking, you don’t know what word you are going to say.

But then, you have already said ‘de’ or ‘het’.

And of course, verbs!

For another mistake in writing, I saved the best for last. Dutch people make a lot, a lot, of mistakes when writing Dutch verbs. The main point is the d / t.

You might know ‘t kofschip or sexy ketchup. Well for the Dutch this is a very difficult part of the language, partly because you can’t hear the difference. You only see it in the spelling of the word.

It’s striking that the mistakes Dutch people make, are different from the mistakes you probably make. That is one reason they can hear you’re not originally from the Netherlands.

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