Al doende leert men

you learn as you go along, one lives and learns, experience is the best teacher 
[Dutch phrase of the week]
[al doen-de leert men]

AlDoendeLeertMen Literally ‘al doende leert men’ translates as ‘while (busy) doing one learns’. In general you can use a similar construction when describing an activity that takes place during another, e.g. ‘al lopende telefoneerde hij’, however it is not very common and more often you will see ‘hij telefoneerde lopend’ (‘he phoned (/ was using his phone) while walking’).

– “Mijn laptop is gecrasht en nu ben ik al mijn bestanden kwijt!” – “Je moet ook altijd een backup maken!” – “Ik weet het 🙁 Ach, al doende leert men!” 
(“My laptop crashed and now I have lost all my files!” – “Well, you must always make a backup!” – “I know 🙁 Oh well, you learn as you go along…” Note that ‘gecrasht’ is the Dutch equivalent of the English past participle ‘crashed’. Often you will see ‘gecrashed’, but that’s incorrect; even when a verb is of foreign origin, its conjugation is done as if the verb was Dutch.)

– “Ik heb het helemaal verkeerd aangepakt met Antoinette, ik had naar haar moeten luisteren in plaats van haar te veroordelen. Nu wil ze me niet meer zien…” – “Tja, al doende leert men jongen, volgende keer moet je het anders doen.” 
(“I went about it completely the wrong way with Antoinette, I should have listened to her instead of condemning her. Now she doesn’t want to see me again…” – “You learn as you go along man, next time you have to do it differently.”)

– “Ik was te laat voor mijn sollicitatiegesprek doordat de trein vertraging had. Ik had gewoon een trein eerder moeten nemen. Al doende leert men, zal ik maar zeggen, maar het is mooi balen.” 
(“I was late for my job interview because the train was delayed. I should have taken one train earlier. I guess it’s a matter of learning from your mistakes, but this really sucks.”)

– “Al doende leert men, dus ik ga niet nog een keer de weg op in een sneeuwstorm.” 
(“Experience is the best teacher, so next time there is a snow storm, no way I’m going on the road.”)

Related words:
– Ervaring: experience [noun] [de ervaring, de ervaringen].
– Leren: to learn [verb] [leerde, geleerd].

– “Ik heb veel geleerd van deze moeilijke periode in mijn leven.”
(“I have learned a lot from this tough period in my life.”)

– Doen: to do [verb] [deed, gedaan].

4 thoughts on “Al doende leert men

  1. “Mijn laptop is gecrasht en nu ben ik al mijn bestanden kwijt!” – “Je moet ook altijd een backup maken!”
    A bit off-topic, but for anyone who is worried, or has suffered from this disaster (as I have!) I found this free, private, reliable and secure online backup that may help fellow DWOTDers.
    It’s saved my bacon a few times.
    Sounds like an advert, but it is free and I find it really useful. Works with your mobile devices too 🙂

  2. I would offer “one lives and learns” as a translation of today’s phrase.
    How common is the phrase in Dutch? I don’t remember coming across it, but that could be just because I didn’t recognise it and haven’t, therefore, remembered it.

  3. Hi Alastair, I will add the translation, thanks.
    I don’t expect that you will hear ‘al doende leert men’ very often, but I come across it every once in a while. The situation has to call for it, so if you only hang out with highly effective people, you may not hear it 😉
    For the reasons above I put it in the category ‘Intermediate’.

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