It’s been several months since I dropped out of my Dutch class at the University (I couldn’t keep up!). Since then I’ve been feeling pretty down about my language skills. But with some additional pressure coming from external sources, I’ve decided it’s time to make another go at becoming properly bilingual. Even though Dan and I are still undecided about our future in Maastricht, I’m sure that not learning Dutch will push me towards definately not staying in the country; while learning Dutch may help us make the decision based on other factors like jobs and quality of life. Plus a little multilingual ability can only help in the “get a job” department if/when we return to the United States.
Attending the IWC meetings recently is actually what got the fire rekindled under my butt. We were discussing learning Dutch and some of the women I met suggested alternatives to the Maastricht University courses I’d taken before. The UMaas classes were pretty good, but they are pricey and there is one teacher there I’d like to avoid; so retaking those classes is out for me. Fortunately these “new” options sound more affordable, although probably not perfect for everyone.
The class I would have taken had I know about it when we first moved to Maastricht is a free language class offered by the Gemeente. It’s an intensive course intended for immigrants who will be taking the Inburgering test; part of the whole integration/citizenship process here in the Netherlands. Lasting 18 months, you attend a 3-hour class, 3 times per week and then have to pass a test at the end (which I think does or will cost 270 euros to take). Then if you fail the class you have to pay 500 euros. You can learn more at their website, but you’ll need to do some creative Google Translating. I’ll never understand why Dutch language courses only have information on their beginner classes in Dutch.
For Dan & I, this option isn’t going to work out. Dan’s contract is up in a year and a half, so essentially if we didn’t renew the contract we’d be setting ourselves up to fail the test at the end. Plus I don’t know if the Gemeente class is open to people on the 30% rule since the 30% rule requires that you do not plan to stay forever in the Netherlands.
Another, less intensive, alternative are the Dutch language courses offered by Jules & You; a organization that supports students moving to Maastricht. I had seen these classes before, but assumed they were only available for students. Apparently this is not the case. Internationals may sign up for them as well; although at a higher price. They have classes at the A1, A2, B1, and B2 levels and each course lasts 10 weeks, with a 2-hour class each week. Students only pay 100 euros, while everyone else pays 200 euros. Assuming that the 10 classes are enough to pass each level, then the cost per instructional hour is lower than any other option I’ve seen in Maastricht.
I think this is the class I’ll end up in simply because it is a monetary and time contribution I can handle and it is accessible by foot or bike.
A third option that I’d like to explore simply because it is much cheaper than the local options is going across the border into Belgium. The Dutch for Foreigners classes at the PCVO Adult Education school in s-Gravenvoeren are just 60-80 euros and meet once a week (either for a regular 1-hour or intensive 2-hour class). If I’m reading their website right each course is about half a year long. Sure, Flemish Dutch is a bit different from Netherlands Dutch, but from what I’ve been told they are alike enough for the cross-border education to be viable. For carless people like me, the 20 minute drive is probably a greater deterrent.
I’ve written to this school to see when their classes start and if I can take one. The website is a bit tricky to navigate, but they do seem to help coordinate carpooling, so if I can find a ride, I may be heading out twice a week for this course. (And if you have a car and might be at the same Dutch language level as me, drop me a line and maybe we can work something out.)
If you’re looking for a Dutch language course, you can also check out the listings maintained by Crossroads Magazine.