It is important to look closely at your personal situation, your level and your preferences. When you know what suits you, you will learn Dutch in the most effective way. In this section, we look at a number of things that help determine the best way to learn the language: education, language level, learning preferences, opportunities to practise and budget.
Level of education Anyone can learn Dutch. It does not matter how much education you've followed in the past, since there are teaching methods and courses for all levels of education. We distinguish between four levels of education:
Other- or non-literate: Someone who cannot or inadequately reads, spells and writes in the Latin alphabet.
Low-educated: Someone who has only completed primary school, VMBO (lower level of secondary school) or MBO 1 (the lowest level of advanced education).
Middle-educated: Someone who has completed high school at the HAVO or VWO level (the 2 highest levels) or has completed MBO 2, 3 or 4 (secondary vocational education).
Highly educated: Someone who has completed an HBO after high school, holds a university degree and/or earned a PhD.
This classification is based on the Dutch educational system, so it may be difficult to determine which category you are in. If you are not sure which level of education you have, then discuss it with Dutch acquaintances or inquire at a language school, for example.
Your level of education determines which lesson method you should use, or, if you are going to take a course, which course you enrol in. It is thus good to know which category you belong to before continuing.
Anyone can learn Dutch.
Language level: from A1 to C2
In Europe, six global language levels are distinguished, which form the basis for study materials, courses and exams, and those have to do with reading, listening, conversing, speaking and writing. A1 is the lowest level and C2 is the level of the 'near native speaker' with an academic thinking level. A detailed description of these levels can be found on the website of the European Reference Framework for Languages (Europees Referentiekader Talen).
You can get an overall estimate of your own language level by, for example, doing the Vocabulary Test (Woordenschattoets) from Boom NT2. Many language schools also offer a language level test.
Non-literate or other-literate? People who are non-literate or trained in a different writing system than we use in the Netherlands must first learn to read and write with the Dutch alphabet. Are you helping someone who needs to learn the alphabet? In the Boom NT2 webshop, you can find different teaching methods for literacy. In addition, training on the alphabet is offered all over the Netherlands. Look at the website of Blik op Werk to find an alphabetization course.
As a teenager in the high school, were you often yawning in class without understanding exactly what the teacher was talking about, and did you get frustrated about the silly facts you had to memorize? You were not the only one.
Unfortunately, at school, you could not choose how you spent your day, when you studied and how. Fortunately, things are different now! You can decide for yourself how you are going to learn a new language. It is especially important that you think carefully about your preferences. This gives focus to the study methods that you will choose in the next phase. So take a few minutes to think about the following topics.
Studying individually or in a group? Do you like to set your own pace, not to have to study at set times, and do you like to focus entirely on your own lessons? Do you also have enough self-discipline to work without pressure from outside? Then individual study will probably work well for you.
Do you find it easier to have a bit of social control, to be able to discuss with others, and do you value a clear structure? Then group lessons are more appropriate.
Morning person or evening person? Not everyone is at their sharpest and most active at the same time. Many people see themselves as either a morning person or an evening person. When do you work best? Choose a regular time based on your preference to work on your Dutch, or, if you are going to follow class lessons, choose a course at a time when you are most productive.
Structured or free learning? How do you respond to the following words?
Do those words make you feel calm and relaxed? Or just the opposite? If you have positive associations with these five words, you probably like a little structure in your life. When you start learning a new language like Dutch, choose methods that provide this structure, such as a study book that you can work through from start to finish, or a course with a clear structure.
Do you have any negative feelings about the words above? Then you probably have more need for some freedom in learning. An app that lets you learn words when you want to can be a solution, or a language coach with whom you can speak Dutch but also engage in fun activities.
Opportunities to practise What is the most important word to remember when you start learning Dutch? Exactly, 'practice'. Practice is the only way to master a new language, and the good news is that you do not need much for it. With a bit of creativity and an open mind, you will get a long way. Your own environment is full of opportunities to practise:
Work: Do you have a job working with Dutch colleagues? Then ask them to speak only Dutch to you, and not English or another language. Your listening skills will rapidly improve.
Housemates: Is your partner Dutch, or do you live with Dutch housemates? As difficult as it may be, agree that you will speak Dutch to each other. If this really does not work, try speaking in Dutch for half an hour a day.
Local newspapers and advertisement folders: Most people receive free neighbourhood newspapers and advertising leaflets. These include many useful things for you if you are learning Dutch. Improve your reading skills by writing down and memorizing five new words each time you receive a newspaper or folder in the mailbox.
Change the default language of your phone and computer: Your phone and computer are probably set now to your native language. You will learn a great many new words without much effort by changing the default language of your devices to Dutch.
The most important word to remember when learning Dutch is ‘practice’.
Budget In an ideal world, everyone who wanted to learn a new language would invest time in it, follow intensive courses and hire a private tutor to teach the fine nuances of the language. Unfortunately, reality for most of us is different. Our financial situation determines in part what we can and cannot do. As with any project, it is therefore wise to look at your budget. What can you and do you want to spend in total? Write this down to make your choices easier. In the dossier Integration (Inburgeren), you will find more information about when you can borrow money for a language course.
Now you can make targeted choices about how to learn Dutch, what tools you will use and how much time and money you invest in it. On the ‘Choose the methods and tools that work for you’ page, you can compare different ways of learning Dutch.