Cosy classrooms, lots and lots of books, old paintings and ‘old school’ maps of the Netherlands. It’s not hard to imagine what Direct Dutch Institute looked like three decades ago. Last month the school celebrated its 30th anniversary, making them the oldest language school for Dutch in The Hague. Older and wiser, they say. Let’s have a look at thirty years of teaching Dutch to expats!
In 1985 Ruud Hisgen, managing director, started Direct Dutch Institute with a mission. He wanted to help expats feel at home in The Netherlands. By teaching them the language and by incorporating Dutch culture into the lessons. ‘You will understand a country and its people much better, if you know something about the roots’, says Ruud Hisgen. ‘The other great advantage is that you will be more motivated to learn the language!’
This mission is still very much alive in 2015. Direct Dutch organises workshops in Central Library The Hague about various aspects of Dutch culture. The monthly public events (including a film club and a book club) are very popular amongst expats that want to learn Dutch. The workshops provide a possibility for expats to practise speaking Dutch.
In 2015, Direct Dutch uses the same teaching method as thirty years ago. This method, by own design, implies that Dutch is spoken in class from lesson one. The groups are small, so every student has time to speak. After one lesson, students already speak a little Dutch. Hisgen explains: ‘The Dutch language has a lot in common with English, German and other European languages. Once a student is used to the pronunciation, he or she will start recognising words. English and Dutch grammars are also more similar than people often think. So picking up some basics is actually not that hard.’
Practice makes perfect!
Unfortunately, once you’ve learned the basics of the Dutch language, it’s not easy to practise speaking it in public. Dutch people stubbornly answer back in English. This ‘problem’ has only gotten bigger over time. Especially in bigger cities such as The Hague, where now even street name signs are in English. For this reason Direct Dutch started making buttons that say ‘Spreek Nederlands! Met mij!’ (Speak Dutch! With me!). Initially they were made for their own students, but so far more than 12.000 buttons have been distributed all over the Netherlands. The annual ‘Spreek Nederlands dag’ (Speak Dutch day), organised by Direct Dutch, The Hague Public Library and several other organisations is supposed to further help spread this message amongst the Dutch.
Find out more about Direct Dutch Institute, the courses and the free Dutch Up! workshops on www.directdutch.com