Spreek je Nederlands?

Spreek je Nederlands?

"Thinking about my own less-than-successful attempts at learning Dutch"

07-11-2023 · Column

During my early months in the Netherlands, I confidently strolled into supermarkets, greeting people with a cheerful "oi, oi !,” channeling my inner British hooligan. I interpreted the mildly amused looks from my cashier as a sort of impressed recognition of my Dutch skills. It took about three months until my Dutch friend kindly corrected me, explaining that the correct phrase is "hoi hoi", meant for saying goodbye, and that it is unique to the Limburg region.

In the past few months, the debate on whether international students should be required to learn Dutch has resurfaced, sparked by discussions in Dutch politics about reducing the number of international students and English-taught programs. One recurring concern expressed is that a significant number of international students are not learning Dutch during their studies. Which is supposedly hindering their full participation in Dutch society and is one of the reasons why many international students choose to leave immediately after completing their studies.

Learning Dutch

Thinking about my own less-than-successful attempts at learning Dutch, I can certainly relate to these difficulties. Two years after living in Maastricht and I still respond to the question "spreek je Nederlands?" with "niet zo goed". However, I don't think it's just a matter of laziness on the part of learners. I've put a considerable amount of time and effort into my language studies, consistently using Duolingo, attending a Dutch course, and faithfully tuning in to De Avondshow met Arjen Lubach. While my Dutch comprehension has improved a lot, my ability to speak the language is still limited to the very specific yet useless Duolingo phrases like "de schildpad eet een appel" (the turtle eats an apple).


The problem is the lack of speaking practice, most people quickly switch to English upon hearing my struggling attempts. Honestly, enrolling in another Dutch class alongside my regular university schedule, which costs money and demands more time in a classroom, isn't something I would seek out. However, initiatives like Dutch language cafes, buddy programs, and community service projects, where you volunteer alongside local Dutch speakers, are more exciting opportunities to practice Dutch in real-life situations. Unfortunately, these options are rarely promoted or rewarded by the university. Why not? To encourage more international students to learn Dutch, I believe that engaging in real-life situations with native speakers, would be much more interesting and effective than memorizing vocabulary in a classroom.

Line-Marie Eichhorst, student University College Maastricht




Author: Redactie

Photo: Joey Roberts

Tags: linemarie,Dutch,learning Dutch,language,internationalisation,Nederlands

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