The importance of the Dutch Language
Dutch is the most used official language in Belgium. It’s the mother tongue of about 60% of the population and it’s used as the exclusive language in the northern part of the country called Flanders. In Brussels Dutch and French are both used.
Flemish Dutch is a variety of Dutch used in the Netherlands. Both can be distinguished by the accent and some local vocabulary. Dutch in general is spoken by more than 22 million people. 16 milion of the are Dutch, 6 million are Flemish and the language is still used in some former colonies of the Netherland among which is Suriname. It is among the 50 languages spoken most in the world and it has been taught at about 200 universities in more than 50 countries.
Flemish people have the reputation of easily switching to French or English when they’re talking with a non-native Dutch speaker, however there are a lot of advantages when you speak Dutch as an expat living in Flanders. In many situations not knowing Dutch will always remain a handicap. That’s why improving your Dutch will multiply your options in Flanders.
We’ll give you an overview of how you can increase and even multiply these options when mastering your Dutch and afterwards we’ll explain how Dutch Language Classes can help you with this goal.
How you will multiply your options when mastering your Dutch
- In general
It is said that learning a new language has got lots of benefits. Among those are: improving your native language, enhancing your focus, preventing brain diseases like Alzheimer or dementia, improving your math skills, learning other things faster and boosting your creativity and confidence.
One of them is especially relevant for expats living in Flanders. Learning a new language will make you more outgoing and liked by others. This is because the experience gained from conversation exercises is basically the same as meeting someone. This skill of being outgoing and sociable is directly transferable to other areas of your life. On top of that learning a new language will help you see the world in a different perspective – you’ll have to step in the shoes of others – and consequently will develop empathy for others.
- Dutch in the public life
As mentioned before Dutch is the official language Flanders and one of the official languages in Brussels (next to French). That means that Dutch needs to be used in all contacts with the authorities. The government officials are in most of the cases not allowed to answer you in any other language and moreover all documents will be exclusively in this language.
Doing paperwork in the city hall, making a statement at the police office, enrolling your kids in a school or appearing in court will therefore only be possible in Dutch.
The same counts for all semi-public organisations working for or together with the government such as VDAB (the Dutch employment agency), social housing agencies, post offices or Belgacom (one of the biggest phone companies in Belgium).
- Dutch in your professional life
Although there are some multinational companies in which English is spoken generally, this is normally not the case in Flanders (nor in Brussels).
In general companies can communicate with their staff in every language they want but all official communication has to be done in the official language of the region. That means that the official version of your labour contract, paycheck or social security documents will be in Dutch when you work in Flanders. If another language would be used this is done out of courtesy to you but the document has no legal value.
To be able to understand the directives of the employer or the safety regulation in the company it is also necessary to know Dutch.
This counts even more when you know that some of the biggest employers are public organisations. When counting employees working for the government in the broadest sense of the word 1,4 million people are employed by them in Belgium. People are only hired here after passing a language test.
In many of these companies is Dutch also the language that is used informally among colleagues during meetings or at the coffee machine. To blend in with them is vital to actively use the language.
Once a student of us mentioned: “no matter how good your Dutch is, if you cannot do small talk at the coffee machine, you never get really into the team”. We don’t want to demotivate you telling you this. Later in this article we’ll explain how we can help.
Because of this affection with the language most of the private companies use the knowledge of Dutch also as a selection criterium when hiring new staff however this is not always clearly said so. To multiply your options in a job search it is advantageous to master the language.
When you are looking for a job and you are currently getting unemployment benefits the employment agency can and even will ask you to learn Dutch. When you don’t comply with this demand, you can lose your government support. The government considers learning Dutch when you live in Flanders as an aspect of actively looking for a job. We explained you why above in this article. Furthermore, government employment agencies like VDAB in Flanders offer a lot of help when job hunting. The courses they provide are high quality and they can bring you in contact with useful people for your professional life but this help will be offered exclusively in Dutch.
- Dutch as business language
When you are having your own business, you are free to use any language you want. There is no regulation about a language that has to be used in a commercial situation.
On the other hand doing business comes down to building a relationship with your customers. Although Flemish people like to switch between languages they will feel more comfortable when you are able to use their native language and get their cultural habits. It’s the best way to get the “click” with your customer.
- Dutch at home
At home the language you want to use is naturally completely up to you. This counts as well for others so bear in mind that local shop owners or service providers will perhaps be friendly and use another language to you but they do not have to know this. And once you leave the bigger cities like Brussels, Leuven or Ghent they often don’t. When it comes to more nuanced communication in these situations Dutch will again become handy again.
This also means you can raise you children in any language you want to. For their social life, to get to know new friends and to be able to go to school, on the other hand, it will be vital they are able to use Dutch. Schools are (somewhat) government organisations and will do all communication exclusively in Dutch. To enrol your kids, to check their agenda’s, help them with their homework or to go to parents’ evenings you will have to able to deal with this all in Dutch.
- Dutch in your private life
You will benefit from your Dutch in contact with your neighbours, to ask for directions on the street or to understand information in a museum. You will have to be able to do all these things in Dutch. And… when getting on a date with a Dutch person, in which language did you think to charm the person the most?
- The Flemish culture
We mentioned that learning Dutch is not only about communicating in a new language, it’s about experiencing the culture. This is the only way a real bond with Flemish locals can be established. This means that you’ll have to build a background knowledge about what they like (e.g. Belgian beer, the famous frites) or dislike, what they approve or reject (in a cliché the Belgians are very pragmatical and known for flexible interpretation of rules and regulations) or how the behave (they are more outgoing and straightforward than the French but less than the Dutch, they use an informal version of “you” when addressing 99% of the people).
How Dutch Language Classes can help you to multiply your options
Dutch Language Classes is a conversation based Dutch training project that actually makes you speak Dutch so you really start to multiply your options in Flanders. Most of our students took some language lessons in other schools first. They built a background in vocabulary and grammar there. When turning to us “we studied the language for years but we still feel handicapped when we need something to get done in Flanders” is what we often hear.
We help them by doing general conversation based trainings to enable them to keep the conversation going. In these trainings we don’t only build the routine of talking, we also correct occasional imperfections but also help to build their self-confidence while expressing themselves in Dutch.
“I had a background in grammar but I couldn’t talk … At the end of the course I was able to have a conversation with colleagues and to express my point of view.”
(Aline H. – see the testimonial)
We can also orient the training in a certain direction adding professional skills (doing a job interview, giving a professional presentation), writing skills or preparing you for a Dutch language test.
“The classes were also adjusted to the specific scientific terminology that I needed to learn for my work and that was amazingly helpful.”
(Nina S. – see the testimonial)
We give trainings to small groups of people with plus or minus the same challenges or work on a individual basis. We can even come to your place when that makes your life (and your work-life balance) nicer. And we bring all the materials needed.
Since learning Dutch is not only about communicating in a new language but even more it is about experiencing a new culture, meeting Flemish people is embedded in the core of the Dutch learning process. That’s why all our trainers are native speakers. They didn’t only live in Flanders, the studied here as well, they conduct their own businesses and have a lot of international contacts. This way the fully understand the challenges expats living in Flanders are facing. They will always think with you or assist you to come with a pragmatical and effective approach for the situation.
To give you the experience of a real complete immersion we developed a field trip in Flanders formula. You will be in the cockpit of your own learning process telling what you want to do and where you want to do this. We’ll go there together but we’ll be like your shadow. It will be you who will ask for information and get things done. And off course you will need to do this in Dutch. We will there to encourage you and give you feedback and when things get a little difficult (imagine you encounter someone using a dialect) to offer assistance.
“Dutch Language Classes gave guidance and support at the same time. By discussing topics from various fields (economics, legal world, industry, general culture, intercultural and international topics) they gave me great opportunities to express myself better and better. Field trips to museums, shops, tourist information points and public facilities in Leuven and Brussels were the cherry on the cake: David supported and mentored me going through ‘real life situations’.”
Carsten K. – see the testimonial)
Since Dutch Language Classes is offers tailor made training and coaching programs to make you actively speak Dutch and get your options in Flanders multiplied, we only work on appointment and we cannot do this for everyone. To really benefit from a conversation training you need to have a certain background (a level A2 or the second level at Groep T).
In order to check a level of Dutch but also to check your personal ambitions, the challenges you are facing and the goals you want to reach we offer you a first half an hour of training for FREE. We can use this time to make a planning but it will be in Dutch and we’ll give you a first feedback afterwards.
Just fill in the contact form or send us an e-mail and we’ll offer you 30 minutes of preliminary training for FREE.
“I became lot more confident to use dutch in everyday life. Since I look for a new job this is a big plus for me and these days I even speak dutch with hiring managers.”
(Sona K. – see the testimonial)