Finding the right Dutch course: Online vs group courses
UvA Talen has taught Dutch to countless expats over the years, both online and offline. Using their experience as a basis, here are the advantages of both methods:
Whether you have just moved to the Netherlands or have been living here for a long time, there will come a time when you will want to improve your Dutch. Finding the right language school is probably your first concern. However, now that more and more language schools are offering courses online as well as offline, your second question will probably be: should I join a group course or learn Dutch online?
Advantages of group courses
Here are the advantages of taking a group course:
Opportunities to practice
If you take a group course, you will be surrounded by other people who are in a similar position to you. Your fellow students’ language skills will be at the same level as yours and, because you all decided it was time to improve your Dutch, you will probably discover you have language issues in common. Being able to practice with your classmates during a group course will help you improve your Dutch. Many students even meet up after class to practise their language skills.
If you learn a language online, it is not impossible to practice your language skills, but you will have to find ways of doing this yourself. For instance, you can find a language partner or speak Dutch when shopping.
An experienced teacher
A major advantage of a group course is having a teacher! They will have taught countless other people like you and this means that they have been able to develop the best possible way to teach you Dutch. Do you struggle with irregular verbs? They will have the right exercise for you. Do you need help with pronouncing the “g”? They will practice with you until your pronunciation is correct.
A teacher can also be a great motivator. Teachers are usually passionate about the subject they teach and there is a big chance that their enthusiasm will transfer to you. Use this to your advantage!
Dealing with specific issues at higher levels
If your Dutch is already at a high level and you want to get to grips with the finer points of the language, our advice would be to choose a group course rather than an online one. The better you speak a language, the more specific your issues become.
We often see students with great Dutch skills who just need a little extra help in specific areas. They might have problems with getting the word order right in longer sentences or be struggling with passive sentences. A group course allows your specific issues to be dealt with and gives you the opportunity to ask any specific questions you may have.
Advantages of online language courses
Online courses also have advantages:
Flexibility in time and location
If you travel a lot for work or have a flexible work schedule, a group course might not fit in with your schedule. An online course, on the other hand, means you can learn whenever (and wherever) you want. Whether you are abroad for work or on holiday, are waiting for a train or have a 30-minute break, you can always access your online course and continue learning.
Dynamic exercises to keep you going
While many group courses work with course books, the exercises in online courses are designed to keep you motivated. They are fun, interactive and use gamification to keep you engaged. You will not be bored by an online course anytime soon! Smart techniques in online courses can also keep track of your progress, enabling them to repeat certain exercises until you have completely mastered a certain skill.
One advantage that you might not think of straight away but that might be important: online courses are usually cheaper than group courses. There is no teacher to pay and no room to rent, which makes it possible to offer online courses at a lower rate than group courses. If you want to learn Dutch but you are on a tight budget, this is definitely something to consider.
Find the method that suits you
In the end, both methods are great ways to learn Dutch (or any other language). The option you choose depends on what suits your lifestyle best. If you are pushed for time, are moving around a lot and have great self-discipline, an online course will be the one for you.
If you have more time, enjoy being around other people at your level and prefer having a teacher, then joining a group course will probably work better for you!
Noortje works at UvA Talen, one of the biggest language schools in Amsterdam. You can find Dutch courses at beginner and intermediate levels at UvA Talen’s platform for online courses, The Language Academy.