Learning Dutch: Why would you do that?

Why would you spend time and energy on learning Dutch, if you don’t (yet) plan on spending the rest of your life here? Because you can soundly benefit from it, argue teacher Annemieke and course participant Maria.

The Netherlands is a popular choice for internationals from across the globe. It is safe, well organised, flat (handy when cycling!) and, perhaps the greatest advantage: almost everyone speaks English. During your time here, it is therefore not strictly necessary to learn Dutch. So, why would you spend time and energy on that crazy language with those weird sounds, if you don’t (yet) plan on spending the rest of your life here? Because you can soundly benefit from it, argue teacher Annemieke and course participant Maria.

More comfortable stay

Annemieke van Ballegoyen is an NT2 (Dutch as a second language) teacher at In’to Languages and teaches Basic Dutch courses, among others, to international staff members and students. Annemieke: “Even if you are only living in a country temporarily, learning the language can still make your stay easier and more comfortable. Being able to engage with the local population can make you feel more at home. In addition, by learning the language—even just a bit—you will get a better overview and understanding of certain cultural aspects.”

A good example is Dutch directness, explains Annemieke: “Apart from the question of how much you earn, everything can be discussed and there seem to be few taboos. This outright manner of communicating, and also giving your opinion without being asked for it, for instance, is very unusual in some cultures and can be experienced as being uncomfortable. It is therefore good to know that this is not meant negatively and that you don’t need to take it personally.”

Joining in

The Basic Dutch courses are an accessible introduction to the Dutch language and culture and are particularly suited to people who are only staying in the Netherlands for a relatively short period. “We work with everyday topics and mainly focus on the content and to a lesser extent on grammar, for instance,” explains Annemieke. “In this way, course participants can soon join in a conversation or respond appropriately to questions and situations in everyday life. For instance when going grocery shopping, ordering something or making an appointment. Or, a very popular discussion topic: the weather! If it isn’t too cold then it is too warm or wet, so it is nice if you can join in with complaining, right?”

Not everything is in English

Maria is Colombian and started her PhD programme a few months ago. She expects to live in the Netherlands for three to four years. Before this, she studied in Sweden, where she lived for 2.5 years without learning a word of Swedish. Here in the Netherlands, however, she is taking a different approach: “It now seems self-evident to learn the language. My colleagues communicate in English, but sometimes formal or informal meetings are held in Dutch. I also have a number of Dutch friends. They don’t find it a problem to speak English with me, but in a group people do sometimes switch back to Dutch. That makes sense, because it is simply easier to communicate in your own language.”

Starting somewhere

Maria has since finished her first Dutch course and is keen to learn even more. “It is fun to learn everyday things that you can immediately apply in practice. Even if I haven’t spoken much Dutch outside the classroom! Not because I am nervous, but because everyone has to start somewhere. I actually value it if someone makes the effort to learn another language. But it is often unnecessary to speak Dutch—like at the self-scan checkouts at the supermarket, or when people quickly switch to English themselves. They think they are making it easier for you, but then you have no opportunity to practice.”

Helpful foundation

“I plan to take the more intensive Dutch courses later on too, but they are harder to combine with my work. I don’t know what I want to do after my PhD, but if I can speak a bit of Dutch then I’ll definitely have better chances if I want to find a job here.”

Annemieke: “Even the small things can contribute to feeling more at home and more comfortable during your stay in the Netherlands. And you’ll soon see that you’ll also experience nice responses from your environment, for instance if you greet someone in Dutch and ask how they are. In the end, you will look back on the time you spent here with a smile and with even more pleasure. And you’ll remember some of the words that you learned for the rest of your life!”

Would you like people to speak Dutch with you, instead of immediately switching to English?

Then pick up one of these buttons from the Wageningen In’to Languages reception desk!

>> More information about our Dutch courses