Children Learning Dutch – As adults, we often get scared at the thought of learning a new language. It seems such a massive undertaking. There are so many new things to learn and our lives are generally so busy. But like anything, the job started is the job half done. We get to apply what we already know to the task at hand. But, do we also all too easily assume that children will pick up another language with relative ease? It is often said that a child’s mind is very open to learning a new language. It must be partly due to the fact that children are less inhibited than adults. They are quite fearless and are more open to trying a new language in front of their peers. Adults however often dread doing just that. So perhaps we should all throw off our inhibitions and learn just like the children do! In this Q+A, we want to look at how children are learning languages. Tupkertaaltraining runs many Dutch courses for children, so they know a lot about what works best.
We all know there is a huge expat community in the Amsterdam area. Many of us arrive for work and bring our families with us. Or as internationals, we settle down in Amsterdam then start a family. Whatever the case, it is always a good idea to ensure the children are as bilingual as soon as possible. And contrary to the popular misconception – Dutch is easier to learn than we think. There are just so many similarities to English! So let’s find out by asking our burning questions about how it all means for children learning Dutch. Thanks to the team at Tupkertaaltraining for answering our questions:
q1. You have many courses to help children learn Dutch. Please tell us more about how and why these courses were created.
We have been providing Dutch courses for adult expats for over 20 years. Many of the expats we teach have children who go to primary school in the Netherlands. These children have to get familiar with a new language, with new vocabulary and with new rules of grammar. That can be a challenge for them. The primary school teacher will probably not have enough time to give these children sufficient attention. Parents do not always possess the right level of the Dutch language, either, meaning they cannot practice Dutch with their children.
This is why we offer extra courses for the children. To fill up that gap between teachers slammed with work and parents who themselves are also new to the Dutch language. In the courses Tupkertaaltraining offers, the children quickly build their vocabulary by engaging in playful exercises. We use weekly themes that relate to the lived experience of the children, i.e. hobbies, family life, friends, etc.
q2. Do children really find it easier to learn a new language?
It is generally believed and supported by science that children pick up languages more easily than adults do, yes. However, it may have less to do with a child’s brain capacity and more to do with the fact that children are generally free from the sorrows and responsibilities associated with adulthood. They have more time and space to really immerse themselves into a language. They also have fewer inhibitions to do so. In fact, adults also benefit a lot from plunging into a language. It is their circumstances – being busy with work, childcare, the household – that usually prevents them from doing so.
Children have more time and space to practice a lot as they are taken care of and have not many responsibilities and fewer inhibitions. In our course, children are immersed in the Dutch language through a wide array of playful exercises. Children often pick up words, phrases, and grammar in a very natural and fun way, without much effort.
q3. What are the benefits for children learning Dutch and their language skills?
The benefits for children are limitless, really. Improving their Dutch means they will gain more self-confidence and can connect with their classmates more easily. In this sense, it may consolidate their place in Dutch society. And the younger you start, the better the results. Those who learn a second (or third) language at a younger age often outperform their peers in terms of pronunciation, spelling and grammar. The language simply becomes part of their natural environment, and as a result, their command of it later in life is far stronger. And let us not forget that learning a second language may improve memory, concentration, listening and problem-solving skills!
q4. What are the benefits for the parents and what do they tell you?
I think one of the main benefits for parents is offering them the joy of seeing their child or children thrive. Life is unpredictable, and this is no different for expats. Plans may change. Temporary stays may turn into permanent stays. Whatever happens, a child will be all the richer for having learned another language. The assignments we give our young students always include a part for the parents, so that they may practice together with their children. also, provide useful information on how parents can support their children and encourage them to learn Dutch. We can give parents tips for fun and useful materials such as videos and songs that suit the age of their children. It is not uncommon for parents to improve their Dutch in the process.
q5. What language tips and drills that all children learning Dutch will find useful?
The main tip I would give anyone who wants to learn a new language, whether they’re six or 60 years old, is: make sure you have fun. This is why, in our courses, we focus on building vocabulary through storytelling, songs, short conversations and fun exercises. Listening to and singing along with songs, for example, is a great way for children to build vocabulary. Our approach is positive and playful. Learning something new can feel burdensome. Having to sit down and memorise words is no fun. Our goal is for our young students to learn as much as possible without even realising they are actively learning. We have had very positive feedback from parents whose children followed one of our courses. Their children have fun and make a lot of progress in the meantime.
Thank you for these great insights which will be really useful for so many expat parents. It neatly sums up all the benefits that children will have as they become more and more bilingual. Learning Dutch isn’t the impossible task we all seem to think it is and that includes for adults too!
If you have questions about Children Learning Dutch and the Dutch courses for children, contact Tupkertaaltraining directly.
Phone: 029 752 1633
Also, our Tukpertaaltraining splash page is here.