Determine whether you should learn French or Dutch in this detailed language guide.
There’s no doubt about it—having bilingual skills is a benefit in all areas of life. It can advance your career, help you speak confidently with new people, and enhance your world travels.
Plus, it helps keep your brain in top-notch shape. It can be difficult to choose which language you want to learn, though. If you’re going back and forth trying to decide between learning French or Dutch, this article should give you some clarity.
Similarities Between Dutch and French Languages
Both French and Dutch are spoken in Belgium, so if you’re going to be moving to or traveling in this region, then learning either of these languages is a smart choice.
In Brussels, Belgium’s capital, these two languages are spoken at an almost equal level, so you can be confident that if you know either, someone will be able to communicate with you.
French and Dutch both use Indo-European letters, too, so if you know how to read any other language that uses a variation of the traditional English alphabet, then you’ll be off to a good start with either language.
Of course, both Dutch and French have a few different letters and blends, but you’ll know the basic sounds enough to give you a good start (as opposed to Asian or Aramaic languages that use characters or script, respectively).
Differences Between French and Dutch Languages
Although both of these languages are spoken almost equally in Brussels and in varying degrees throughout Belgium and the rest of Europe, they’re quite different in origin.
French is one of the many Romance languages, taking its roots from Latin. It is very similar to Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. If your tongue, lips, and throat are already used to these sounds and accents, then French will be pretty easy.
Dutch is Germanic, on the other hand, so its sounds and letter combinations have more of a deep, throaty sound rather than the flowing-off-the-tongue sound heard in French.
It’s very similar to English and shares a lot of the same vocabulary, with almost a third of the language being borrowed from English, German, Hebrew, and—surprisingly!—French.
Which Language Is Easier To Learn: French or Dutch?
The answer to this often depends on what linguistic foundations you have. If English was your first language, then Dutch is going to be pretty easy to pick up, since they’re so closely related.
If you took German in primary school and grew up speaking English, then you’ve got a great foothold for learning Dutch. Plus, Dutch speakers are fairly casual about their grammar and pronunciation, so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes.
However, this might make it difficult to “perfect” your Dutch, if even the native speakers don’t mind speaking it imperfectly.
If you grew up fluently speaking Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese, then French might be more of a breeze. Or, if one of these three languages was your high school foreign language choice, then French shouldn’t be too bad to learn.
Why You Should Learn French Rather Than Dutch
If you’re familiar with other Romance languages and want to pick up another one that is similar (if you’re looking for something easier rather than a challenge) then French might be the language for you.
Or, if you’re already fluent in plenty of other types of languages and want to delve into something new, then French is a fun first Romance language to try.
French is also more common throughout the world. Over 300 million people speak French, including 88 countries that claim a significant portion of French-speaking people.
After learning English as a second language, most people learn French. It’s the fifth most widely spoken language across the globe. For this reason, it’s taught in schools in every single country. The only other language that can claim this is English.
French is a language that’s incredibly beneficial if you plan on traveling, educating yourself in areas such as cooking, fashion, arts, or architecture, or trying to get an international job one day. It’s highly likely that in any of these areas, French will give you a leg up.
Why You Should Learn Dutch Rather Than French
Since Dutch is a Germanic language, it’ll be easier to learn if you know other Germanic dialects, such as German or even English. The sounds and letters will make more sense. In fact, Dutch is one of the closest linguistic relatives to English.
If you don’t know any Germanic languages yet (besides English) and feel up to taking on a brand new one to broaden your linguistic horizons, then that’s another good reason to learn Dutch.
Dutch is also very closely related to Afrikaans since Afrikaans was brought to Namibia and South Africa by Dutch farmers. Therefore, if you learn Dutch, you’ll also be able to pick up Afrikaans with almost no extra effort.
Although Dutch isn’t one of the most common languages that people learn, as it isn’t spoken as widely as other common languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, or French, there are still plenty of reasons it’s a good choice, depending on your goals.
For example, if you plan on spending a lot of time in the Netherlands or other Flemish countries, then Dutch is the new language for you, as it will deeply connect you to the culture and traditions of these people and this area of the world.
In the end, the best language for you to learn depends on your language background and your future goals. Are you looking for a challenge or an easy new language to add to your toolbox? Where will you be traveling or working and with whom will you be communicating?
Both French and Dutch are beneficial languages and can be easy to learn for English speakers for varying reasons. Pick the one you’re most excited about and jump in with both feet!
For English-speakers with no background in either language, Dutch will be easier to learn than French. Because Dutch has Germanic roots, like English, it will come easier to English speakers. That said, if you have background in a romance language (like Spanish or Italian), French may actually be easier to learn.
Whether to learn French or Dutch totally depends on your language background and your future goals. Think about where you will be traveling the most and spending your time, and who you will interact with. Let usage guide your choice.