Trying to write in the recipient's native language

I recently received an address from someone in the Netherlands. I have been learning Dutch off and on through Duolingo for about 4 years now.

I started the card in Dutch, then switched to English. Dutch is a tricky language where sometimes it follows the English word order and sometimes it sends verbs to the end of the sentence.

I started off on firm ground, with Hoi and the person’s name. Then I said by that I’m learning Dutch but I’m not very good at it yet.

That simple sentence was nearly enough to give me a headache so I switched to English for the rest. I’m sure i mangled the spelling and grammar.

If it were in French (my minor in college) or Esperanto I could have completed the card in the language.

With Esperanto there answer is easy. We’re always so happy to meet a fellow language nerd, all mistakes are immediately forgiven.

With French it’s a bit trickier. When I was in Paris, often i would say something to someone and get an eye roll and they would switch to English. But big cities are big cities and I would hate for finding to judge the level of politeness of all Americans because they ran into some people who were less than polite in NYC 30 years ago.

So is it best to attempt using the native language of the recipient or should I just stick to English?


I think it’s always admirable to try to learn new languages but I’d think about using short phrases in other languages, rather than the entire card, no expects you to write in their language, especially if you’ve never done it before.

And Postcrossing has made English the official language of the site as well.

I use hello & goodbye or good day in other languages a lot on my cards as those are things available to me readily - the hellos are on the main Postcrossing website in the upper right hand corner or in the wiki below.

There is this dictionary that has been put together by Postcrossers over time that might be useful to you. There are 46 languages so far.


I can tell you from my Spanish postcard experience: I speak it just a bit and can understand much more than I can really say, so I often use an online translator and then try to gather all my knowledge to write a card. (with simple sentences, simple tenses :smiley: ) So far everyone was really friendly and most recipients of my cards were happy that I even tried to go out of my way to write in their language, even if it wasn’t perfect.
When I’m on the other side and someone writes to me in German as their second or third language, I always express how great I find it and that I don’t mind mistakes at all. We all know German is hard and I’m so happy about everyone who even tries. :heart:


I agree with what was said here. No one expects you to go out of your way to write in their native language. I find it amazing that you are trying to learn Dutch! I only learnt it because I wanted to move out here, but otherwise wouldn’t do it just for fun. It is so difficult!

In any case, if writing a whole card gives you a headache, which I can very well imagine, don’t ask so much of yourself. Just a sentence for practice is good enough and hopefully the recipient commends you on your effort.

If you want to practice a line or 2 with me in Dutch or in French, I am happy to write to you :slight_smile:


Dear @KentuckyDave,
I like it when someone writes in Dutch /uses the Dutch language when he/she sends me a card.
Often the person writes that he/she wants to learn the language or is following or has attended a language course.
I like it and I really appreciate that they took the time to write the text in another language.


I usually try some words like hello or stay safe in recipient’s language.I always met with positive feedback :innocent:


I am bit more on the uncommon side, and I prefer to have Postcrossing completely in English, but if somebody likes to try their skills and write to me in another language I am not gonna take their joy away. It has been even interesting to see sometimes which language people assume I can understand. I really dislike google translate and the free language learning apps so I do feel bit disappointed if people list those as their only ways of learning (or if the text was clearly just run through google without second thought), but what comes to actual grammar, wording or other mistakes I couldn’t care a less. The best way to learn is to make mistakes and then awkwardly realize two years later what you have done.

I prefer English myself because it is a neutral language for me, a common ground as lingua franca, and I am a language teacher so I don’t really want to bring the job to the hobby. I have made exceptions now and then with some profiles I felt really inspiring and had language related request, but generally I write my cards on in English.


Sometimes I try to write in the recipient’s langauge, especially if their profile mentions they don’t know much English.
I think it’s fun to learn languages, and a postcard message is short enough that it doesn’t take that much time to translate.
It doesn’t matter if your spelling or grammar is a little off, especially if you’re writing to a native speaker they will probably still understand what you’re trying to say.

I’ve listed all languages I know (even if I know just a little) on my profile in case someone wants to write in one of those, and sometimes people do :slight_smile:


As a native German speaker I have received quite a lot of postcards in German from people with another mother tongue. Mostly Dutch or Finnish people, sometimes Polish or other people too.
I would never request that someone wrote to me in German but I’m always pleasantly surprised, when they do! :smiley:
Their knowledge of the German language is always fantastic! Of course some are better than others and nearly all make little mistakes, but it’s just so charming :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:
And I never had a problem to understand their message.

So for me: if you have knowledge of another language and like using it, just do it! :blush:


Think it also depends on what tool/s you’re using @kentuckydave I’ve found some really useful phrases in googling " Omniglot (dutch or whatever language here) phrases "

They’re using complete and accurate (from what I can tell for the languages I do know simple conversation in) for conversation phrases like “My name is…” or “I’m from…”

Or my personal favourites “I don’t understand…” or “I don’t speak…” and “Do you speak…” !

Might be worth checking what you’re trying to say against something like that before you write your phrases out. End of the day I’d think most people will be happy you’re making an effort because from what I can tell not many do.

I have Dutch listed on my profile, weirdly I actually find it much easier to speak and listen too, than read or write it.

My father lived and worked in the Netherlands for nearly a decade before returning to UK, and taught me broken Dutch as a secret language to communicate when talking in front of mum.
Although it’s more of a Anglo-Frisan to a West Frisian dialect which I think is that bridge between English, Dutch and German.
(someone please correct me if I am wrong)

As for postcrossing, I have received about half of my Netherlands and Belgium postcards in Dutch and have to admit that I use Google Translate, which I now realise isn’t the best tool.
But I do value postcards written fully or partially in another language.

Because of the Pandemic I think my language skills have suffered.


Don’t worry about making mistakes when writing/speaking in Dutch. Dutch people are always so happy to see/hear you try to write/speak Dutch, that they really don’t care about mistakes. I lived 10 years in Netherlands and was never condemned for language mistakes.


I can write some German French and Dutch,so if I have time I would like to write some easy sentences (as I can only write away sentences :joy::joy:)on the cards!


Welcome to my entire language-learning experience. :joy:


Most people writing to you are not writing in their native language. Are you offended by mistakes they make? What I found about British people is, that they usually always say: Wow your English is great. As for Americans they are usually fascinated by the foreign accent (Ok, hard to hear on a postcard).

I think people in general respect the effort someone took to acutally write in their native language. As for English-speaking people this might be “normal” that everyone can cummunicate in their language it is absolutely not for others and threfore I think even more appreciated.

I write postcards in Dutch and Spanish as foreign languages and I usually don’t mind as much about what poeple might think. They see the card comes from another country so they can’t expect it to be perfect. I don’t if I get a card written in German from a non-German-speaking country. Also I think: My Dutch or Spanisch is probably better than that persons German (the one I am writing to).

I find you can only realy learn a language when acutally speaking (or in this case) writing it. And we should not be afraid to do so. We learn from mistakes and that is a good thing :slight_smile:

I get, that writing in another language is difficult especially when we are not so good. With Dutch my problem is to acutally form a sentence and to spell the words correctly (I can read and understand almost everything but speaking/writing is a challenge for me). With Spanish it is often the lack of vocabulary and the grammer. So I get help from Deepl :slight_smile:
Anyway - at some poing I am sure I won’t need that help anymore because with every card we write in a foreign language we improve :slight_smile:

Long story short: Just go for it :slight_smile:


When I started as a postcrosser, writing an entire postcard in English gave me a headache. Writing and reading Postcrossing postcards, as well as making mistakes (and realizing two years later) have helped me to improve.

English is the official language of Postcrossing, but it is the native language of only a little part of postcrossers. So, most postcrossings make an effort to write in a foreign language. Why not to try others? I am sure most the recipients appreciate it and don’t mind the learners’ mistakes.

So far, I have got postcards written in English (of course), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Greek. I love the chance of improving they suppose for me. And I would not mind someone from the other part of the world trying to write in my native language!


I actually actively use postcrossing as language practice. I write 99% of my cards to Russian speakers in Russian. If I don’t feel like it, I admit I force myself a little to avoid taking the easy way and using English. I usually get good feedback (not that I ask, and of course not everybody will mention it). Once I was corrected on my use of punctuation which I found funny, all my efforts to be correct but apparently those wrongly placed commas really stood out. I learnt something new!

I have the same attitude towards French but I very rarely get to send to France.

In German I might write a sentence or two but usually not.

I don’t mind incorrect language, I appreciate the effort, but I’m a bit puzzled when people attempt phrases that are way above their ability, and I’m also not a fan of online translators. I use them to check if my sentence seems correct but I often don’t trust their version because I know pretty much what I want and what is wrong.

I’m sure I’ve failed spectacularly sometimes, but as language learning is pretty natural to me (as a way of life), even if I don’t do much of it lately, it’s just very much part of the experience of connecting with people around the world.

Oh, and English is not my first language anyway :sweat_smile:


:joy::joy::joy::joy::joy::joy::joy: I’ve seen a lot and I do mean a LOT of native English speakers who have zero clue how to use commas let alone other punctuation.

What gets me is when they correct other people and yet THEY ARE WRONG!

So all I’m saying is that hey you’re miles ahead of a lot of native English speakers. Being open minded, accepting corrections (that may or not be correct) and happy to learn other languages is a BIG deal. So congratulations to you.

Ps I have a dictionary and use it often. One parent who didn’t speak English as a first language has always had one handy because that is how you learn. And yes, there’s even a grammar book and other Oxford English texts in that part of the house. Of course there are also books I can’t read well because they’re in languages I don’t know…

As a sender I am always happy to get Finnish addressees, because I can practice Finnish. The same with Hebrew, but that’s too rare.
As a receiver I appreciate it when Russian learners write in Russian. I know my language is not easy to learn and I don’t mind mistakes.

Once I received a postcard written partly in Chuvash language that I study myself. The sender used internet to do it. I was over the moon and proudly showed it to my teacher and classmates.

I always get excited when I get a profile that offers me an opportunity NOT to write in English or German.
I sometimes spend an hour or more on a postcard in Finnish, with my grammar book, dictionary and an online translator for when my dictionary fails (it’s only a small one). I’m always proud when I make it farther than “hello I am … from …”. Though I always hope the recipient will understand what I ment to say… :sweat_smile: Anyway, some weeks ago I wouldn’t have dared telling more than basics in Finnish - I get more confident now that I practice more often.
I use a dictionary for French and Spanish and I even once wrote a postcard in French to a German, because she stated in her profile that she likes postcards written in French.
I don’t care for any mistakes people make when writing in German as their foreign language. Why should I? I think it’s great if they choose to make the effort. Even though I’m that kind of person who always forgets to appreciate that in the hurray-message.
I only found it weird when, for no specific reason but maybe really generic postcard texts, I received a postcard from a German user written in English.