Alle berichten van rwillems

Use it or lose it (BloG)



from Rafael Willems, in beautiful Maastricht, my birth town (some say it’s a city), where Dutch literature started with Henric van Veldeke – and, by the way, the € took off too. Here I plan to write a few notes about (learning) the Dutch language.

Groep expats switcht naar Nederlands omdat er ook een Nederlander bij komt zitten

 Nederlands? Praat het of laat het!

You know “use it or lose it”? I’ve been looking for a good translation of the English saying, because it goes for any language, in particular Dutch. Walk it, talk it, use it in your everyday life, or let it, forget it, don’t even start. Therefore: ‘NEDERLANDS? PRAAT HET OF LAAT HET!’ Talk Dutch wherever and whenever it is possible, because otherwise it is not going to stick, let alone develop. That’s why you should find a place where you can talk Dutch, a “praatplaats”.

This is the most important tip you can get for learning languages. Dutch is no easy language, with its Germanic grammar. Expect to find more verbs at the end of a sentence than you would expect there! Look at this:

Words going to the end.




(In the present and simple past: put prefixes behind)
(Put all infinitives and past participles way behind)
(In sub clauses, put all verbs way behind)

The good news: reading and spelling are fairly easy. Plus: the Dutch are quite pragmatic, and I am too. And so is my teaching: no Double Dutch, but straightforward, helpful, classical education. Expect good explanation, effective exercises and lots of speaking and writing!

Learning Dutch by conversation

Talking about things of interest to the pupil is the best way to learn.  Education means communication, which implies mutual interest. Positive interaction with other human beings is the core of learning a language: that’s why you can only learn to speak Dutch by speaking it. The Beginners Courses are more “structured”, because I want you to know the basic rules and words before you start talking. You always get both oral and written feedback (online, to practice) to all you say and write, because that makes you grow.

Learning Dutch by pleasure

Being able to communicate in a different language and feeling you grow is fun. And although pleasure is an effect of good education, it’s a condition too. You can’t memorize boring things and you can’t learn when you don’t feel good. We aim to make you feel at ease in our classes, trying to understand how it is to live in another country and learn a new language. We hope you experience our education as a loop, a spiraling circle – a positive one. Dutch course Waterval

Learning vocabulary and grammar

The bricks and mortar of a language, when they are presented the right (playful) way, can be fun too. Using words, e.g. in building sentences and playing games, makes you remember them. Clear rules and explanations give you something to hold on to. normalez



Here, our online possibilities will help you a great deal. You can find every important new word from a book lesson in our online vocabulary trainer – used in an everyday sentences, of course.  The online drills are there to internalize and automatize the rules.

Learning Dutch: everything goes!

Last but not least: by using a wide scale of means – e.g. children’s books, papers, songs, films – we’ll catch your attention, and learning will be more intense. A language lives in its everyday conversations, its papers, its television programs, its songs, its stories, its plays and games; we use them all. You’ll learn much faster when language situations change a lot!

Waterval! – the book 🙂

How to learn Dutch? Certainly, there are many books that’ll teach you Dutch – some of them even good. There are lots of web sites and apps that may boost your vocabulary. But do they offer an allround solution? Waterval - Learning DutchThe challenge (sorry for the word) is to use all the possibilities mentioned above.

This book tries to: Waterval! (“waterfall”). There are six Waterval books, leading to A1, A2, B1, B1+, B2 and C respectively. They come with a web site, containing conversations, listening exercises and Dutch songs, and lots computerized exercises with meaningful feedback.

The Dutch say: “Hij/Zij is een spraakwaterval“, he or she is a waterfall of speech. That’s what we aim at: to make a fluent speaker of you. You’ll experience a “waterfall of Dutch” at Waterval, a shower of Dutch. Together, we’ll find the mixture that suits you best!

How to learn Dutch? By interaction!

 Teaching cycle

This is how we work in our courses:

Welcome chatHomework  review → Talking about the new theme and new words→ Book dialogue→  GrammarPractice → Speech bits → Conversation/interactionFeedbackRoleplay  ReadingListeningSpeaking [HomeworkWriting E-learning Tools]

01brief2Example of a writing assignment: write a postcard (lesson 1)!

Where the Dutch and their language come  from

  • The Dutch live in a delta of three rivers, two of them (Maas and Schelde) draining northern France, one draining western Germany and northern Switzerland, the Rhine. Delta life calls for a lot of cooperation, to keep water levels from being too high (flooding) or too low (dry fields). That’s why they always want “overleg”, which is communication to reach coördination and consent. Steady negotiation and even renegotiation can be a pain, but the upside is: no civil wars, no revolutions and pragmatic problem-solving!
  • The Netherlands are a small country among three bigger ones: Germany, France and the UK. There was just one moment the Dutch were richer and more powerful than the others, around 1672, so the three others (plus Sweden) hit us where it hurt.  Except for that short stint, the Dutch are mediators and tradesman, go-betweens. Which explains our relative (but declining) mastery of foreign languages, and the lack of love for our own. It’s one of the reasons a Dutchie will answer in English when he or she hears a slight accent: always willing to help, but on the short – commercial – term. You have to really want to speak Dutch to learn it!
  • The country is situated between Germany and English, the language is somewhere between German and English too. Peoples from northern Germany (Anglo-Saxons, 4th century A.D., Frysians, 9th century) fled to England and took their languages with them. After 1066,  English adopted the latin grammar from French, but it always kept loads of basic germanic words.
    Meanwhile, the delta people developed their own version of a germanic language. Dutch history, with its democratic, sea-faring, colonial and commercial tradition, was very different from Germany’s. And so their national languages drifted apart too. The grammars maybe similar, but words are definitely not.