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Learning Dutch: finding the right course

One of the first questions people ask me when I speak a little Dutch is, “what lessons are you having?” There’s an expectation that to learn it, you need to do a course, to have lessons, to at least have a tutor of sorts. There’s always more than a little surprise when I reply that I’m mostly teaching myself. When you love learning, and have an idea about how and what to learn, you can happily teach yourself lots of things. When you reach the point of needing external input and guidance, you seek it out.
When I set out on my mission to learn Dutch, I decided that if I were going to do a course, it wouldn’t be a beginners one. The idea of spending two, or even four, weeks at beginner level was too painful – and expensive – to contemplate. With German, French, Latin, and even some Pali and Sanskrit, behind me, I figured that I would be able to learn the basics largely through self-study… and I did.

I’ve been on language courses before (a month’s German in Berlin, a week’s French in Geneva) to top up my school learning. Those courses didn’t really push me. They were easy to follow. And even the intensive version was only five 50 minute sessions a day. I wanted a challenge, a thorough immersion, a full-on experience. I was wary of ending up with a boring language course.

In my search for an intense, immersive and challenging Dutch course, I came across Talencoach Albert Both and his Dutch Brainwash. It looked…different. And fun.

I downloaded his free eBook, read it, and straightaway I was interested. Here was a guy teaching Dutch in a full-on week-long course (heck, he even calls it a “brainwash”) who understood not only the language and how to teach it, but the psychology of learning, the barriers we put in our own way, and how to get over it and get on with understanding and speaking the language. And he seemed to have a sense of humour about it too.

At just shy of 1500 euros, it’s not a small investment, and I wasn’t ready to leap straight in. Luckily, there’s a free monthly workshop that you can try in Amsterdam. On a sunny Sunday morning, I set off for Amsterdam with my man, to see and hear from Albert in person.

Three hours, two coffees and a few roomboterkoekjes later, I was definitely up for doing the brainwash. Albert’s passion for getting people up and running with their Dutch – he calls it “finding flow” – makes so much sense. Once you’re up and running, you do just keep going. And the tools he showed us that morning demonstrated that he knew what he was doing, and that it would work. From then on, it was a question of “when” rather than “if”.

How do you like to learn?

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