Learning Dutch at the VU: Is it worth it?
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Living in Amsterdam as an international student oftentimes means that your encounters with the Dutch language are rather limited. Many bachelor and master degree courses are offered in English and it is nearly impossible to find a person in Amsterdam that can’t speak English. Understandable then, that only a minority of international students ends up learning Dutch. As someone who went through six Dutch courses at the NT2 (Dutch as a second language) academy of the VU and still struggles with the Dutch pronunciation on a daily basis, I thought I am somewhat qualified to tell you guys whether I think it is worth it to take Dutch classes at the VU or not.
My main motivation for learning Dutch was to feel more at home in Amsterdam. I grew up in a German town near the Dutch border, so while I never really experienced a culture shock per se, it was still weird to suddenly not be able to understand train announcements or the Albert Heijn cashier. Especially in my first year, not understanding other people was a constant reminder of me not really belonging here, which made homesickness that much worse. I’m by no means a good Dutch speaker now, but in particular with the constantly changing corona measures, it is extremely reassuring to know that I have (in theory) the language skills necessary to navigate through my life in the Netherlands without any (big) problems. Secondly, being able to speak Dutch can give you better job and internship opportunities. Thanks to the international nature of Amsterdam, finding a job that doesn’t require you to speak Dutch is fairly easy. However, it can nevertheless limit your options to specific industries and depending on your major, can make it significantly more difficult to find good internships. Maybe it’s just my fate as a history major, but internships that don’t ask for full Dutch and English language proficiency seem to be non-existent. Lasty, I really enjoyed my Dutch classes, because they were a nice change of scenery. Language classes are generally not very demanding (at least in the beginning), so whenever I needed a break from wars and revolutions, I would work on my Dutch homework for a bit. The classes were always a lot of fun and I personally found them to be a great opportunity to meet new people outside of your own degree. Especially because you usually sit in a classroom with 15 or less students, it’s quite easy to make new friends, which makes class participation that much less stressful.
Naturally, there are also some downsides. First off, the NT2 classes are quite expensive. One course costs around 345€ (student discount included) and that can add up pretty quickly. In particular when you don’t necessarily need to know Dutch to get by, it’s not always worth paying that much. There are other language schools in Amsterdam that offer cheaper classes, but they either take much longer than the two-month long VU classes or they have much larger group sizes. Another ‘disadvantage’ is that especially the last few courses are extremely time consuming. The majority of classes are taught twice a week for 2 ½ hours, which doesn’t include writing prompts, vocabulary tests etc. In my experience, for first year and second year students the course load is definitely doable, but if you’re a third year student the additional homework can be too demanding at times.
All in all, however, I definitely don’t regret having taken Dutch classes at the NT2 academy and I now feel much more at home in the Netherlands than I did before I learned Dutch. If you’re interested in signing up for Dutch classes you can click here to find more information.