As soon as new arrivals are somewhat settled in the Netherlands, often their first desire is to learn the Dutch language. For them a Dutch beginners course is essential. High-quality language lessons also focus on practical and interpersonal aspects of civic integration in society.

‘In class, I also discuss Dutch traditions and national celebrations, such as Sinterklaas and Koningsdag,’ says Marjolein Lamberts, Dutch language teacher at Pace Language Institute. ‘Besides teaching course participants what they can expect during, for example, the celebration of the birthday of our King – which is an exuberant event – I also want to involve them in debates around national issues. For example, the pros and cons of “Zwarte Piet” (Blackface) put forward by different people are quite interesting to pay attention to during the language trajectory. In this way, they learn Dutch language skills, such as giving your opinion, as well as typically Dutch rituals.’

Being late might be an unforgivable offence

Teacher Annika van der Bij always likes to bring forward the long-standing Dutch bicycle culture. ‘The number of people cycling in the Netherlands is very high compared to other countries. I explain to my Dutch course participants that here cycling doesn’t say anything about people’s social status. Even the Dutch Prime Minister cycles to work. In addition, I familiarise participants with national customs and values which might be helpful in private and professional situations. Dutch people attach much value to being on time, not only at work but also for an informal dinner party with a friend. Being late without a good reason might be an unforgivable offence for some people in the Netherlands. Information like this is quite valuable for new arrivals.’

Marjolein: ‘Historical facts about the Netherlands are also very welcome among new arrivals. I like to tell them about the IJsselmeer, explaining that this large lake in the centre of our country used to be part of the North Sea and changed into a sweet water lake after the construction of the Afsluitdijk. In this way, I teach them new words and provide them with information about the country as well.’