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A Guide to Dutch Listening Practice: Essential Tips and Resources

Moving to the Netherlands during my formative years, I remember just how different everything felt. I was captivated by the sweeping, open countryside and the canals that carved out the landscape. More than that, however, I remember turning on the TV for the first time and seeing familiar cartoons speaking in a language that was so different from anything I was accustomed to. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, when I sat in front of the screen and tried to muddle my way through the programming, I was actively practicing my Dutch listening skills.

It proved to be the grounds from which a foundational knowledge of Dutch would grow and eventually become my second language. Immersing myself in the sounds of the language as early as I did, and with such consistency, is a big part of the reason why I picked up Dutch so quickly.

Surrounding yourself with as much spoken Dutch media as you can will only help you in the long run. It will strengthen your vocabulary and give you a sense of how words are used in everyday conversation. It will also help you become acquainted with the unique cadence and flow of the language.

In addition to that, using lots of different listening resources will help you to learn the difference between conversational and formal Dutch. It will help you to recognize and understand the varying accents and help you to gain confidence with Dutch as it’s spoken in everyday conversation, which is often much faster than anything you’ll have encountered previously. In the end, the more fluent you are in understanding spoken Dutch, the easier it will be to engage in Dutch conversation.

Building Consistent Dutch Listening Practice Habits That Work For You

When it comes to improving fluency in spoken Dutch, I believe that consistent, regular practice is key. Building it into your routine, especially in ways you enjoy, will prove to be an invaluable part of your study.

Use Interesting Material

Finding media you enjoy is just as important, if not more important, than finding media that is “appropriate” for your study level. With the internet, finding resources that fit your particular tastes and interests is much easier than it’s ever been before.

Although it’s helpful to incorporate cartoons and children’s media when you first start learning, there’s no point in muscling through old cartoons if they bore you to tears. Alternatively, there’s no point in listening to shows that comment on recent events if you’d rather be watching a cooking show. No matter your level, it’s better to work with media you find genuinely fascinating and driven to engage with. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to learn with media that’s more advanced if it gives you the motivation to keep listening.


Once you’ve collected a few resources that you like, try to listen to them as often as possible. When I moved to the Netherlands, I made a habit of watching Dutch TV every afternoon after school. Even half an hour each day can make a huge difference in comprehension.

Where busy schedules make it difficult to carve out even half an hour, it can be helpful to listen to the radio, podcasts, or music. Turning on a playlist while you work may not count as active listening but it puts you in a place where you can easily take a break for five minutes to read along with the lyrics as the song plays. On a similar note, listening to a radio show or a podcast during your drive home from work can help to fill the time and make it more productive.

It can be helpful to look over your schedule and take note of any opportunities you can use to incorporate Dutch listening practice into your everyday life. It could be listening while you do chores or walk the dog. In the end, studying in small bursts daily is better than studying for hours occasionally.

Take Notes

Where you can, if you recognize a new word that you don’t understand, try to write it down. Contextual cues might give you an idea of what it means, but writing it down to look up later will be hugely beneficial for growing your vocabulary.

Use Flashcards

As part of my study, whenever I encounter new words, I like to add them to flashcards. Physical index cards, especially small packs on a ring, can be an excellent tool for learning on the go. Alternatively, for those looking for a digital solution, I’d recommend AnkiApp.

Turn on Subtitles

When listening to new media, especially when it’s a bit challenging, I often utilize subtitles. Where the language is being spoken too quickly or covers a subject matter I’m unfamiliar with, Dutch subtitles offer that little bit of extra support to help me work through the study session. It helps me pinpoint new vocabulary I might not be familiar with and can also help me with spelling and grammar.

If you’re watching on YouTube, you also have the option to slow the video down by clicking the cog icon at the bottom right side of the video. Spotify also has a lyrics section which can be useful when using music in your study.

Having said that, unless you are very new to the language, I would only recommend Dutch subtitles. English subtitles were invaluable when I first started, as they helped me grasp the gist of what was being said. However, translated subtitles are often flawed, and there are times when they fail to capture the nuance or humor of what is being said.

Just recently, I watched a Dutch documentary where the subtitles regularly missed words and, in one instance, skipped an entire sentence. Although it wasn’t vital to the overall narrative, leaning too much on English subtitles could potentially lead to problems during your studies.

Materials for Dutch Listening Practice

With the availability of the internet, gaining access to Dutch resources is easier than it’s ever been before. I’ve listed a few recommendations below.

TV Shows

Finding a good TV show to get invested in can make a huge difference when it comes to your Dutch listening practice. If you’re just starting, I would highly recommend trying cartoons. As they are intended for younger audiences, the language is spoken more slowly and the vocabulary is simplified.

I’d personally recommend Alfred J Kwak, Lucky Luke, and Kuifje (Tintin) for classic Dutch cartoons. Alternatively, searching on YouTube for a popular cartoon you enjoy with “Nederlandse” at the end should bring back options.

For something a bit more advanced, I’d recommend the following:

  • NPO – NPO Start is an online streaming service that offers a wide range of options. With programming that ranges from documentaries to dramas, there’s plenty to choose from.
  • De Avondshow met Arjen Lubach – One of my personal favorites, The Evening Show with Arjen Lubach offers a fast-paced, satirical look at current events.
  • Dit Was Het Nieuws – In a similar vein to De Avondshow met Arjen Lubach, Dit Was Het Nieuws is another show that takes a satirical look at current events.
  • Boos – This popular show on Youtube offers a less formal tone of journalism. It covers incidents where people have been scammed or wronged and looks into acquiring justice.
  • Undercover – Available on Netflix, this Flemish crime drama tells a story about the drug industry in Noord Brabant.


Although it’s a little trickier to get hold of Dutch films outside of the Netherlands, searching for “Dutch movies” on Amazon Prime and Netflix will offer a few options.

If you live in the Netherlands, your options will be much better. Larger libraries will sometimes offer films to rent, while cinemas will run the latest Dutch films. You will also have better access to the NPO online catalog.

Netflix is another good option to consider. If you live in the Netherlands, you will automatically have access to their Dutch library. Alternatively, if you have a VPN service that can mask your location, changing it to the Netherlands will give you access to the full Dutch catalogue.


If a good book is more to your taste, then audiobooks might prove to be an excellent resource for your Dutch listening practice. Searching for “luisterboeken” on YouTube or Spotify will offer plenty of free options. Alternatively, you can also try the following websites:

  • Luisterrijk – With a wide selection of book options, Luisterrijk also has an app available for download on iOS and Android devices. Payment options include PayPal and Apple Pay, making it an accessible option for anyone outside the Netherlands.
  • online Bibliotheek – If you’re living in the Netherlands, this is another fantastic resource. Membership will give you access to a wide range of ebooks and audiobooks, with the ability to loan up to ten books every three weeks. The online Bibliotheek also has an app available on Android.

When it comes to audiobooks, keep in mind that the intended age of the reader will be a good indicator of difficulty. For those just starting, I’d recommend children’s books as a good place to start. Intermediate learners might benefit from Young Adult novels, while advanced learners will likely do well with adult and non-fiction works.


In addition to all of the above, I’d recommend trying Dutch music. Once you find a musician you like, it’s easy enough to pop their music on in the background while doing something else. Spotify’s lyric feature will also allow you to follow along, picking up on new vocabulary and phrases as you go.

To begin with, I’d recommend the following playlist, provided by Learn Dutch with Kim. It compiles a selection of popular Dutch music from recent years and provides a great introduction to Dutch music in general.

Apps for Dutch Listening Practice

Using apps to improve your Dutch practice is another fantastic option. There are plenty of apps available that help to gamify your learning experience.


Duolingo is a brilliant option for anyone just starting their Dutch studies. With colorful illustrations and animations, each lesson gives you the chance to practice a mix of vocabulary, writing, and listening skills. However, although I recommend this for beginners, it becomes less useful as you move toward intermediate and advanced levels. Although it remains a good supplement, it does nothing to help you gain fluency when listening to conversational Dutch. Sentences continue to be spoken slowly, regardless of your level in the app, and many of the sentences would feel a bit unnatural if used in actual conversation.


Clozemaster is another fantastic option to supplement your studies. With study options that allow you to focus on either vocabulary or listening skills, it offers a much more targeted study experience. Each study session also offers the option of multiple-choice or text input when answering, allowing you to further tailor the experience to your skill level.


Babbel is another good resource for your Dutch listening practice. It offers a comprehensive study plan, with each lesson designed to improve vocabulary, listening fluency, and grammar. Beyond the lessons, the app also offers daily reviews for any area you want to focus on, which includes speaking and listening. It also offers games, audio lessons, and podcasts to further bolster your practice.

Final Thoughts: Blijf Oefenen!

If nothing else, just remember to keep practicing. Maintaining a consistent habit of ten minutes each day is better than half an hour once a week. The more you surround yourself with the Dutch spoken language, the more familiar it will feel and the less daunting it will become once you start engaging in Dutch conversation.

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