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Fewer students study Dutch in the Netherlands, but abroad it is popular

THE NETHERLANDS. Just 700 students signed up for a bachelor’s degree in Dutch at a university in the Netherlands last year, but outside the country, an estimated 14,000 students are studying the language and literature, the Volkskrant reported on Monday.

The number of students studying their own language at university level has nosedived some 60% in the last 10 years and just 222 first-years signed up to study Dutch this academic year, the association of universities found. ‘Not all those students will want to become teachers and there is already a great lack of Dutch teachers, Sonja van Overmeeren of the University of Amsterdam’s teacher training department told the Parool.

Jan Don, head of the Dutch department at the UvA, where just 54 students opted for Dutch, said he feared that closing down the course could have far-reaching consequences. ‘The need for pupils to learn to read and write Dutch properly is being underestimated. The language is also what binds us, it is part of the Dutch identity, he told the paper.  

Meanwhile the interest in Dutch abroad has been growing, according to figures from grant agency Duo and Dutch language organisation Taalunie. The figures only reflect the number of students in countries where Dutch is not the official language and not all students study the language full-time. ‘Dutch is popular in Poland, for instance,’ Hans Bennis of Taalunie told the Volkskrant. ‘Dutch companies doing business there like to do so in their own language.

In the United States students who are studying 17th century Dutch painting will often learn the language.’ Law attracts the most students in the Netherlands while Hebrew & Modern Greek attract the fewest.

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