How long does it take to learn Dutch?

How long does it take to learn Dutch?

“How long does it take to learn Dutch?” is a question I have been asked often. And my answer is that it is different for every individual. But there are some factors that can influence the amount of time one would take to learn Dutch.

4 factors that impact the time required to learn Dutch

I have managed to sum it up in just four points:

1. Your motivation

By motivation, I do not mean your degree of interest to learn the language. What I mean is, the "why." Why do you want to learn Dutch in the first place? For example, when I came to the Netherlands 26 years ago, I was working for a semi-governmental organisation and held the position of policy officer in my country back home. When I migrated, I knew I wanted a similar job in the Netherlands. So, I knew that if I wanted to achieve this, I would have to learn Dutch. What is your reason?

2. Urgency

26 years ago, there was no requirement to sit for an integration exam. The urgency with which I wanted to learn the language is something I had chosen for myself. This meant that as soon as I arrived in the Netherlands, I enrolled in a language school that I attended four days a week, learning Dutch the whole day. Being aware of my own urgency led to me being diligent, so that I finished a course of two years in one and a half years. So, how urgent is your requirement to learn the language?

3. Level

What is the level of proficiency you require or want to achieve in the Dutch language? As I said, for me, if I wanted the job position I dreamt of, then it was obvious that I would require a professional level of Dutch. So, after one and a half years, I immediately sat for the state exams, NT2 programme 2, which is for university-level students. Only after I got the diploma did I start my job hunt. If you only want to pass the integration exams, then a professional level is not required.

4. Discipline

Discipline, a difficult but much-required step for learning anything new. How far can or will you go to facilitate the learning process? Making the time to do your homework, practising, etc. is part of facilitating the process.

Tips for learning Dutch

Here is what I did that might help you:


Practice makes perfect: so, practice whenever possible! Once I started working in a Dutch environment, my Dutch improved with leaps and bounds.

Take the exam

Get a feel for the real thing. Sit for the integration exam or NT2, even if you are not ready for the exams. This will help you to not only experience and see what type of questions you will be required to answer, but it will also help you overcome the anxiety of sitting for an exam, as your goal at that moment is not to pass but to get a taste of the real thing. Who knows, you may end up passing a few of the subjects, which means you won't have to take them again!

Have you mastered the language yet? How long did it take you? Let us know in the comments below!

Kirtika van Hunen


Kirtika van Hunen

Kirtika van Hunen is a certified intercultural trainer, writer, coach and founder of Between2Cultures Through her trainings; 'Leading Across Cultures', 'Working effectively with the Dutch', 'Intercultural Awareness and Communication',...

Read more



Leave a comment