I am an expat. Are there any government subsidised Dutch language courses available?
Municipalities sometimes offer free Dutch classes. They can also refer you to subsidised classes. If you know already some Dutch and want to improve it, you can also find a volunteer to help you. Your municipality can inform you about the possibilities.
You can find the costs for the inburgering exams on https://www.inburgeren.nl/en/paying-for-integration/index.jsp. These costs are in addition to the costs for general Dutch lessons and the inburgering course. It should be noted that there is no standard fee for attending inburgering courses to pass the examinations. You are advised to check with your chosen school to determine how much they will charge.
Depending on the size of your annual income, it may be possible for you to take out a loan from the Education Executive Agency – DUO (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs). There is a maximum value of €10,000 that you may be entitled to borrow over a three-year period. However, the amount that you can borrow will depend on how much money you earn. The more money you earn, the less money you can borrow. As per anyone earning more than €63,768.77 (in 2017) will not be eligible for a loan from DUO. DUO will pay upfront for the costs of your training and taking the final examinations. You will then be required to pay back the money owed in monthly installments at a 0% interest rate.
For further information about the conditions and the application form visit the government’s website at Belastingdienst (Tax Office) website.
Is it important to learn Dutch? I am in doubt as to whether I should learn Dutch as everyone here seems to speak English.
If you are planning to stay in the Netherlands for several years, it is advised that you consider learning Dutch. Although there are jobs advertised for non-Dutch speakers, increasingly more employers in the Netherlands are now looking for people who are competent in speaking Dutch as well as another language.
Learning at least some Dutch will help you to better manage your everyday life, e.g. going shopping, visiting places of interest, reading notices and understanding simply written Dutch communications, being able to converse with your neighbours and to communicate with Dutch native speakers who may “not speak English so well”. Most Dutch classes also introduce various aspects of Dutch life and culture into their content, which gives you the added benefit of gaining an insight into living in the Netherlands, by joining a language class you will most likely be with other newcomers, what better way to make friends than through bonding over some of the weirder pronunciations for Dutch words.
Learning the Dutch language to a more proficient level will provide the additional benefit of making it easier to integrate into Dutch society. You will find it easier to participate in Dutch sport/society clubs, understand the latest news and current events through the various media such as Dutch newspapers, TV, local radio and on social media. You will be able to read formal correspondence, e.g. letters sent by your utility suppliers, your bank or insurance company or from the local government. You should not set your language goal to be 100% proficient in six months. Think of learning Dutch as a gradual process of new words entering into your conversation This will give you a better idea of what is being said in the workplace amongst your Dutch colleagues or in the shops without feeling like an outsider.
What is the most effective way for me to learn Dutch? I am not a natural linguist, so I might find it hard to learn Dutch.
Whilst it should be remembered that every person’s learning style is different and that their personal circumstances may dictate how much time they can spend each week on learning Dutch, the general consensus of opinion is that the best way to improve quickly is by attending an intensive course of two or more lessons per week with additional homework.
It is important that you feel comfortable with your learning surroundings. Therefore, you may prefer to attend a course given in a classroom with other students, rather than having one-to-one tuition. Alternatively, you may wish to begin with some free online learning courses to gain confidence and hear accents, before you move to the classroom situation.
On www.studyinholland.nl/practical-matters/learn-dutch/hoi-holland you can find a selection of institutes that offer lessons to learn the basics of Dutch.
Once you have mastered the basics of the Dutch language and have gained confidence in speaking, you may wish to consider finding local Dutch people who would be willing to talk with you for practice. There are websites where you can search to find a native speaking Dutch person who is also interested in learning/practising English or your native language. Check Conversationexchange.com or Mylanguageexchange.com.
You should be aware that just because you have found someone who is willing to speak Dutch with you, it does not necessarily mean that they are a good teacher of the Dutch language. You may find you learn new words (slang) that can be very useful in day-to-day interactions but may not be grammatically correct.
It is not compulsory for me to learn Dutch but I would like to learn it. Can you suggest some good language institutes and learning centres for me?
There are many language schools in the Netherlands, offering everything from basic survival Dutch to courses that prepare you for proficiency exams.
There are several types of language institutes in the Netherlands:
- Private language schools (find a list of schools at Angloinfo.com)
- Language departments within privately-run schools for the expat community
- Dutch public universities (volksuniversiteiten)
- ROCs (Regionaal Opleidings Centrum)
Course levels range from A1 to C1/C2 and some providers also include specific courses which are tailored for certain professions. Some schools are accredited. You can use the ‘language-learning.net’ website to locate a Dutch language school near to you; it is limited to universities.
Who can attend classes at a volksuniversiteit?
Volksuniversiteiten (Dutch public universities) are open to everyone regardless of previous training, age or background. Courses are followed in groups in an informal atmosphere. Although the wide variety of courses offered at a volksuniversiteit (Dutch public university) are taught by expert teachers, they do not lead to a diploma or degree. There are about one hundred Dutch public universities, reaching about 200,000 students annually. All are autonomous, non-profit foundations. Some local governments have subsidised these schools with financial or material aid, so fees from school to school will vary. You can find schools near you at Volksuniversiteit.nl.
It should be noted that the courses offered by these public universities can sometimes be quite intensive. Therefore, students who have little or no experience in studying other languages before starting to learn Dutch may experience difficulty in keeping pace with the progression of the course.
Can I teach myself Dutch?
Dutch is not as difficult as it seems at first glance. Learning Dutch can even be fun if enough time is taken to understand the dynamics of the language and attempts are made to speak Dutch whenever possible.
If you do not want to commit yourself to attending a classroom-based Dutch course, you can always learn from home at your own pace. The internet has endless tools for learning languages, many of which are available free of charge. In the library you can find books and audios about learning Dutch. Watching TV is another good way to learn words and common phrases. Most language teachers recommend that you should start by watching children’s programmes, because they use simpler vocabulary and sentence construction. You can also turn on the Dutch subtitles on your television to gain a better understanding.
Is there any organisation that can help me practice my Dutch and help me feel at home?
The Netherlands Gilde (Guild) is an umbrella organisation of approximately 65 guilds. Gildes are voluntary associations whose members are 50 years and older. Members share professional or hobby knowledge, expertise and experience with others. Individuals, non-profit organisations and entrepreneurs have free use of their services. Gildes’ volunteers offer conversational practice opportunities to non-native Dutch speakers, or people trying to learn Dutch, providing that they are able to sustain a basic discussion which is the equivalent of Level A1 . Find more information at ‘gilde-nederland.nl’.
Alternatively, it may be possible to find a volunteer who is willing to help you practise your Dutch at a buurthuis (community centre). A community centre is normally run as a trust or stichting (foundation). These community centres are located throughout the Netherlands. Using Google, you should be able to locate your local community centre.
What are the different levels in the Dutch language?
In the Netherlands, the different levels for Dutch are the six levels from the Common European Framework Reference (CEFR). The levels are:
A1 and A2: basic user
B1 and B2: independent user
C1 and C2: proficient user
For a more detailed description of every level, please look at www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale