My efforts to learn Dutch
In a couple of months, all of the newly accepted students will begin their exciting journey to the Netherlands to study at Wageningen University. I can imagine then that a lot of you might be wondering if you need to learn Dutch when coming here.
Talking from my own experience, I didn’t know any Dutch when I first arrived in the Netherlands besides a couple of words like “Hallo”, “Doei” and “Dankjewel”. But to be honest, this was not a problem, since almost everyone can speak English really well.
Depending on where you do your research, you will find that Dutch is the third most widely spoken Germanic language after English and German. And besides the Netherlands and Belgium, it is also the native language of the majority of the people of Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. However, as you see, it is not a worldwide spoken language which makes the resources to learn Dutch before your arrival a little limited.
I am not going to lie to you, I have found learning Dutch very challenging since there are so many grammar rules, pronunciation and little exceptions to the rules that make it all so complicated. However, if you want to feel more connected to the culture of the country that will become your home for the next years, I would definitely recommend giving it a try! It would make you feel a bit more comfortable and after all, it is always a great experience to learn something new.
Study Dutch at Wageningen in’to Languages
Whether you are a complete beginner or if you already have some experience with the Dutch Language, Wageningen in’to Languages has different courses that will suit your needs. In my case, because I have already lived in the Netherlands for some years and have learned on my own and with other small courses, I took the course “Intermediate Dutch”. But as I mentioned, they have many options like “Social Dutch”, “Basic Dutch”, “Intermediate and Advanced Dutch” and intensive summer courses as well. And the good news is that for the levels “Social Dutch 1 and 2”, the student council at WUR has drawn a pilot plan to offer these courses for students for free. I suggest you check the website of Wageningen in’to Languages on a regular basis for any updates about this.
How did I experience my course?
I have to say that I really enjoy taking language classes so the experience for me was very positive. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, the classes had to take place online which is a shame because for me an important part of the learning process is to be able to interact in person with students and teachers. Even though my course was entirely done online, I learned a lot and I found that the teaching methods and the discussions we had in breakout rooms, were very useful to practice the language. We often had to do a lot of speaking exercises with the other students and prepare small presentations. All of those activities are a great way to boost your confidence and give you the push to dare to practice your Dutch skills with others.
As you know, Master’s programmes at WUR last for two years and Bachelor’s for three years. So, being in this beautiful country for these long periods is a perfect opportunity to learn to speak Dutch. I know you are probably going to be very busy with your studies, but if you also want to truly experience the Dutch culture and have some spare time, learning the local language is a great way to do it. You can also download some apps on your phone to practice, maybe do some volunteer work with Dutch people and listen to the local radio stations. Like that, you can get used to the sound of the words and even feel more integrated with the Dutch people and mindset.
I hope these tips are useful for you and remember that nearly everyone in the Netherlands can also speak Dutch so don’t be scared and just give it a chance!
There are 2 comments.
Dear Luisa, Thank you for an interesting blog post! Just like you, I have been a couple of years in the Netherlands now and my Dutch is ever improving, something that just like you write helps you getting to know the Dutch even better. I have another tip for international students interested in the Dutch language and culture: Join a student association!
Yes, there’s mainly Dutch members, but this makes it the perfect place to learn the language and get to experience the full (student) culture. When everyone around you speaks Dutch around you, your own Dutch skills develop at an incomparable pace. Also, it’s a great way to make friends and join amazing parties and events. If we take myself as an example: I joined Franciscus during the AID in my first year and learned the Dutch language pretty decently within half a year and close to fluently within a year. I did not speak a word of Dutch before I started my studies at WUR, but with the help of the international committee with one-on-one classes and a lot of conversations with different people during the events it was the most fun and easy way to learn the language. And most importantly: make really good friends.
So I really recommend international students wanting to get to know the Dutch to consider going to the different student associations to hear about their possibilities for internationals.
Thank you for your extra tips! You are completely right, joining student associations is a great way to experience the Dutch culture and even get to practice the language. Let’s hope our readers will be eager to do it too!