Mastering a foreign language can be tough, especially if you’re limited to flashcards and text books. Many educators and multi-lingual maestros prescribe total language immersion as the best way to gain fluency. For those interested in learning a language in Holland, Dutch is the natural choice. Whether you set up home base in hip, multi-cultural Amsterdam or a sleepy town with more cows than people, you will be surrounded loquacious locals happy to strike up a conversation. How do you find language schools in the Netherlands? We’re glad you asked.
If you’re unsure if you want to call north, south, east, or west Netherlands home, here are our top picks for cities for Dutch language schools in Holland.
Amsterdam is by far the most well-known city in the Netherlands. Not only regarded the financial and cultural center of the country, Amsterdam is also infamous worldwide for its liberal stance on just about everything. This international city is charmingly historic and vibrantly youthful at the same time, and would be the ideal place to learn the Dutch language. There are plenty of choices for language programs, some hosted by third party providers which place you with a homestay family or your own personal Dutch instructor, and other opportunities to take intensive courses for beginners or advanced Dutch speakers.
Rotterdam has a more contemporary look than many other cities in the Netherlands since much of it was rebuilt after WWII. Still, there is plenty of history and architectural gems to be found in this modern Dutch metropolis, along with the prestigious Erasmus University. Here, you can take an intensive Dutch language course and culture, and mingle with the locals after class to pick up a new Dutch word or two.
Tilburg may not be as well-known as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but don’t quickly overlook this city, tucked away in the southern region of the Netherlands. Tilburg University is known for its language courses and state of the art learning facilities, making Tilburg a great place to learn Dutch both inside and outside the classroom.
Dutch Courses in the Netherlands
Choosing between language schools in the Netherlands depends on your personal learning style, the kind of experience you want to have abroad, and the preferred intensity of your Dutch language courses. Most programs involve some classroom style learning, along with cultural exploration and language immersion.
One unique benefit offered by some programs is the opportunity to live in the home of your own personal language instructor. While living with your Dutch speaking family, everything from having morning coffee to watching the evening news will be a learning experience. These programs are often quite flexible, giving you the power to decide how much time you want to dedicate to one-on-one lessons with your instructor, and how much free time you want to spend exploring the city. This type of program provides a culturally immersive experience that gets you out of the classroom so you can learn Dutch in a real life context.
If a more traditional learning experience in a classroom setting is more your style, consider taking intensive Dutch language courses at a university or language school. The facilities are often equipped with state-of-the-art computers and language learning programs in the language labs, where you can practice your exercises and learn at your own pace. You’ll have the benefit of learning from an academically trained expert on the Dutch language, and get to practice conversations with your classmates.
Some programs are more focused on private instruction than others, with individualized sessions with private tutors. These programs may include some cultural immersion outside of the classroom, but if not you can always explore after class!
Tips for Gaining Fluency in Dutch
Learning a new language is not easy; it can feel awkward as you attempt to communicate with other adults at an elementary level (and worry about saying the wrong thing and/or offending someone and/or embarrassing yourself). Dutch is no piece of cake either, and English speakers find those back-of-the-throat sounds especially challenging. English and Dutch share a similar cadence, so with some practice, many can adapt the accent pretty quickly.
English actually shares a lot of similarities with Dutch, both being “Germanic” languages, so English speakers may have an easier time adjusting to the structure and vocabulary as they learn the Dutch language. If you happened to take any German classes in high school, this will also give you a leg-up. While it can take years to become fluent, shoot for at least four weeks of intensive study to get the most out of your crash course. And be sure to keep practicing, even after you return home.
The best piece of advice might be to just try to speak Dutch as much as possible. Even if it is awkward, don't feel like a dutchbag as you strike up a conversation using your newly minted skills! Sure, most Netherlanders speak English quite well, but would be more than happy to humor you if you let them know you are on track to master the Dutch language. Maybe your new friends will even teach you some Dutch slang over a Heineken or two!
Benefits & Challenges
Learning to speak a new language with fluency opens up a whole other world of possibilities, as you can communicate more effectively and better understand a different culture. Even concepts can take on new meaning when translated into a different language. Use Dutch language courses to beautify your resume — being multilingual is also a highly desirable skill, and will definitely earn you some brownie points with prospective employers.
The surest, fastest, and most interesting way to learn a foreign language is to go abroad where you can fully immerse yourself in the language and culture. But that’s not to say it’s the easiest. Being forced to adapt quickly to new words and phrases can feel like an insurmountable beast. On the bright side, you will have endless opportunities to practice conversing in a foreign language in Holland. Plus, you will get a first hand cultural experience that will aid in understanding and appreciating the Dutch language. Try getting that out of a textbook!
The best reason for “going Dutch” may be that you will have 23 million potential new friends to talk to from all corners of the globe, from the Netherlands and Belgium to Aruba and Saint Maarten and beyond.