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Learning Dutch and learning about the Dutch

July 9, 2015

Kickstart School believes that learning Dutch should be about more than just grammar and textbooks. It should include learning about the Dutch – their culture, history, sense of humour, and other little insights that make language learning a rich and rewarding experience. As such, we have always incorporated aspects of Dutch culture into all of our language programmes.

We recently expanded our intermediate Dutch language programme (Stepping Stone III and IV Courses) to include more activities exploring relevant cultural and historical topics. Additionally, our Dutch Culture and Conversation Course focuses exclusively on developing students’ spoken language skills by actively engaging with elements of Dutch culture in a fun and challenging way.

To give you an insight into what this focus on culture and conversation looks like in our courses, we interviewed one of our Dutch teachers, Jacqueline van Oorschot.

What is special about Kickstart’s Dutch Stepping Stone III, IV, and Culture and Conversation Courses?

In these courses, we explore the Dutch, their culture, and their history. We look at lots of different topics and we trigger students to start speaking about those topics. We encourage students to talk about their own culture in relation to Dutch culture.

It takes students out of the comfort zone of just doing an exercise in a book and challenges them to actively participate. In my experience, the discussion comes naturally. The teacher guides the discussion a little bit, but students give their own points of view.

Who should do these courses?

These courses are for people who enjoy Dutch culture and people, and wonder about why we are the way we are. They should be interested in hearing a little bit more about the country and its history. And not only history, but also art! We have lots of famous artists, like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and many more, so it’s very interesting. In these courses, the teachers speak only Dutch, so students are totally dipped into the language.

What can students expect to do and learn in these courses?

The range of topics is very broad. There is something in it for everybody. Some of the topics are:IMG_2427 edited

  • Why the Dutch are like they are and Dutch manners.
  • Cultural differences. For example, we look at a text by an Iranian refugee who settled in the Netherlands and noticed all these cultural differences. For some people the culture shock is smaller than for others and it’s fun to talk about this together.
  • We do a tour around The Hague, where we discuss the history of the city and fun things to know. The students prepare a small speech about one of the figures in the Dutch royal family and, at different spots in The Hague, they have to tell their story. And they have to prepare not just the facts, but something more interesting and with some humour!
  • Sport: which sports the Dutch are interested in and why. We also talk about one of our famous football players, Johan Cruijff. As a sports commentator he has his own language, a “football language”, which is not “proper” Dutch, but is very interesting!
  • The fight against water and why this is important.
  • The Golden Age and some of our famous painters, like Vermeer and Rembrandt. We also look at the Dutch East India Company, the first multinational in the world.
  • We talk about Indonesia, an important part of our history and culture.
  • We discuss the Second World War.
  • We also look at democracy and politics.

What types of materials are used in these courses?

We use lots of articles from newspapers. Often students have to watch a film for homework which we then discuss together. We try to make it relevant as well, so if there is something happening on the news, we put this in the classes.

We use a series of history-focused comic books, which are quite humorous and fun. We also read a couple of books that are more accessible, so hopefully students will be able to start enjoying reading Dutch books – apart from Jip and Janneke!

We have all kinds of extra fun items, like Dutch songs. We also have “ikjes”, short texts that show a little bit of Dutch humour, which students have to read and then try to explain why they are funny.

Why would you recommend these courses?

These courses are not only about learning a language, but about learning about the Netherlands and the people of the Netherlands. It’s about learning about the Dutch. And it’s fun!

This article was written by Letitia Baker and first published as a Partner Feature on ACCESS Netherlands on 13 November 2014.