A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
One of the questions I have often been asked whether it is possible to live in the Netherlands without knowing Dutch? Well, the answer is yes! The Dutch are very talented with their English skills and they are more than willing to switch to English in their communications when they understand you do not know Dutch or feel more confident speaking in English.
Knowing the local language, on the other hand, always comes with its advantages. First and foremost, for international students, it significantly increases our chances to get employed, even for internships, by Dutch employers. However, don’t feel despair because many of the international students, including me, get their first jobs while they do not know anything about Dutch or when they are at the early stages of learning. In the end, no one expects you to master the language in such a short time-span.
Beyond the advantages related to the job market, learning Dutch would expand your social circle. Dutch people are known as very social, direct, and open-minded. They also are quite curios and might bring quite interesting topics to the table all of a sudden. They are also very well-known travelers and, therefore, have a lot to tell you. All these make having conversations with Dutch people quite fun! Although they can speak to you in English, the more you learn and master Dutch, the more you would find yourself in the inner circle. So, it’s better to learn Dutch right away to be a part of these fun conversations.
I think one of the biggest advantages of learning the local language is of course being able to understand daily information you encounter, such as announcements in the train or letters you receive from the municipality. Once, I was trying to turn back to Utrecht, the city I used to live in, around midnight from another city and I entered into the train at the last minute while there was an announcement was going on in Dutch. Since there was no one in the wagon apart, I just kept waiting for the train to leave the station. Then, the power went off and I was locked in the train in a city I barely knew. While I was calling my friends, they have opened the door and I asked the officials outside what was the announcement for. They told me the announcement was asking passengers to move into the next train as there was an issue with this one. Luckily, there was another train, which was the last train by the way, was going to Utrecht and I didn’t have to find a hostel or something to spend the night. However, that night I understood the importance of knowing the local language.
If you would like to get all those benefits that learning Dutch might give you and refrain from the events like I mentioned above, then I might suggest some sources for you to learn Dutch in this blog. First of all, Leiden University Language Center offers courses for international students every term. You can check their website to get recent updates and information. Apart from that, you can the offers by municipalities, such as The Hague Municipality, private courses such as LinguaFranca or online sources such as learndutch, Babel.
Of course, you can always try to learn by yourself via apps like DuoLingo or directly via YouTube videos which I should admit are not very common. If you would like to read more about how to self-study Dutch, you can also check this post for more information.
Do you also consider to learn Dutch? Have you enrolled in Leiden University`s language programs already? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!