Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

What about the Dutch language?

Posted at: 9 May 2019 | Student Affairs

When I knew that my exchange destination would be Amsterdam, I immediately thought: “OMG how can I survive in a country in which the main language is one that I know nothing about?” Fortunately, my first days in this amazing city were enough to understand that here everyone (really, EVERYONE) can speak English.

English is the city’s second language

Dutch is of course the native language of The Netherlands: every Dutch person can speak it. However, since the primary school English is taught to children. I come from Italy and also in my native country English is taught, but not as well as here! In Holland, English is known very (very!) well by almost everybody: speaking in English you can ask information, buy whatever you want, order food, move around the city and enjoy your time. So don’t worry about that: you can come to Amsterdam and live as its citizen… but using an another language!

Making new friends during a crash course in Dutch (I’m on the far right).

Dutch language’s characteristics

At this point your question could be: “Ok but… is the Dutch language difficult? Is it easy to understand by foreign people?”. My answer is that it depends on which is your native country and on what you have studied before coming here. Dutch is a Germanic language and, in my opinion, its sound is very similar to German. I met German students here and they are able to understand a little bit of Dutch. I’m from Italy and I have studied just English, Spanish and French and for me it’s absolutely impossible to understand anything in Dutch.

You can learn Dutch during your exchange programme

If you want to (of course it’s not mandatory) you can take part in many events where you can learn the basics of Dutch. For example, during the ISN introduction week, they often organise cultural workshops and little courses to learn the most common sentences in Dutch (like “My name is Nicholas” ► “Mijn naam is Nicholas”). And also AUAS (your host university) gives you the opportunity to enrol in a class called Dutch for international students, a semester course that teaches beginner-level grammar. It could be a fantastic way to maximise your exchange experience: learning something about the culture and the language of your exchange destination!

I hope this post can help you to calm down about potential problems with the language. I wish you all the best for your Amsterdam experience!

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