Intensive courses – just don’t!

I was talking to a lovely woman from India the other day who had just moved to the Netherlands. She adored absolutely everything here –ha, wait until the winter 😉 and was thinking about staying. I told her that, since she does not have a passport from the European Union, she would have to take the civic exam. She then asked me how she could learn Dutch as soon as possible and if I could recommend an intensive course. No I couldn’t, because, quite frankly, I don’t believe in intensive courses and consider many of them to be a rip off. ? But May, how can you say that? What about Queen Máxima, who learned fabulous Dutch in a very short period of time?
Well yes, but what Máxima can do, most of us cannot. There are some really intensive courses, and I mean you have to practice every second you are not asleep. The menu, tv and internet will all be in Dutch and you get totally immersed by several instructors a day. Diplomats, journalists and, indeed, future queens take these courses when they have ample financial resources at their disposal. Most importantly, they will be in constant contact with a Dutch speaking environment. Otherwise, courses like this really don’t make a lot of sense. You will learn a lot, but it will be all stored in your short term memory, and if you don’t continue practicing, you will forget everything very quickly.
I told the Indian lady to be realistic and set clear goals for herself. If you work full time, don’t sign up for a course that meets four times a week. Even if you make it to all the classes, you won’t have been able to do your homework and be completely exhausted, and in all likelihood you will give up and feel frustrated and disappointed. A good language school will always ask you about your needs and goals and if they don’t, I certainly wouldn’t give them my money! My acquaintance is on a work visa, so there is no real rush. She speaks perfect English and several other languages, has had an excellent education and only needs an A2 level to pass the civic exam, which for her really won’t be that difficult. We chose to work with a method with plenty of opportunity for self study, for when she has time and energy, and we meet once, sometimes twice a week. I am convinced that she is learning much more now than had she taken a course that meets four times a week. Now we will have to see how she adapts to Dutch winters!

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