Dutch is one of the major languages of Europe and is spoken by some twenty three million people in the European Union. It is the national language of the Netherlands, and is also widely spoken in Belgium and some of the border areas of France and Germany.
People set out to learn a new language for all sorts of reasons; to help in business, to enhance their experience as a tourist or simply to take up a new challenge. For people from the United Kingdom, learning the Dutch language offers a number of advantages. Most importantly, English speakers often find learning Dutch easier than other languages because the Dutch language is from the same linguistic family as English and German. However, it has a much simpler grammatical case system than that of German.
In terms of business relationships, the Netherlands is the UK’s fifth-largest trading partner. Given the increasing globalisation of our economy, particularly in terms of our European partners, a level of competence in the Dutch language is a definite advantage to one’s curriculum vitae.
Nearly one million tourists from the UK visit the Netherlands each year, with Amsterdam, The Hague and Maastricht being particularly popular destinations. Although English is widely spoken in Holland, your experience as a tourist will definitely be improved by being able to speak at least a little of the Dutch language. In fact, you are sure to receive an even warmer welcome from your hosts when they discover you are learning Dutch.
The good news for anyone whose only experience of learning a new language was from the time when they were at secondary school is that things have definitely improved. Language learning is no longer about stodgy textbooks and memorising grammar by rote. The internet and digital technology have both made language training more accessible and ultimately more effective.
One can still learn Dutch at a traditional evening class. However, the disadvantage of this format is its rigidity; one is tied to a particular time-slot each week with no tutor support between lessons. Home learning systems based on CDs or DVDs are clearly more flexible but, again, such systems lack any level of individual support.
A number of online language learning courses have emerged in the last few years and one is now able to learn Dutch and other languages via one’s PC or mobile. Digital technology certainly offers the learner greater flexibility and the potential for receiving tuition that is tailor-made for the individual’s particular needs. However, the online language market can present the learner with a baffling number of options and great variations in quality and cost.
Babbel.com was established in 2008 and has so far helped more than seven million users worldwide learn a new language. For those wishing to learn Dutch, Babbel offers low-price but effective packages through your PC or mobile device. Packages available include modules covering vocabulary, writing and speech, with speech recognition features to help with pronunciation. Babbel also uses a review manager feature to ensure that your experience of learning Dutch is closely matched to your individual needs and progress.