Learning Dutch – Do we really need to? Yes. Margreet from Taalthuis tells us why.
How long have you lived in The Netherlands? Do you speak Dutch? Those two questions often go together. Sadly, the answer to the second question rarely goes beyond “…een beetje.” What is it that stops many of us from learning Dutch? Time? Necessity? Laziness? In the past, I had (wrongly) convinced myself that it is a ‘difficult’ language. It sounds so difficult. Consequently I put it to the side. I believed it was too difficult to master, so I never tried. Anyway, I didn’t need to learn it as everyone speaks English. I repeated the ‘too difficult’ mantra and guess what? I never learnt Dutch. Mission accomplished!
Rewire your brain.
Earlier this year, I met someone who rewired my brain. He told me that Dutch is really similar to English and learning Dutch for an English speaker should be “zo simpel!” I quickly realised the error of my thinking and convinced myself that I could do it. Once I started I became eager to learn more and started to speak with confidence. Mission accomplished!
Speaking Dutch is rarely a necessity. A lot of expats and internationals could get by for years and not need to learn the language. However, there is one important reason why you should make the effort to learn Dutch: It will massively improve your experience of living in this country in every way. It really is the best reason. You will have better and deeper relationships with your colleagues and neighbours. You will make new friends. Dutch friends. You will be able to understand the newspaper headlines and the radio. You will take a greater interest in Dutch history, culture and politics. It will make you feel more at home!
The Dutch love it!
I often ask Dutch people if they like it when expats speak to them in Dutch. Invariably, they understand that expats get by without learning Dutch, but they also love to hear expats speak Dutch.
So as part of our ongoing series, we meet with locals and local businesses of interest to expats. This time we met and discussed with Margreet from Taalthuis. She tells us all about her Dutch language school and it is…heel interessant !
1. Please tell us what you do at Taalthuis.
Taalthuis is all about having fun while learning Dutch! Anything is easier to learn when the experience is pleasurable. Taalthuis clients are expats, students, au pairs and anyone else that would like to master the Dutch language.
We offer courses of different levels throughout The Netherlands. We also use an e-learning platform which we have designed to accelerate the learning process. It is an important tool that helps you with vocabulary, pronunciation and provides you with challenging exercises.
For beginner and Intermediate levels we have our own methods and materials. During the courses you will be exploring all kinds of interesting subjects and current topics. Each lesson takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. You will also receive some homework.
2. When and how did Taalthuis begin?
Taalthuis was founded by myself in 2006. I studied Dutch language and literature at the University of Leiden. After, I worked in corporate communications and then as a Dutch teacher in the educational system. I have three children. When they were little I started teaching Dutch to au pairs. Word spread and more and more people wanted me to teach them Dutch. I created Taalthuis on the back of this demand. Necessity is the mother of invention! Since then we have taught Dutch to thousands of people!
3. Which thing do you like most about your work ?
It is knowing that the things we do improve the lives of our students. Knowing the Dutch language improves their experience in The Netherlands. It gives them more control over their lives. It improves their job prospects. I see a new found confidence in students that master the Dutch language which I love to see!
4. Where are your clients from?
It is such a wide mix! Our students come from all over the world. They often come here for work or study.
5. Do they tell you what they love best about living in Amsterdam?
They tell us that they love the canals. Amsterdam is a big international city with the cosiness of a small town. It is easy to get around and many of them comment that the air is clean. They also say it is safer than some of the cities they come from, which is nice to hear.
6.What do you do outside work in your spare time ?
I have dogs and I love nothing more than a long walk on the beach or in the forest.
7. Do your students ever get confused with Dutch ?
There was once confusion about our national anthem when a student thought “Lang zal ze leven in de gloria “ was our national anthem instead of the traditional birthday song.
8. What do you students think of the Dutch people ?
They think the Dutch are very open and everyone speaks English… so practicing Dutch is a challenge! We tell them to persevere in Dutch! They say we are very direct, but in the end they see the positives of that.
9. Which of your courses is the most popular?
The Beginners Plus is a very popular course. It is a very fast way to level up in Dutch. That is where the real progress is made. It takes the students out of their comfort zones, but the benefit is incredible.
10. What are some words all expats need to know?
There are so many. Expats should start using as much daily Dutch as they can and as soon as possible. The first words that we teach our students are “thuis” and “gezellig”, because we want our students to feel at home in The Netherlands by creating a cosy atmosphere in our lessons!
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