How you can help your children learn Dutch (or any other language!)
Depending on how long you’re planning on staying in the Netherlands, you may have decided to put your child in an international school instead of a Dutch school. This, however, does not necessarily mean that you don’t want your child to learn the language of the country you and your family now live in.
Not only will learning Dutch make your child’s life in the Netherlands a lot easier, but it’s also a great way to boost their cognitive development and stimulate their brains. Research has also shown that learning a second language as a child can help foster their creative thinking.
Get them started early
The sooner your child starts to hear and learn the language, the better. The younger they are, the quicker they’ll be able to pick up new sounds and words. It’s important to remember to manage your expectations though, as it could take a while before your child develops enough confidence to start using what they’ve learned.
Many experts also believe that a casual learning environment is the best way to facilitate the education of your child. Just taking simple steps to expose your child to the language on a regular basis could make a huge difference.
Sign them up for a Dutch course
There are several language schools across the Netherlands designed to help internationals learn the language of their new country. Some of these offer physical classes while others are entirely online.
You may have already looked to see if there was a course out there to help your own Dutch studies, but did you know that there are also courses specifically designed for children? They offer one-on-one classes in order to ensure your child is getting all the attention they need.
Watch Dutch TV shows or films
Kids learn and absorb things so much quicker than adults do, and a sure-fire way to get them to learn without them even realising that they’re learning is to get them interested in Dutch TV shows and films. Netflix has a number of Dutch children’s films on offer, or you could stick with the classics on Disney+ and change the spoken language to Dutch. Or, take a look at Youtube and the wealth of language learning videos that are available there.
Alternatively, you could try reading to or with them. Children’s books are a great way to learn basic grammar and vocabulary, or you could try giving them a slightly more advanced book that they’ve already read in their native language: their familiarity with the content and the characters will help them to follow the story in a new language. You could also listen to Dutch music together, as this is a great way to pick up on words and sounds without even registering what you’re hearing.
Speak or learn with them
It helps if you already speak Dutch to already talk to your child(ren) in Dutch. But, if you’re also trying to learn the language, why not try learning together! You can make kid-friendly flashcards to learn vocabulary or grammar, can sing Dutch nursery rhymes, or could try playing some fun vocabulary games together.
Similarly, reading Dutch books to or with your child could also help progress your own language skills - so it really is a win-win!
Label objects around the house
This is another tip that could be handy if you’re also trying to learn Dutch. Aside from playing games and singing songs, labelling objects around the house with their Dutch name is a great way to familiarise your child with the Dutch vocabulary and get them used to seeing and using the words.
Make use of online resources
There are, of course, a number of free and paid online resources to help your child with their language learning adventure too - and if you use them together, you might be surprised by how much you can learn as well. Platforms such as DinoLingo, Languagenut, and Juf Jannie are popular options.
You could also try downloading some apps to your smartphone or the family tablet - something like LetterSchool NL can help your child to recognise, write and read the Dutch alphabet, while Maan Roos Vis could teach them some basic vocabulary.
Get ready to learn!
Of course, the best way to learn a new language is to make sure you get loads of practice in, so (trying to) speak Dutch with your child or when you're out and about together is also a great way everything sticks. And, while this article is talking about learning Dutch, the advice applies to any and all language your child is learning. So, whichever way you plan on learning - good luck!