Win a free Dutch language course at Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam
Learning Dutch in Amsterdam can be challenging, as nearly everyone speaks English, so it is important to practise the language on a daily basis. [Contributed by Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam]
Expats actually wanting to speak Dutch in their everyday life meet almost insurmountable problems when attempting to practise what they have learnt. Why? Well, Amsterdam, for instance, has become such an international city that nearly everyone who finds themself communicating with an expat automatically switches to English.
“Wilt u nog wat te drinken bestellen?”
“Yes, I would like another beer.”
“Nog een biertje dus?”
A typically frustrating conversation between waitress Katarina Mlynárčiková and an Amsterdammer. The 34-year-old Slovak acknowledges their good intentions. “They immediately detect my accent and switch to English, but then I ask them to continue in Dutch.”
Daily practice is essential. The Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam now offers one lucky winner a free Dutch language course. The courses help the students find ways to practise their Dutch on a daily basis and learn more about Dutch culture.
Teachers have to invent ways for their students to practise their Dutch on a daily basis. To give them practical experience, Annelies Vermeulen, NT2 teacher at Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam asks her students to write shopping lists in Dutch. “They write the lists in class using recipes and words found in the Allerhande magazine. I also ask them to write out a shopping list at home and bring it to the next lesson.”
Mirjam van Deijl, Vermeulen's colleague, says that watching school television helps a great deal. “We recently watched a programme about healthy eating and anorexia. The students learn by listening, and I make them repeat difficult words such as weegschaal [weighing scales].”
Van Deijl, who mainly has people such as architects, biologists and business students in her class, focuses on conversational Dutch. “Right from the word go we rehearse: ‘Hallo. Dag. Ik heet Mirjam. Hoe heet jij?’ I want the students to interact when they stand in the queue at the butcher’s or at a bus stop.” Vermeulen says, “I teach students who have lived in Amsterdam for eight or nine years and who have seemingly coped with learning and speaking the language. They pick up a copy of Metro at the station, or they overhear snippets of conversation while strolling along the Albert Cuyp market. All the same, after a while they feel they are missing out on something.”
The monthly café
Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam runs a monthly NT2-café where expats have no choice but to speak Dutch. Volksuniversiteit students, and their guests if they want to take them along, can gather on a Friday evening at Rapenburgerstraat 73 for a chat and a drink. “It gives our students a chance to chat informally,” says Van Deijl. “We give them a theme for the evening beforehand, and we follow it up with a short quiz, or a Happy Families type of game. We serve wine and soft drinks by candlelight, and do our best to create a relaxed atmosphere. Some of our less advanced students come, as well as the more experienced speakers. The fact that they can bring friends too helps them open up.”
At a recent expat gathering, Mlynárčiková gave a reading entitled Learning Dutch opens doors. “Ultimately you can survive here without learning Dutch if you have very specialised work. Otherwise you risk only being offered simple, low-brow work. I can see this happening to a lot of people from Eastern Europe. If you want to communicate and work with people either in education, or in some cultural capacity, then speaking Dutch is crucial. That applies to me too. I’m looking for a job teaching art history.”
Learn about Dutch culture
During their lessons, expats learn something about Dutch culture, as well as how to speak the language. Annelies Vermeulen points out, “We devote a lot of attention to dealing with everyday habits. People don’t know whether to keep their shoes on or take them off in someone's home. Likewise, do you use je or u when addressing the girl at the cash desk? The French often ask what time they are expected when invited for a borrel. And the Spanish haven't got a clue about all the various bonus stamps they are offered when they shop in a supermarket.”
For Asian people, learning Dutch is more complicated as they have a lot of trouble with the pronunciation. The u, the ui and g sounds often prove to be very difficult to pronounce. They can be a problem for Europeans too. “Even someone who speaks Dutch relatively well can be heard saying boerman instead of buurman. For the ui pronunciation I tell my students to form their mouths like they’ve just tasted a lemon!” laughs Vermeulen.
By Sander van Lubeck, a copywriter and journalist. He teaches journalism at Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam.
Language market and autumn Dutch courses
You can now enrol for one of the 35 Dutch courses offered by Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam, depending on your level and of your own study pace. More information here. You are invited to attend the Language Market on 29 August from 12noon to 4pm at Rapenburgerstraat 73, where experienced teachers will test your level of proficiency, and help you decide on the right Dutch course for you.
Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam giveaway
Volksuniversiteit Amsterdam is giving away a place on its Dutch Language course, worth EUR 315, to one lucky expat, for free.
For your chance to win and learn Dutch at an experienced and well establish courses center, visit our Expatica NL Facebook page, and simply share the competition announcement post.
Closing date: 24 August 2015
Terms and conditions
One winner will be chosen at random. (Please keep a close eye on your Facebook inbox as we will contact you here with further information.)
The prize will be valid for the course starting in September (15th, 16th or 17th) only.
About VUA Dutch Language Courses
Volksuniversiteit Dutch Language courses give you a close look at the ins and outs of life and culture in the Netherlands, as well as teaching you the Dutch language. They take you on visits to museums such as the Amsterdam Museum (history of the city), the Verzetsmuseum (history of the Resistance), and the Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt’s former home), to explore the history of your surroundings.
The Dutch lessons cover themes including democracy, emancipation, human rights, and all those peculiar Dutch habits and customs.
A special feature of their Dutch Language teaching is the monthly Café nt2, with a different theme every month. Café nt2 is an informal get-together for current and past students, providing an excellent opportunity to use the Dutch you have learnt!
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