I’m looking for a word that would fit in the sentence it was a very learnful experience: i.e., I learned a lot during that experience.

Learnful feels correct to me, but the dictionary disagrees. It’s possible I’'m incorrectly assuming there is an English equivalent to the Dutch word leerzaam, but I can’t imagine there is no word to convey such a meaning.

Google Translate suggests instructive or informative, but those seem to either mean providing ways of doing things or factual information. What I want it to mean is more abstract, including things like skills and insights and overall growth in competency.

Interestingly, I do now think that the Dutch word leerzaam might not be translatable to English after all; so if someone (Dutch) has some thoughts on this, it might be of interest, since the languages are so similar.

I’m trying to think of a nice counterexample, but the best I can come up with now is this:

Although it was a setback that my roof collapsed, it was an educational experience, and I would never start a home improvement project without proper preparation again.

That does sound pretty awkward in English, right?

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    Response to edit 2: no, that actually sounds perfectly natural. People say things like that all the time. Commented May 27, 2015 at 12:30
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    According to Wiktionary, in "leerzam", the "-zaam" suffix shares an origin with the English suffix "-some", as in "fearsome", while "leer" shares its origin with the English word "lore". So the pieces do both exist in English, as does the concept, but the specific word doesn't seem to. Commented May 27, 2015 at 15:30
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    a learning experience suits you example sentence perfectly.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 19:13
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    @Mari-LouA 868? That's nothing. Even "logorrhea" has 11,500 results. I've never encountered the word "learningful" until your comment. Commented May 27, 2015 at 23:37
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    That example sounds fine. I would expect people to say it a bit more concisely: "Although it was a setback when my roof collapsed, it was educational, and I'll never start a home improvement project without properly preparing again."
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:07

9 Answers 9


Your original sentence "It was a very learnful experience" would normally be phrased "The experience was very educational" or "It was a very instructive/informative experience"

Educate, inform, instruct, teach, have similar meanings and can be substituted for leerzaam when translating to English. Instructive is likely the one that best fits your intention. The context of the sentence would clarify what was learned.

Leerzaam in English would be educational, informative, instructive.

Instructief and informatief in fact are given as Dutch synonyms for leerzaam

As so often happens, the word does not have an exact counterpart in English, but rather a short list of words with similar meanings that cover various specific uses of the word being translated.

  • +1 for the "The experience was very educational", because changing the sentence structure is actually quite a good idea in general when you stuck on finding the correct translation, which I really didn't think of. Commented May 28, 2015 at 17:26
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    "insightful" too, depending where on the scale 'learnful' was intended to fall.
    – OJFord
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 22:00

The term instructive can be used in the sentence:

  • Conveying knowledge or information; enlightening.(AHD)

or educational:

  • Serving to educate; instructive: an educational film.(AHD)
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    Due to the questioner's comment, "What I want it to mean is more abstract, including things like skills and insights and overall growth in competency," I was going to submit enlightening, but here you already have enlightening in the definition for instructive. Commented May 27, 2015 at 18:14

It was a very edifying experience.

Edifying: adjective Providing moral or intellectual instruction


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    I think 'edifying' is much more strongly associated with moral instruction than it is with intellectual instruction. But that's just my $0.02.
    – Hal
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 11:49
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    Edifying is spot on. As a native of the UK, I would use it in exactly the context given: "It was an edifying experience"
    – Phil H
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 7:19

It's simple, but also a good fit for what you're trying to convey:


providing knowledge; instructive or informative

Source: Dictionary.com - British Dictionary

"Informative" could also work:


giving information; instructive

Source: Dictionary.com


It was a learning experience seems idiomatic

Google books


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    No. A "learning experience" is one in which you have made a mistake and grasped its significance. Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:46
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    @WinnieNicklaus: It's used in that sense a lot, but not exclusively. See top results here. Anyway, I appreciate you having the decency and balls to explain your downvote. Wish more people were like that
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 17:55
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    +1 @WinnieNicklaus I agree that a learning experience usually involves mistakes. How does that make this not correct?
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:03
  • Based on the OP's phrase "things like skills and insights and overall growth in competency", the question seemed more directed to moments of deliberate instruction. The example in edit #2, however (which I missed at first reading), does point to learning from a mistake, and in that case I agree that "learning experience" is most idiomatic. Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:09
  • @TusharRaj +1 my distinguished UK colleague, a perfect english man and who wrote many times in Don's Diary (The Times) used this expression ("a learning experience") to describe an improvement of skills and insights and overall growth in competency, so I like it ! Commented May 28, 2015 at 21:33

While Josh61 already mentioned it in the definition of "instructive" (and Digital Chris refrained from posting it as an answer), I think


best fits all the use cases you described, especially the gain of greater insight even from negative input.


  • I think "enlightening" is an excellent suggestion. Most of the other suggestions (e.g., "educational") tend to emphasize knowledge being transmitted. "Enlightening" puts the emphasis as (I perceive) it was in the original, on the receipt of the knowledge. Commented May 29, 2015 at 3:00

Valuable. If the experience taught you something, or several things, it was a very valuable experience.

It was a valuable experience. I learned x, y, and z.

  • An educational experience would probably be valuable, but valuable is too vague to express the desired meaning.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 1:04

Eye-opener - M-W

Something that shows or teaches you something in a surprising way.

Ex: Living in another country can be a real eye-opener.

Cambridge dictionary defines eye-opener as

Something that surprises you and teaches you new facts about life, people, etc


“It was a real learning experience.” - “real” here is not used to mean “factual”, but as an intensive, as in “That soup is real hot.”

  • @MilesRout: Simmer down, amigo. I learned from Shakespeare, who taught us that there aren't any two words that can't be placed next to one another. Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:13
  • @MilesRout: “how English works” sounds pretty descriptivist to me. Anyway, if you’re done dealing from the bottom of the deck, I’ll be happy to have the community decide which of us has pinned the tail on the donkey. Commented May 24, 2016 at 14:41

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