WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOUR CHILD LEARN DUTCH
Tips for parents
Parents can help their child to learn the Dutch language in various ways. Even if they do not speak Dutch themselves yet!
Children will learn Dutch by going to school and playing with other children who speak Dutch. The more children come into contact with the Dutch language, the faster they will master the language. Besides school and friends, parents also play a role in learning a language.
Language at home: Dutch or your native language?
What language children speak at home with their parents and what the influence of that is on their language development depends on the situation and language proficiency of the parents. Good development of the native language can positively influence the learning of Dutch.
Foreign-language parents often speak in their native language at home with their children. It is certainly good to pay attention to the native language, especially when the parents themselves do not yet sufficiently master Dutch. This has a positive impact on the socio-emotional development of children because the native language is part of the identity. A well-developed native language can help with learning other skills. Moreover, it helps with learning the Dutch language. The skill in the first language is namely related to the skill in the second language. Acquired knowledge in the native language can be transferred to Dutch. Good development of the native language also promotes the general language understanding that allows children to learn a second language.
Tips for parents
Parents can help their children with learning Dutch in many different ways.
Talking, singing and reading together has a major influence on language development. Below are some language activities that parents can do with their children at home. This can be done in Dutch, but also in the native language of the parents!
- Read books aloud. Reading aloud expands the vocabulary and challenges children to think about the structure of stories.
- Have conversations about daily things and events experienced (while cooking, in the supermarket). Ask open questions: ‘What do you think is going to happen now?’, ‘What do they sell at this store?’.
- Create stories together.
- Practice writing together, for example, your own name, names of family members, what he or she experienced today, or a letter to a friend or family member.
- Talking together about the book that you read. This makes it easier to understand the story, and this contributes to the child’s cognitive development.
- Talking together about topics that interest your child. For example, about cars, animals, the playroom, school, adventures, the forest, the sea, and so forth.
- Singing songs or verses. For example, using a CD or YouTube.
- Watching Dutch-language children’s programmes together on television. Examples of Dutch children's programmes are Sesamstraat, Het Klokhuis and Jeugdjournaal.
At a library, you can borrow many types of books. Children under the age of 18 are usually allowed to join a library for free. Search on the website Bibliotheek.nl for a library near you.
Materials for children to learn Dutch
Some children have more difficulty with the Dutch language than others, even when they go to school. For those children, it may be good to pay extra attention to Dutch in addition to school. Children up to 4 years of age can increase their vocabulary, for example, with the special Nijntje books. With Hotel Hallo and De taaltrap, children learn from five years of age words and sentences related to going to school, so that they can quickly join regular education. And for children from eleven years old, there is also Zeg ’t eens, a method for Dutch as a second language that matches the experience of young people.
Practise Dutch online
There are several websites with explanations and language exercises for foreign-language children with which they can work on their language proficiency. On Kinderpleinen.nl, for example, there are exercises, videos and lessons. The website Oefenen.nl is packed with language exercises for all levels.
Over the border: learning Dutch abroad
Even outside the borders of the Netherlands, there are also children who are learning Dutch, for example, if their Dutch parents work abroad. The amount of Dutch language that the child hears is then usually limited, and often there are few hours per week available to work on the Dutch language. How do you ensure as a parent or a teacher that children acquire sufficient Dutch language proficiency? The recommendation from the Netherlands Foreign Education Foundation (Stichting Nederlands Onderwijs in het Buitenland, NOB): stimulate a child through fun activities, such as reading aloud, being engaged with the language and culture. If children have fun, they will not experience speaking Dutch as a burden.
Hopefully, after reading all the tips, you are excited to work with your child on the Dutch language. Learning a language is not only useful, but also fun! Do you want to know more about how you can learn Dutch yourself? Then see the dossier ‘Learning Dutch’.