Practice speaking skills in Dutch: Why is it important to continue (or learn) to speak in Dutch?

Speaking skills consist of three main parts

  1. The pronunciation and the melody of sentences in Dutch.
  2. Grammar and vocabulary: Mastery of language rules.
  3. Knowledge of the world and communication: Speaking is directed toward others. It requires an understanding of the social role you play in Dutch culture.

Oral skills are needed to be busy in the Netherlands. Maybe (partly) at home, certainly at school, on the road, in a group, in a store, while playing sports, etc. Your child also lays the foundation for written language skills by learning and practicing speaking skills.

Practicing speaking skills

Challenges in practicing

  • Perfectionism
  • Quiet period
  • Need reducing
  • Shortage of immersion



Many people, and therefore children, want to be very sure of their language skills before applying them. This can cause the speaking component to start slowly or even not at all. In children, this can lead to a silent period. During this period, they hardly speak Dutch. This often shocks parents, while it ‘just’ takes time. For children, it is, of course, also quite difficult because language is what connects or will connect them socially.


Silent period

Did you know that it can take up to six months for children who don’t speak or hear Dutch at home to start speaking Dutch? It can take long to have enough Dutch language at their disposal. But also before they feel confident enough to say anything.

So, above all, give your child time. Don’t mention not speaking. Do not ask for an answer during social situations. In our experience, this only raises the threshold. Choose rather a moment one-on-one.

Support everything you say in Dutch with a book, picture, or gesture. Many gestures, for example, ‘eat’ and ‘drink’, depict an action. Those actions are depicted the same in most languages.

And, very importantly, reward all attempts at communication. A positive response does a lot.


Need reducing

If there is a reduced need to start speaking Dutch, children may not speak Dutch (anymore). This occurs frequently and also has a name, receptive multilingualism. Receptive multilingualism is a form of multilingualism in which, for example, a parent speaks to their child, who understands but speaks back in another language. This often happens when children attend a foreign-language school and build a social life in and around it. Usually abroad, but it also happens in Dutch when the child goes to an international school.

When your children are the age that you can have a (short) conversation with them, it is important that you explain the importance of Dutch for your family. Also, what they can all do with it in the future themselves and that it always brings the gift of multilingualism.

Read all about practical and receptive multilingualism here with tips on what to do if your child refuses to speak Dutch.

Lack of immersion is also one of the reasons a child does not speak (yet).

Opportunities to practice speaking skills in lessons

Opportunities to practice fluency in lessons: working on parts one, two, and three. A competent teacher like at Dutch for Children knows to be patient, not to push too much, and to elicit language best from the student’s environment.

Short role plays, humor, language games, and many other methods in the lessons help students become increasingly comfortable with the language and start speaking Dutch in a safe environment.

There are several advantages of private lessons to practice speaking skills. I list here the most important ones:

  • learning at a calm, appropriate pace
  • familiar, safe environment
  • no peer pressure
  • teachers are trained to challenge in addition to comfort

The disadvantages of private lessons to practice speaking are:

  • private lessons limit speaking to talking in pairs
  • no conversations with peers
  • limited immersion if this is the only time Dutch in the week

The lessons can be supplemented at home with reading, watching Dutch programs, doing speaking exercises from class, and talking to Dutch family/friends.

If you want to know more about speaking Dutch in our classes, email us, and we will contact you within two days.


Contact with Dutch family or friends


You work on part three of your speaking skills by establishing contact with Dutch family or friends. Different ways to do this are:

  • Video calling: prepared and unprepared. Preparation tips: together, think of a topic you would like to discuss, show something (room, a project they are working on, a craft they made, etc. Note: Do not force your child to keep ringing the bell when the conversation is finished or not going. Hook up or close, always in a pleasant way.
  • Writing in Dutch. Let your child (co-)write shopping lists, and write an occasional card with your child, such as a grandma or a niece. But, also consider small messages in a family app group or something similar.
  • In the Netherlands, together with your child, you can see what social groups he will join. For example, a Dutch sports club or a scouting group. This provides him with fun and an extra immersion in Dutch.
  • As a parent, try to contact other Dutch-speaking parents to make play dates with other (Dutch-speaking) children. For example, in the neighborhood you live in, through school, or through social media.


Speaking Dutch and vocabulary

You are working on part two by making vocabulary an active goal for your child. The best way to work on your child’s vocabulary is to (read aloud) Dutch books, magazines, texts, etc.

Reading aloud by Dutch-speaking parents, grandparents, teachers, or a reader via YouTube.
In the Netherlands, for non-Dutch-speaking parents, you have the Voorleesexpres. The VoorleesExpress targets children aged 2-8, and the DoorleesExpress targets children aged 8-12. Volunteers work with parents on reading and language.
A subscription to the (online) library: you can also take it on a trial basis.

If you want to know everything you can do for your child’s vocabulary, be sure to read this article.