You can certainly get by and make friends without speaking Dutch in the Northern Netherlands, but getting to grips with the language can unlock a whole new world
By Adriana Dancu
Even though the Netherlands is known for being a multicultural, and multinational country, where inclusion is very important, and where it is not uncommon for people to speak English, internationals can still feel affected by the language barrier. Annually, tens of thousands of internationals come to the Netherlands to study at one of the universities here, and 74% of all Master’s degree programmes are in English. However, integrating into the country and region can feel distant for new Internationals here; and one way of doing this is learning Dutch.
The Pie News reported that a survey done in 2019 showed that, among housing issues, 75.2 percent of the students would like more interaction with Dutch students, and that 36.8 prcent of them argued that the lack of opportunities to learn the Dutch language was a contributing factor to this.
So, to make as many opportunities visible as possible, The Northern Times has prepared a guide for Dutch learning opportunities, and social events where internationals can interact more with Dutch natives.
It is highly recommended that newcomers take the opportunity to learn Dutch, even though it is very unlikely to find Dutch people that do not speak English, especially in urban areas of the North. Communicating with elderly people in Northern Netherlands might be difficult if you do not speak Dutch, however, and many Dutch people appreciate any efforts made (minus a few jokes). . Moreover, learning Dutch will help you find all sorts of new events, open up a new culture, and help in everything from getting around to finding a job.
The University of Groningen Language Center offers language classes for Dutch, as well as for a variety of other languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. In addition, at the language center you can improve both your language skills and intercultural understanding, by following a tailor-made course, or joining their fast-paced group lessons that will start you off in your target language from the beginning. The Language Center also provides testing services and can translate, correct and write your texts for anything that’s really official. It is important to keep in mind that for Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as for PhD’s students who do not use the 30% tax facility, courses are fully paid by the University, so you can learn Dutch for free!
If you want to improve both your spoken, and written Dutch language skills, Ziggurat Taaltrainingen gives you the chance to do so in a number of formats. You can join training sessions suitable both for non-business-related personal development, or for your work-related needs. Ziggurat provides three kinds of training available: personal training, open enrollment group courses, and in-house training. These can all take place through online lessons in a virtual classroom, or on location.
Connect International, one of the founding partners at the IWCN, offers Dutch language conversation groups for all levels (and can help you practice your English language skills as well). The International Welcome Center North’s website also offers various opportunities to learn Dutch, and provides translation cervices through their various partners. For instance, if you want to learn Dutch and have some fun, Flowently’s unique language sessions give you the opportunity to do so. You can learn Dutch with a private tutor, and enjoy customized sessions, that focus on interaction skills, and grammar theory. Meet up in a cafe, learn ‘the magic phrases’ and explore your neighborhood with your personal tutor. Sessions are available for all language levels.
In Drenthe, you can learn Dutch by joining ROC, a collaboration of educational institutions in secondary vocational institutions (MBO), and adult education in the Netherlands. The training duration is twelve months, and you have to pay a 773 euros fee. Of course, the Dutch language lessons are online at the moment, so you can start learning from everywhere in the Netherlands.
Meeting Dutch people (in Dutch!)
Besides Dutch language courses, there are many social events you could join in order to put your language skills into practice, make some friends, and have fun.
Amnesty International Groningen, for instance, offers opportunities for volunteering for human rights, taking action at events, organizing the annual charity collection, and more. Join the team to get the chance to meet new people while doing something useful and fun!
There are also Facebook group pages where you can interact with Dutch people, and exercise your language skills as well.
My Local Friend matches internationals in Groningen with long-term locals for Dutch conversation practice. In the Taal Friend programme, you can be in regular contact with the volunteer you are matched with either online or in person to practice your Dutch skills. At the beginning of the programme an English-speaking volunteer will help you with social integration through online correspondence.
Once you learnt a bit of Dutch you could further develop your Dutch language skills, joining one (or multiple) events where you can meet new people, and have fun.