Why Learn Dutch?

Why would you want to learn Dutch? “Why not?” answers a Spanish student on a summer course. With only around 28 million speakers at most, it hardly seems like a handy second language unless you happen to live here. Yet there are still students from all over Europe prepared to give up their summer holiday to attend a Dutch course in the Netherlands. 

Most of the participants seem to be getting on with the language pretty well and are able to express themselves fairly fluently. The pronunciation is the hardest part, they say, but the grammar is fairly straightforward.

Almost half of the 126 students on the summer course are from Eastern Europe, but there are also participants from countries like Italy and Spain. Most have a practical aim – they think a knowledge of Dutch will help them in their careers.

Anita from the Czech Republic sees job possibilities. “We don’t have so many translators or interpreters for Dutch in the Czech Republic,” she says. “I also think there are opportunities to work with the language in European institutions.”

Anita is fairly typical of the students on the course, says teacher Michel Dingenouts.

“Most of them are planning to use Dutch in their work – in Croatia, the Czech Republic, or Poland – which I find pretty unusual. You wonder how many opportunities there are, but apparently they exist. The people aren’t just studying Dutch language and literature for fun, they want to achieve a goal.”

The teacher isn’t sure he likes the tendency to choose Dutch for its practical applications rather than its linguistic appeal. “Perhaps there used to be a more general cultural interest, a passion for literature,” he observes wistfully, “but you’re not likely to come across that anymore.”

Nevertheless, some of the students have picked Dutch for less practical reasons. “I’m also studying German and I wanted to learn another Germanic language,” a student from Seville explains. “I like Amsterdam,” says a Russian student, one of 56 studying Dutch at Moscow University. “I think Amsterdam is very beautiful and very nice.”