Learning Dutch as a second language can be faster and easier with an intensive course, but is it the right choice for you?
There are many different ways to learn a new language, including weekly courses, conversational groups, and online tutorials. Another method you might consider is intensive Dutch language courses: spending a concentrated block of time immersed in the language to take a giant leap forward in speaking Dutch. Albert Both, language teacher extraordinaire at Talencoach, takes you through the pros and cons of intensive learning, so you can better determine if it’s the right move for you.
Albert Both is also known as Mr. Dutch Brainwash, from his (in)famous Dutch-language teaching method. Talencoach offers different language course packages, from the seven-day immersive Brainwash class to the higher level Dutch Mastery – as well as individual sessions.
What is an Intensive Dutch Language Course?
Rather than meeting for a fixed class once or twice per week, an intensive course offers concentrated lesson time for rapid learning. Different programs have different definitions of “intensive”: for some, it can mean more Dutch classes per week or longer sessions, while for others, the goal is to fully immerse students in the Dutch language for a set period of time.
Learn Dutch with the Nuns
You’ve probably heard about someone who went away to learn Dutch with “the nuns.” In the ‘60s, an order of nuns who taught a secondary education boarding school formed a language institute. The nuns of Vught gained a reputation for a totally immersive method of learning Dutch, and became a sought-after program among the well-to-do. The language school left the convent in the ‘80s, so the concept of “learning with the nuns” is now outdated, yet still people seek out the immersive classes at the Language Institute Regina Coeli. Nowadays, the school offers weekend programs, or private courses taught by the week, together with the option to stay on campus in Vught, in the south of Holland. It’s a modern take on their boarding school roots.
If that sounds a little too intensive for you, there are also more down-to-earth options, for example the “Dutch Brainwash” intensive course with Talencoach. Set in Amsterdam, the Brainwash is a week-long group course that focuses on the fun and functionality of the Dutch language. Teacher Albert Both explains: “Many courses focus on a certain topic, for example, you learn how to book a hotel room. Well, you do that and you feel very good about yourself, but then the topic changes you don’t know what to say. I think it’s really important to learn how to talk about anything and not just one thing, so with the Brainwash I focus on creativity and improvisation, while of course still using a structured way of thinking.”
The benefits of intensive learning
Taking an intensive language course has a lot of benefits, most of which come from the simple fact that you’re giving the language your focused attention:
You’re not trying to juggle your time
Anyone who has tried to focus on a Dutch course after a long day of work knows that it can be a challenge to learn a new language when you’re dead tired and only half-present. Taking an intensive Dutch language course means you’ve set aside time to focus exclusively on your language… well, as much as you can, anyway. You’ve at least given yourself the benefit of putting yourself in a new context.
You can get deep comprehension and let your subconscious take over
When you take a class once or twice a week, there’s a lot of stop-and-start that can hold you back from progressing with the new language. Just as you’ve gotten warmed up, the class ends. Instead, with an intensive class, you’ve got the time to get settled into the language and its sounds. Your mind will have the chance to make deep connections, and stop hunting for the right words with every sentence and to speak from the unconscious—just as it does with your native tongue.
Better bonding time with your classmates
Not all intensive courses involve classmates, but for those that do, you’ll have more time up front to get to know one another. Rather than just meeting once a week with a group of strangers, intensive courses tend to foster a sense of camaraderie. In turn, that camaraderie will help you get over your self-consciousness, as you all make a lot of mistakes in good fun!
Homework is for suckers
“The best part of an intensive course is probably that it’s not important that you do your homework,” grins Albert. “Once you leave class, you’re done for the day.” Of course Albert nuances his joke, as revising your notes for 30-45 minutes is always helpful to sink the lessons in; but the focused practice of an intensive Dutch course makes cramming things in less of a necessity, as the concept revolves around understanding the language than packing in information.
Hour for hour, you may get more learning value than with a weekly course
Do the math: with a weekly course, you may be signed up for a three- or six-month course, but actually have fewer learning hours.
The challenges of intensive language courses
Of course, an intensive Dutch language course isn’t for everyone. Here are some of the challenges to take into consideration:
Taking time off from work or other obligations
Giving an intensive course your dedicated time may mean that you have to take vacation days from work, or make arrangements to cover some of your responsibilities like childcare. For some, that’s a nonstarter, so it’s worth investigating how realistic it is for you. Check if there’s an intensive course available by your house, and if there are some possibilities that suit you better than others, whether weekdays, weekends, or all week.
You can also mention that intensive courses can be more expensive than longer courses… It is an investment, so it needs a clear decision….
Intensive doesn’t mean the same to everyone
Some programs, like Regina Coeli, focus on total immersion, so teachers will only speak Dutch to you, whereas a program like the Brainwash will use a mix of Dutch and English. While some may appreciate the rigidity of full language immersion, others may get overwhelmed or frustrated. “Intensity by itself isn’t a silver bullet,” says Albert Both. “Intensity can be magic if you know how to use it, but just because you study for 10 hours straight isn’t a guarantee that you’ll learn anything or that you’ll speak Dutch.” See what the program really offers, and decide what’s right for you.
If you don’t use it, you lose it
If you take an intensive Dutch course for a week, and then never practice afterwards, you’re bound to lose some of the progress you’ve made. Keep in mind what you plan to do after the course ends. Albert also gives free conversation classes, but mostly he advises to start using what you have learned in every day life as soon as possible, and that solid base will be a great diving board to fluency.
One last tip: shop for the intensive Dutch course that suits you
Intensive language courses are sometimes a simple language lab, where you are placed in front of a computer, and the learning process is not as dynamic as in a group setting – but it could be interesting for those who prefer to learn on their own.
Some other schools will organise field trips and motivate you to start conversations with strangers on the street. While it can be great fun, strangers will not correct your mistakes, while a trainer like Albert will make sure to correct you for the duration of the course.
When in doubt, it may be best to simply get in touch with some of the language schools that offer intensive Dutch classes and learn more to see if it sounds compatible with your learning style and current lifestyle. Most schools have options for any skill level, so even if you’re a total beginner, it shouldn’t stop you from diving into the deep end!
Albert Both 15 years ago, Albert Both (also known as meneer Dutch Brainwash), quit his boring job and started a new adventure: Talencoach. The idea was simple: make sure that people can learn Dutch faster and say much more than they ever imagined. He mixes his experience and love for languages with NLP, Accelerated Learning, provocative coaching and stand-up comedy in a technique called the Dutch Flow Now Method.Learn Dutch with Albert