In total, over 22 million people are native speakers of Dutch. Dutch is a national language in the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname in South America and the Dutch Antilles. It is also popular as a second language in Germany, France, the United States and Australia.
Dutch is not very hard to learn, especially if you already speak English or German. Both English and Dutch come from the same old Germanic root. Therefore many Dutch words are similar to the English ones, especially when it comes to basic words like colors, animals, fruits or vegetables. Some people may say Dutch is somewhere in the middle between English and German, but it may not be a nice thing to say to a Dutch person. Dutch is an independent, beautiful language with its own peculiarities.
There are no free Dutch courses in the Netherlands. So-called civic integration course (inburgeringscursus in Dutch) costs money – most likely you will have to pay a few hundred euros. There is no fixed fee. The price depends on the school. There is a list of approved language schools that provide integration courses. You may find the closest approved school to you at ikwilinburgeren.nl website. An integration course normally combines language courses and information about local life. At the end of a course, you pass the final exams and receive a certificate.
Loan for courses
Almost everyone who wants to integrate is eligible to borrow money for language courses. State education service (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs in Dutch) or DUO provides student loans. You may consult eligibility criteria and loan procedure by visiting the official DUO website. How much you are entitled to borrow depends on your legal status and income. Normally, the more you earn, the less you can borrow from DUO. Please note that the state education service does not charge any interest rate.
Another benefit is that the costs of the civic integration course are deductible against tax. Consult your tax advisor and pay less tax.
Learning language by yourself
Still, there is a free option – self-education. There are a number of podcasts, study materials, apps and online courses. Self-education requires discipline. The key to success is the daily habit of learning a language. Yet it may be a smart decision to start with a course and then continue practicing by yourself.
If you are an open and communicative person you may find a speaking peer to exchange language knowledge (see for instance conversationexchange.com or mylanguageexchange.com). You could teach your native language and receive some Dutch practice from a peer. Before participating in the language exchange it is advisable to first acquire some basic speaking skills. Please take into account that speaking peer will not necessarily be able to explain to you the grammar.
While the digital world provides you with a variety of learning opportunities, all of them require steady effort and perseverance. At the end however, learning a local language is a great opportunity to enhance your understanding of the country you decided to live in and integrate into its society.