Do expats need to learn Dutch ? Learn Dutch? Why bother?
Do expats need to learn Dutch ? When I first moved to the Netherlands, one of the first people I met was a British guy working at a bank here in Amsterdam. He told me he had been here for nine years. I said to him, “Wow, I bet your Dutch is really good now.” His face grimaced a little and he replied, “I cannot speak Dutch, other than hello, goodbye or thank you.” I was surprised that you could live nine years in a country and not learn the language. I had just spent 15 years in Paris. No one in their right mind would imagine moving to France and not learning French. You would starve to death in under a month. Some French people do speak English, but obviously not at the same level that the Dutch can speak English.
He told me that the lingua franca at work was English and that all their friends were English or French, so learning Dutch was low on their list of priorities. Afterwards, the years flew by and it never happened. “You’ll see”, he said to me. And you know what ? He was right ! You can get by without learning Dutch. Other things fill your time and it seems less essential. That is a trap. (by the way, The Dutch word for the stairs is ‘de trap’, and not because they are so steep !)
Effort and determination
This year, I am determined to learn Dutch and become semi-fluent by the end of 2019 and fully fluent by the end of 2020. I believe that if you live in a foreign country, you need to learn that language. Yes OK, in the Netherlands you can get by just with English. However, I believe it will improve my experience living here and allow me to integrate better. It is possible to the theatre more, an activity I love, but have seen less plays because I don’t speak Dutch. I will be able to talk with the Dutch more in Dutch, without them switching to English.
I try as much as is possible to speak Dutch in the supermarket, in the shops and restaurants. Often, the Dutch recipient of my massacring of their language in a bad accent feels pity and replies to me in English. I ignore their change to English for the reply and keep going in Dutch. Often, I ask them if they are glad someone is making the effort to learn Dutch. They all seem to agree it is unusual, but that they do really appreciate it. There’s the key. They do like it. Let’s impress them !
So I was thinking, what is the actual point of learning Dutch? So I asked an expert.
Anja Vreeburg is the founder and director of Flowently. Anja and her teachers and tutors have helped thousands of expats and internationals living in the Netherlands to master the Dutch language. So we asked her a few questions on this very topic.
Q1. So Anja, why should us non-Dutch people living happily in the Netherlands learn the language? Can’t we manage without learning Dutch?
Sure, you can get by without learning any Dutch and float on the surface of society happily within your expat bubble. But wouldn’t it be more fun and interesting when these foreign ‘background sounds’ change into more meaningful content you can actually relate to?
Q2. What differences have your clients felt since leaning Dutch? Did their lives change in any way?
Excitement! People start recognizing sounds, words, are able to read signs in the street, headlines of newspapers, start feeling at home and connected.
Q3. Does it impact their career chances in any way?
It certainly does! Participating in social chit chat at the coffee machine helps you to get to know your colleagues, and a basic conversation with Dutch business clients lays a professional foundation. More and more international companies appreciate the value of basic Dutch skills for their employees. When working for a Dutch company therefore, basic Dutch language skills are very helpful – if not a must.
Q4. What about those who have a Dutch partner?
This is what we call a ‘golden opportunity’. Ask your Dutch partner to speak Dutch to you while you can continue to answer in English. Just like that, the exposure to the Dutch language helps you to improve your skills on a daily basis. Start with 1 hour Dutch per day and build up slowly.
We strongly encourage you to speak Dutch at home. We have seen sad situations in which the expat partner couldn’t find a suitable job because of poor Dutch skills, after having lived in The Netherlands for 10 years.
Read our blog on 7 tips how you can help your friend, colleague, or partner learning Dutch.
Q5. Dutch is perceived as a ‘difficult language’ to learn. What do you say to that?
Let your ears do the work and get used to the Dutch sounds. It also helps to recognize similarities between languages. Are you a visual or an auditory student? Find out what works best for you. We believe that studying with a private tutor is the most efficient way to learn Dutch. Each lesson is customised and you’ll learn by doing. Give yourself time to learn – and by the way, there are languages that are more difficult to learn.
Q6. What sort of timescale and effort is needed to master Dutch?
For a basic level you may need a year. When you’re able to have lessons twice a week, you can be conversational within a year. It all depends on how much you study, your exposure to Dutch, motivation, and talent.
Q7. What are your top tips for getting ahead in the Dutch language?
Well, we actually have an excellent article about that, ‘How to learn a new language, 7 tips from TED translators’. When I found these tips on the Internet, I instantly recognized it as the way our Flowently method is set up.
The 7 top tips are:
Make language-learning a life style change.
Play house with the language.
Let technology help you out.
Think about language-learning as a gateway to new experiences.
Make new friends.
Do not worry about making mistakes.
Read more on here.
Q8. Can you tell us how Flowently is different to other study methods?
Flowently is a new teaching concept to learning Dutch for internationals. With Flowently’s ‘live language sessions’ you can learn Dutch with a private tutor, whenever & wherever you want. Our lessons are available from 8am to 10pm, Monday to Sunday. Each session is tailored to your needs, meaning you will learn what is specifically useful for you e.g. during your job, hobby or doing groceries.
We have no classrooms but a live learning site with 180 tutors, spread over 60 cities in the Netherlands. Your Dutch lessons will take place in a realistic context like a café, library, street market, park, at your office etc. To improve speaking skils we have a special Flowently developed-method, focusing on live learning experience accompanied by official study material focusing on reaching your personal language goals. Have a look for yourself and download our free booklet ‘Dutch on the go’ on our website.
All our tutors are highly educated experts who passed the Flowently tutor training. Check out our wide range of sessions such as business, social conversational Dutch, history, expat life, shopping, job interview, state exams, kids, outdoor and more. Some of our tutors have been expats themselves and know what it is to live in another country and learning a new language. A Flowently tutor does not only help you learn Dutch, but will guide you into a new culture and help you feel at home in The Netherlands.
Sessions for 1 or 2 people, live or Skype, for all language levels
Dutch in-company training for groups or individuals
Welcome session for individuals or families
Dutch for children, Dutch and other languages
Dutch for spouses
We if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.
Thank you Anja for these great insights.
Contact details :
The website is here.
Telephone : 06 4133 9323
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org