Almost 23 million people have Dutch as their native language. Dutch is the seventh language in the European Union . It is the language of the Netherlands and Flanders where Flemish is spoken (the northern part of Belgium).
Some would say that Flemish is a separate language and not a Southern Dutch dialect, but that is a controversial subject.
The Dutch is also the official language of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. It is a Germanic language and thus similar to other Germanic languages, such as German, English, Danish or Swedish.
The Dutch spelling is not so difficult compared to other languages. The spelling the conjugation of regular verbs is based on a number of basic rules. If you know the rules, you can conjugate any Dutch verb. There are also irregular verbs, which you must memorize.
When learning Dutch words, you have to remember these three articles: the indefinite article ‘een‘ (‘a‘ and ‘an‘ in English), and the definite articles ‘de‘ (‘the‘) and ‘het‘ (also ‘the‘).
The most difficult of the Dutch language is the word order. There are some guidelines that will help you make sense out of it. However, the best way to learn is by reading a lot of Dutch texts and listen to Dutch speakers.
Another stumbling block when learning Dutch is pronunciation. The difficulty of this depends on your native language. For example, the gutural g for which the Dutch are known is much easier for Spaniards and Arabs, than for English or Japanese speakers.
However, most people often find the vowels the most difficult. Here are some lessons on pronunciation.
Whatever you do, remember that the best way to learn Dutch is through practice. Connect with Dutch speakers, listen to audio books and (internet) radio, or watch Dutch and Flemish TV shows. You can even read or watch kids’ books and shows to get to know the basics.