- Practice Making the “TH” Sound
This is one of the most difficult problems for native Dutch speakers trying to improve their English. You’re so used to making the D sound that it’s ingrained in your mind and speech mechanics.
Think about how you pronounce “Den Hague” and how we say “THE Hague.” It’s two quite different sounds. Practice putting your tongue to the bottom of your two front teeth and feeling the vibration as you make the “th—” sound. It’s going to feel funny for a while, but trust me, it’s worth it!
Try using this tongue twister to help get you started:
Thirty-three thousand thirsty thoroughbreds thought the thigh-high threaded needle was through.
*Say that sentence slowly and work on your muscle memory.
2. Get Comfortable Using Contractions
When’s the last time you heard a native English speaker say “I am going to go to Albert Heijn after work.” Probably not nearly as recently as you’ve heard someone say “I’m going to go….”
It’s a bad idea to get in the habit of using contractions in academic or technical writing (i.e. the IELTS or Cambridge tests), but in common speech, most native English speakers rely heavily on the use of contractions. Remember the most useful and get comfortable using them.
I am = I’m
You will = You’ll
You are = You’re
I cannot = I can’t
Will not = Won’t
Would not = Wouldn’t
I would = I’d
3. Stop Translating
I’ll keep this one short and sweet because you all know what I’m talking about, but staying in the habit of translating words from English back to Dutch for too long will only delay your progress in becoming a better English speaker.
One less obvious reason for this is the sheer amount of words in the English language. There are over a million
words in the English language, and that number increases every year. Because of that, there are many words and expressions that don’t exist in Dutch. On top of that, it takes longer for your brain to recall the meanings of words if it’s drawing them up through translation rather than context.
4. Reading is Great, Speaking is Better
Reading does wonders to improve your vocabulary, but speaking is what takes physical practice to improve. By speaking the words that you know you are improving your English through muscle memory, while also helping to increase your vocabulary by forcing you to recall words.
If you can’t find someone to speak with at least a couple of times a week, try this wacky tip: When you’ve just finished up a conversation and you are alone, or perhaps you’ve had a very long and deep thought; try repeating the whole conversation out loud in English. It will allow you to take a real-world conversation you just had in Dutch and be able to express the exact same real-world scenario in English.
5. Listen to AudioBooks or Podcasts
My book consumption shot through the roof when I started listening to audiobooks from Audible.com. Starting at 15 euros a month you can get a membership to audible and download one audiobook a month. You can then listen to these books in the car or on the train, at the gym, or even at home cooking or cleaning. Listening to an audiobook not only gives you the benefit of increasing your vocabulary just like reading a book would, but it also allows you to hear how the words are pronounced and their tones.
If you don’t want to pay the 15 euros, there are many other free options to help you learn English
such as Podcasts in iTunes, and free podcast apps like Stitcher, Overcast, and Soundcloud.
There you have it, my top 5 tips for Dutch speakers to start sounding better in your English speaking. Let us know if you have any questions by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care and good luck with your English!