Watching movies to learn Dutch – Why you should watch movies to learn Dutch

Can you learn a language through movies?

Just go to a Dutch high school and start speaking English to these youngsters, and you will get the answer. Yes!

One of the most important reasons Dutch people have developed their English listening and comprehension skills is the preponderance of English in movies and television shows. It gives us some advantages as well as some disadvantages, like the case of Darth Vader in Star Wars. His relation with the main character was obvious from the beginning (that is, from a Dutch point of view).

And like in literature, Dutch movies tell you something about Dutch life.

So how can you watch movies to learn Dutch?

Here there are the different options. First start with the easiest one.

  1. Dutch subtitles

It’s good to experience Dutch in a relaxed way. So you can watch an original version with Dutch subtitles. This is probably your favourite way of watching a “Dutch” movie. Subtitles are very useful here because they translate spoken language. This means that you hear and read realistic dialogue.

  1. English subtitles

You can, of course, watch Dutch movies!

So what about Dutch movies? In the Netherlands, there’s a saying

“It was pretty good…. for a Dutch movie”.

We are our own harshest critics. Although some Dutch directors have made it big, like Paul Verhoeven or actors like Rutger Hauer and Femke Janssen, if it’s from the Netherlands, expectations are generally pretty low.

However, there are some pretty good Dutch movies. In my next blog I will tell you all about them.

  1. Dubbed movies

Animation movies like Disney and children movies are the only movies that are dubbed with Dutch voices. Unlike in other countries like France and Spain, we are used to subtitles.

  1. Short movies

Dutch cinema has a long tradition of short movies. I even think that a lot of short movies are better than full length movies. An advantage of short movies is that, because it is no longer than 15 minutes, you get a very compact story. Your attention will be on the movie the whole time. Also, often it is a bit more outside the box and with themes you might not expect.

The most effective way of learning

To learn most effectively, watch a movie without subtitles.

Then write down words you don’t understand. The good thing about video, and especially nowadays, if there’s something you don’t understand, you can always rewind and try to listen to it again, which you can’t do speaking to an actual person.

On the second viewing look at the difficult words and even try to use a dictionary to check if it’s correct.

You can use the third viewing to watch the whole movie without pausing.

Of course I understand you can’t watch all movies like this. But if you have the time you can try to do this. You will see, it helps a lot!

So watching Dutch movies can greatly improve your Dutch. In my next blog I will give you my top 10 Dutch movies that you should watch.


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