This past year, anyone who wants to achieve their goals likely has to do so online. My goal was to learn Dutch. Despite my makeshift workspace and decidedly un-orthopaedic chair, my online Dutch lessons have been a success beyond what I imagined.
Before I get into why this is, let’s answer the question we’re all asking.
Can I really learn Dutch remotely?
I was originally apprehensive about learning Dutch online. Would online lessons work? Would a video call feel too crowded? Would I ever get a chance to actually speak and practise my Dutch?
I had previously taken a Dutch language course two years ago, before the age of awkward elbow bumps and face masks. This course had been in person and I couldn’t imagine that doing all those homework corrections and in-class exercises could be done through Zoom.
I logged on to my first lesson at my school of choice, Taalthuis, a bit nervous. But, I quickly discovered that learning Dutch online is just as good as learning in a classroom — with some added benefits too.
Effective online Dutch lessons
Online Dutch lessons at Taalthuis were not only sufficient but effective — my Dutch boyfriend also noticed the improvement! The subject matter and learning tools made me feel like I was not just learning the language, but that I was learning how to use it for life beyond the classroom.
Learn Dutch online for everyday solutions
Your learning may happen online — but it’s preparing you for those everyday situations and nuances involved in life in the Netherlands.
In my A2 course, we covered basic topics such as the weather forecast but also things like how to tell someone what you think of their clothing, what you would like to do for work, and even how to describe a painting!
A helpful online platform
A real plus that I found when learning Dutch with Taalthuis was their online e-learning platform. Alongside each lesson, students have an online portal through which they can access a run-down of each lesson’s grammar and vocab, as well as exercises and quizzes.
The online learning environment also offers a learning guide that lays out what to study both before and after each lesson, which is great for disorganised scatterbrains such as me.
One particularly fun aspect of this online platform is the liedjes. After each lesson, you can acquaint yourself with some classic Dutch bops. You listen to the song and fill in the gaps. Initially, this was very challenging (some Dutch tunes are simply NOT for me) but it’s a great exercise in listening comprehension.
After all, if you can understand a Dutchman singing about heartbreak, then you can understand your barista when ordering “een kopje koffie.”
Textbooks tailored to your lessons
Instead of trying to source an expensive and generic textbook from which your teacher nitpicks exercises, Taalthuis offers customised, bespoke textbooks for all of its courses — included in the course price.
One book covered grammar, another covered vocab and they were both tailored to each and every lesson. Perfect for someone looking for something straight forward (when very little in life is right now.)
Taalthuis’ online classroom is a tried and tested method
The move to an online environment means making some adjustments, and Taalthuis did just that. In fact, a year on from the move to online lessons, the language school has finessed their approach to online learning. It’s been going so well that they already have plans to keep the option to learn remotely — even after the pandemic!
This was one of the main reasons why the school appealed to me. Online Dutch language courses are no longer a temporary adjustment for the school but instead, a tried and tested learning method. Meaning I didn’t have to worry about being a guinea pig. 😉
Small workshops so you won’t be left behind
Before starting online lessons, I was nervous that I might just be another face in a Zoom grid. But I really liked that my tutor, Geeta, regularly put us into ‘breakout rooms’ where I could work through exercises with other students. When we got stuck, she was never far away to help out.
There’s also no need to worry about getting lost in a grid of faces and audio feedback. Taalthuis’ learning environments are always kept small. Your class will consist of a maximum of eight people — meaning that you’re always going to be asked to participate and you have time to ask your questions.
If anything, this setup meant that I spent even more class time speaking Dutch. Thanks to the breakout rooms we could all participate in every exercise without talking over each other.
Meet new people — and their pets!
Many of us have spent the last year somewhat socially isolated. Of course, you have your household or your bubble buddies, but the opportunities to meet new people are few and far between.
I found that another great advantage of the online lessons was how interactive they were. I didn’t sit and listen, I participated, practised, and praatte (talked) with my classmates!
In our first lesson, our wonderful tutor, Geeta, made sure the atmosphere was light and fun. Within 15 minutes my new classmates were proudly holding their pets up to the camera. The vibes were good and they stayed that way throughout the classes that followed.
No risk involved — of COVID or cancellation
Of course, the main reason why I chose to do online Dutch lessons was initially due to that dreaded C-word. Online lessons allowed me to learn Dutch without travelling unnecessarily on public transport or sitting in a room full of people (how did we ever do that before? I’m joking — sort of.) So an obvious advantage for me was that I wouldn’t have to worry about catching the virus.
However, another reason an online course appealed to me was that there was basically no risk of the course being cancelled due to ever-changing coronavirus restrictions. Unless the earth opened up and swallowed the school, my remote lessons would go ahead regardless of what stage of lockdown the country is in. My Dutch lessons quickly became my one comforting constant during this very turbulent time.
Learn Dutch from anywhere in the world
Perhaps you’re sitting behind a desk in Ireland, or on a tropical beach in the Bahamas (if so, how does it feel to not be vitamin D deficient?) Regardless of your coordinates and your luck, remote lessons are for anyone with a WiFi connection and a can-do attitude.
I had the connection — and a strong cup of coffee to keep my brain fuelled — so my future location was one less thing I had to worry about during a year about as consistent as a Riverdale storyline.
Downsides to learning online
As with everything, learning Dutch online isn’t perfect. You always rely on technology to cooperate with you — and sometimes it doesn’t want to. I had some issues with my headphones cutting out, and as a result, my poor tutor was sometimes calling on me, only to receive a blank and oblivious stare in return. Luckily, a quick purchase of a new pair fixed that problem fast.
Another aspect of Dutch lessons that is missing from the online realm is the chatter that you can enjoy with your classmates before and after class. I originally thought I would be missing out on this aspect — but found that after a year of socialising online, making friends in an online class was just as simple! I even made some friends for life after lessons — hoi Tyler and Tolstoy! (Tyler’s dog.)
Taalthuis online class times and levels
Taalthuis offers a variety of online courses depending on your level and personal situation:
- Online Beginners Course (A0-A1)
- Online Beginners Plus (A0-A2)
- Online Advanced Course (A2-B1)
- Part 1 Online Advanced Course (A2-B1)
- Part 2 Online High-Advance Course (B1-B2)
- Online To perfection (B2-C1)
- Online conversational course (A2 and B1)
Taalthuis’ prices range from €195 to €595 depending on the course you choose. However, the standard price for Taalthuis’s online Dutch courses is €455. These courses will raise you from one language level to another.
It’s nice to note that, unlike many Dutch courses, this price also includes your learning tools such as access to the E-Learning platform as well as the two textbooks.
I can now happily say that I have achieved at least one thing off of my list of goals for this year — and that’s worth something!
Have you tried online Dutch lessons? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!
Feature Image: Yan Krukov/Pexels