Learning Dutch is important in the Netherlands, but English also has an important place for Dutch residents. This guide explains what kind of English classes are available to adults living in the Netherlands.
“Everybody speaks English here!” If you have recently settled in the Netherlands, you might have heard this a few times already from other expats or Dutch people themselves – and it is true for the most part. Learning English in the Netherlands can help you find a new job, improve your network opportunities, and even make new friends.
Dutch people are – rightly – reputed as skilled English speakers. The language learning app Babbel has recently ranked the Netherlands as the country in the world that speaks the best English as a second language. That’s right: Jip and Janneke have successfully mastered the language of Shakespeare. A possible reason? The Netherlands has a long history of international trade, and therefore always needed to be understood by the potential client.
According to Sandra de Bresser, head of the British School in the Netherlands (BSN) Language Centre, which offers English courses to adults, there are many reasons why learning English in the Netherlands can be important. In such a multicultural country, speaking English can be an asset – for communication, integration, socialization, and business.
The British School in the Netherlands
The British School in the Netherlands has been providing children age 3–18 with a stellar international education for 80 years. The British School Language Centre offers English courses for adults taught by experienced, CELTA- qualified teachers. Courses offered include general and business English, exam preparation courses , intensive summer programs and private lessons.
Improve your social life with English lessons
Learning English in the Netherlands can help expats settle in their new country. To begin with, Dutch language is already strongly influenced by English, and not just in its everyday lingo; you’ll hear a lot of ‘thanks,’ ‘on my way,’ ‘sure,’ or even ‘bullshit’ mixed with Dutch on the street. Indeed, children start to learn the language from a very young age in the Netherlands. Even movies are in English with subtitles, and signs and restaurant menus are often written in both languages.
But also, just the simple act of taking English lessons will allow expats to meet new people from all around the world, understand and discover new cultures, and enrich their social life. “There is a real international community at the BSN Language Centre and within the British School,” Sandra says. “For example, we have 90 nationalities represented within the BSN. So not only do you learn to speak English with the English teachers, but also together with other non-native English speakers. It’s an advantage to learn with different groups of people and nationalities,” she adds.
Connecting with expats and locals
Being able to speak English clearly and fluently is the best way to gain confidence, find work, network, make new friends, and feel at home. “We always encourage people to have a lot of conversations and develop friendships during the courses, which really helps them improve their language skills outside the classroom as well. During the lessons, they team up with others who are learning the language; that really boosts their social life,” Sandra says. “We see that at the BSN Language Centre: people hang out in the lounge, chat, or have a coffee together. We see them connecting a lot”.
She adds that “those who come with their spouse sometimes feel isolated. Having English lessons is also a way of socializing with other people. It also opens doors to start volunteering in organizations, or in your own community, which also helps you integrate better in your local community”.
Learning English in the Netherlands for business
“English is the common language used in international business, and more and more companies focus on, or even adopt, English as their company language. People who are looking for work in the Netherlands or have plans to enroll at university must be able to speak and write well in English. Moreover, it can help them stay competitive with their Dutch colleagues in terms of career opportunities,” emphasizes Sandra.
Many international companies have their headquarters in Dutch cities, so learning English in the Netherlands is often a rewarding choice. Strong English language skills will definitely help you navigate your work life better, whether used to write e-mails, do research, present a new project to the management team, or just chat at the coffee corner.
The advantages of taking Business English classes
Most of the English schools in the Netherlands provide business English classes. Available for those with an intermediate level of English, these special courses help expats use professional jargon without struggle, prepare a meeting, or structure their ideas for a presentation. It’s also a great way to prepare for business school.
English-language company courses
Some schools, such as the BSN Language Centre, provide in-company English training that will focus specifically on the company needs. “We create tailor-made courses working with the language and the documents of the company. Employees learn within their own specific business context,” Sandra explains.
Training for English-language exams
Some language schools also provide training for official exams (such as the Cambridge English exam or the IELTS). Most importantly, all schools in the Netherlands refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The CEFR helps measure speaking and writing abilities in a language. The CEFR is a reference used by all EU countries.
Where to find English classes in the Netherlands
Grab your lunch bag; you’re going back to school! There is a wide range of well-known and specialized language schools in many Dutch cities. Luckily, we’ve made a list for you – but, no, we’re not going to help you with your homework too.
What is also good to know: the majority of the listed schools for learning English in the Netherlands offer flexible timetables and free tests to check your current level.
English lessons in Amsterdam
- Berlitz offers English intensive, private, and group courses. They also offer immersive courses and relocation workshops. The school has offices in Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Maastricht.
- The British Language Training Centre (BLTC) prepares you for the Cambridge English exam or the IELTS test. They also offer general courses, business English training, and intensive summer courses.
- The English Center, which has offices in Amsterdam, Amstelveen, The Hague, and Rotterdam, gives you the opportunity to choose among group and in-company business English classes as well as private English lessons. In addition, they offer courses to improve your accent and how to prepare for a job interview.
English lessons in The Hague
- The British School in the Netherlands (BSN) Language Centre, a well-known international school for children from three to 18, has a language institute providing English lessons for adults. They offer: general and business English courses, exam preparation (Cambridge C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency and IELTS), customized in-company training, and private lessons. They also offer intensive summer courses and teacher training.
- Kickstart School offers a range of courses for all levels, including preparation for the IELTS test, the TOEFL, and the Cambridge English exams. They also offer summer classes and online classes.
- ABC English provides English lessons in The Hague with intensive courses and private lessons. In addition, they provide classes focusing on conversation and grammar.
English courses in Rotterdam
- CBE Languages offers courses for all levels, preparation for the Cambridge English and IELTS exams, one-on-one trainings, business English courses, and in-company training sessions.
- Dutch and English Classes Rotterdam (DECR) also provides lessons for small groups or individuals. They teach students at all levels on weekdays.
How do you pick the best English course for you?
According to Sandra de Bresser, what makes a good English school is a dedicated team of qualified, professional teachers who put the learner at the center of the learning and teaching process. Her team are supported in their growth as teachers with continued professional development and observation.
To Sandra, a good teacher is “qualified, but also learning from their peers: learning, practicing, and constantly improving their teaching.” A great teacher is “somebody who understands the students and their learning needs. The teachers at BSN are people who often moved to the Netherlands from a different country. They know all the struggles and everything their students go through in terms of adapting to a new environment.”
Learning English in the Netherlands will definitely make your integration process easier, and help you navigate your new life with confidence. It’s never too late to learn!