Should you Zoom in or Zoom out if you’d like to boost your Dutch?

Should you Zoom in or Zoom out if you’d like to boost your Dutch?

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Saying that COVID-19 has created quite a mess would be an understatement, but where there is a crisis, there is also change. All of a sudden it was there: the Zoom call (or online conference call)! If you appreciate some irony, you could call the “Zoom call” a present from COVID-19. And… many people seem to love it! Here are Albert Both's (Talencoach) insights into learning languages via online video conferencing tools. 

The Zoom call

Let’s be honest, the Zoom call has created great freedom. It helps you avoid boring meetings and now, you can just nicely work at home. What many people still see as a great advantage is that while doing Zoom calls, you will probably not contract Corona. The only thing that you have to do is check the health of other people that live in your house, and your cat.

It's no wonder that many people have discovered the great advantages of learning Dutch online. Isn’t it a great idea? You do not have to travel to a language school, and, with a virtual classroom, learning is practically the same. At least, that is what many people say, but how great and effective is learning a language online really?

Before you continue reading, I have to warn you that although I try to be objective, I am highly biased and many things that I write are based on personal preference and experience. I am happy to admit that I just love live classes with real people. Not only as a participant but as a coach and trainer as well.

Learning Dutch through Zoom

I truly believe that you can do great things with Zoom. One huge advantage is that you can do short sessions; a maximum of one hour with a teacher and then, if you like, you can really focus on some aspects of mastering a new language.

Let’s say that you'd like to master conjugating verbs. In this case, with Zoom it is easy to focus and if you have a dedicated teacher, it is a very effective way to move forward.

Also, if you read the pages of a book out loud and your teacher is there to correct you, it's another great way to move forward!

The downsides

I would like to share what happened to me personally when I did online Zoom sessions as a participant of Portuguese and Greek lessons. I had live classes once a week, but due to Corona, all of a sudden, these classes were substituted by online classes.

First of all, it took a long time before everyone was really connected. It seemed that there was always someone that had a problem with their internet connection. So, in the end, the class started 10 or 15 minutes later than scheduled.

Although it is true that you can do Zoom calls in the comfort of your own home, I must admit that my home is not always a suitable place for me to learn. There are so many distractions - even when my partner walks around, I get distracted.

Also, when I need to say things in a new language, it feels strange if I have other people around me. With people from the same class, it is not an issue, but when my partner is present, it just feels strange.

When I sit alone in my office, I also get triggered by other things. Before I know it, I start to think of other things that have nothing to do with the language that I want to speak!

A lack of concentration is a huge issue for me. Somehow, I find it boring to only look at faces and then, within 15 minutes, I cannot resist the temptation to check my mobile phone. Although I know that I should not do it, it just seems to me that even Buienradar is more interesting than what is happening in my virtual classroom, and yes, when that email that I have been waiting for, after such a long time, well… you can already predict what happens next.

I also find it difficult to participate. It is very hard to interrupt other people in their conversation. On top of that, the sound quality is not always brilliant and it is very easy to no longer be able to follow the conversation.

Furthermore, when different people start to talk about different things, it is hard for me to stay engaged in all the conversations. I also find it extremely hard to get the attention of my teacher. So, although you can have great conversations on Zoom, it is hard to talk with five people at the same time!

Here is another thing that I've noticed, but maybe it is just me. If I know the people that are on the Zoom Call, I can still connect with them. However, if I do not know the other people, then somehow it is much harder for me to feel part of the group.

Somehow, I just miss the gezelligheid, that positive feeling that you can get when you hang around with other people. I love the fact that I can speak with other students as well and for me, it is an essential part that I don’t like to miss out on!

Making Zoom calls effective

So now, I would like to share my experiences as a teacher. First of all, immersion is always great! The more immersed you are, the easier it is to learn new things and concepts. This is why I always work seven days in a row; there are many things that I cannot share during the first days because my students would simply not be able to understand it. The thing is, experts all agree that Zoom calls should be short and if you'd like to learn a new language, it is virtually impossible to stay focused and engaged all the time.

Many people do not realise that teaching a new language can be one of the biggest challenges for a trainer. The reason is simple: when people hear things that they do not understand, they can lose the plot completely.

So, when I work with a group, I quickly scan who understands it and who does not. Do not ask me how I do it, I can often see it from their facial expressions! I immediately notice when I need to adjust and a trick that I use is that I make everything very personal. I use example sentences in Dutch with the names of partners, kids, dogs and cats of my students and this always gets their immediate attention!

Learning a language is not just memorising intellectual information, how you feel while learning and speaking Dutch determines everything. I often work with people that already speak reasonable Dutch, yet somehow, they don’t like it.

The thing is, if you don’t like Dutch, it is very difficult to speak it fluently. So, one of the first things that I like to do is to make sure that people simply start to like it more and that they have tremendous fun with it. Understanding the Dutch sense of humour and jokes is also extremely important. The more you laugh, the faster you learn! How you feel while learning Dutch determines, for a great part, your results.

Another important thing is that you’ll only learn a lot when you are fully engaged. When I see people "in the flesh", it is easy for me to make sure that people pay attention and, if I see on a screen that the attention of my students is slipping, there is not so much I can do.

Sometimes throwing een stroopwafel at someone can do the trick and then when everyone starts to laugh, there is that great positive energy that puts people in a great learning mood!

One thing to keep in mind is that when you learn new things, your mind does not like it. It will try to shut down and sometimes you might feel like running away. The good thing is that after a couple of days these negative feelings go away and then when you really start to understand the things that you learn, you can have great fun with it.

When learning a new language, it is imperative that you feel at ease about it. Once you sit with real people that all share a similar goal, you can experience that great group energy again. When you realise that you are not the only one who makes mistakes and who mispronounces things and that everyone - including you - is making great progress, it is a lot easier to feel more at ease and confident.

Learning a language: a new experience

Last but not least, I think that learning a new language should always be a new experience. When you really want to create a change in your life, it is always a good idea to get out of your bubble and go to new places and meet new people! In the end, speaking languages is about going to real places and speaking with real people!

So, if you ask me what is better, I would always go for the live classes. However, I do love to combine things. If you like, you can do both, you could have live classes and short Zoom calls - this would be a great combination! Feel free to go for Zoom if that is what you like. In the end, it is all about freedom!

One other thing that is always important: always choose the way of learning that is most suitable for you. I noticed that many people automatically assume that you can replace all learning by online learning and that Zoom calls will always do the trick. Now you can investigate for yourself what is best for you!

Unfortunately, the FREE Talencoach workshop cannot be organised for obvious reasons, but… you can always have a chat with Albert – on a terrace or on Zoom - if you send an email to

You can also:

All free of charge!

Albert Both


Albert Both

I help with an approach of learning Dutch that is completely different from any other language course. It is called Dutch Brainwashing. The immediate result is that you learn at...

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