Nestled between Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea, the Netherlands is tiny, densely populated, and insanely beautiful. Known for its cobbled streets, endless rainbows of tulips covering its countryside, an abundance of canals (and clogs!), and liberal culture, this Dutch-speaking country welcomes international travelers from around the globe, making it the ideal location for language learning abroad. There are countless language programs in the Netherlands, in many different locations, to fit any language learners’ desires. Dive into the laidback culture, allow yourself to be warmly embraced by locals, and explore the Netherlands as you immerse yourself in a new language.
Whether you are looking to balance your language studies with getting lost in a big city, socializing with new friends at cafes, or biking through the countryside, you can find it all in the Netherlands. There are many Dutch language schools throughout the country, not to mention there are a range of language courses offered at local universities. No matter where you choose to learn a language in the Netherlands, you’ll be able to enjoy full immersion into Dutch culture. Amsterdam, the nation’s largest, most popular city for tourists, is the most popular place for language study in the Netherlands. But, there are also language courses offered in smaller cities, like Rotterdam and Tilburg. With multiple location options, language students will undoubtedly find the perfect language program in the Netherlands to suit their needs.
Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ largest city is located in the North and known for being open-minded and extremely welcoming to visitors. Although it has the largest population in the Netherlands, Amsterdam feels quaint and cozy; its mixture of cobblestone paths and busy streets provide language students with the illusion of a picturesque village while still being close to modern city amenities. Students can supplement their language studies in Amsterdam with exploration of the liberal culture, beautiful architecture, and museums that house the work of famous artists like Van Gogh and Rembrandt scattered throughout the city. Language students can also travel easily by bike throughout the city or tulip-covered countryside, or by boat along the canals, always with the wind in their hair. There is a thriving nightlife with pubs, known as “cafes,” packed every night of the week too. And with the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol right outside the city center, language students will also have the whole of Europe at their fingertips.
Rotterdam. The Netherlands’ second largest city, located in the south and divided by the river Nieuwe Maas, is another popular place for language programs in the Netherlands. Like Amsterdam, Rotterdam is an exciting city with innovative architecture, an abundance of art, and a thriving nightlife. The city is built around canals and bridges too, arguably more than there are in Venice, since most of its land is below, or only slightly above, sea level. Rotterdam’s diverse ethnic community makes it a popular location for language courses in the Netherlands.
Tilburg. While most language schools in the Netherlands will give students the chance to take part in a homestay or full immersion experience, students who want to study in a university setting will typically find themselves in Tilburg. This city is home to Tilburg University, one of the Netherlands’ most popular universities for language study. While Tilburg is much smaller and less populated than some of the country’s other prime locations, the landlocked city is known for its summer fun. People flock to Tilburg in July for the Tilburgse Kermis, a massive fair and street party, so students looking to let their hair down after language classes can join the celebration with rides, beer, and sugary treats, while practicing their language skills of course.
Language Programs in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has two official languages: Frisian, which is spoken only in the northern province of Friesland, and Dutch, which is spoken throughout the country. It is not surprising that most language schools in the Netherlands are focused on Dutch language courses, as it is internationally known to be the main language spoken in the Netherlands. Considering 90 percent of Dutch natives are able to speak perfect English, language learning in the Netherlands can be a piece of cake for English speakers with little to no Dutch language skills. English language speakers can more easily immerse themselves into Dutch culture, and the language, with the comfort of a fall back language at hand.
The Netherlands offers a variety of language program opportunities. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, looking for one-on-one language courses or university classes, you will be able to find the best language program in the Netherlands for you.
Language Schools. Many language learners head to the Netherlands to enroll in classes at language schools. Initial interviews will typically place students into appropriate course levels, ranging from beginner to advanced. Language schools in the Netherlands will usually have classes from Monday through Friday and focus on grammar, speaking, and listening. Dutch language schools in the Netherlands employ native Dutch speakers to teach small classes of four to seven students. Although, some language schools in the Netherlands offer private tutoring, job application training, writing classes, and conversation classes for students too. Language students will be sure to improve their Dutch with a multitude of resources to help them apply their new language skills to life outside the classroom.
Full Immersion. The most popular types of language programs in the Netherlands involve full immersion into Dutch culture. Language students of all levels can choose a program that gives them the opportunity stay with a local host family, where they’ll become a guest in the home of their language teacher. Full immersion language programs are perfect for language students who want to experience Dutch culture and improve their Dutch language skills at a fast pace. Homestay programs provide the most intensive language immersion because students will practice their new skills in one-on-one settings constantly, chatting in Dutch over breakfast or during family outing, as well as during their free time exploring on their own.
University Courses. If you are looking to earn credit for your language courses in the Netherlands, you may opt to study at a local university. For example, Tilburg University is located in the southern part of the Netherlands and offers a variety of language courses for students in a university setting. The university has 12,000 students, 10 percent of which are international. Most language courses in the Netherlands are for students learning Dutch, but Tilburg University is one of the few language program opportunities that offers classes in other languages too, from Spanish to Chinese and Italian to Arabic, and everything in between.
Costs & Affordability
The cost of language courses in the Netherlands depends on the program type, length of stay, and the services included. Homestays typically include a place to live, three meals per day, weekly excursions, and range in cost from $1,700 to $2,700 per week, depending on the hours of one-on-one language study. Intensive language courses offered through Dutch language schools in the Netherlands are typically offered by the hour for rates as cheap as 8 Euro per hour.
Rent is typically on the low side in the Netherlands, but the cost of living is a bit higher when it comes to food; the average meal will cost about 15 Euros and a domestic beer will cost 4 Euros. But have no fear, students who are worried about the cost of language programs in the Netherlands will be able to apply for scholarships or initiate fundraising to cover the costs of their coursework.
Accommodation & Visas
Most language students choose to live with a homestay in the Netherlands. Dutch host families are very welcoming and offer the opportunity for students to live in the homes of their very own Dutch teachers. While living with a host family, you won’t have to worry about finding an apartment or even feeding yourself, because nearly everything will be provided. Those studying at language schools in the Netherlands will often choose to rent apartments, but even so, students will often have assistance in finding suitable living arrangements. For those taking language courses in the Netherlands at a local university, on-campus dorms are a very popular option, and usually entail apartments for two to seven people.
Visas for the Netherlands vary depending on your country of origin. Students staying for less than 90 days will not require a visa, and students originating from the EU will not need to acquire a student visa for their stay. But, those non-EU students who hope to stay longer than three months will need to apply for a student visa before entering the country. Check out GoAbroad’s Dutch Embassy Directory for more information on the process.
Benefits & Challenges
The Netherlands challenges even the most open-minded students. It is often said that “anything goes” in this country, and it is true that you will experience a liberal form of government that is rare to find. There is no doubt students will witness behaviors that are often viewed as illegal or immoral in other societies at some point during their time in the Netherlands. This may be alarming for international students who will definitely experience culture shock, but if you keep an open mind, the experience will be a grand adventure.
The Dutch are skilled linguists; the country is filled with people speaking languages from all over the world. You couldn’t ask for a better place to study a language abroad! The Netherlands has an extremely hospitable culture, which means you will be welcomed in with open arms by families and teachers who want to show you the Dutch culture and language.
If you want to have an adventure in a country that will truly embrace you, then learning a language in the Netherlands may be a good choice for you. Throw on your clogs, rent a bike, and say “hallo” to a Dutch learning experience!