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Learning Across the Border in Belgium

This article was originally published at Maastricht Region: To Live.

“You could always take Dutch lessons in Belgium.” a friend mentioned to me one day when I was contemplating my next language class and its associated costs. Education is better subsidized in Belgium than it is in the Netherlands, and even if you are not a citizen of that country, you can still take advantage of the lower per-credit and course rates by taking your learning over the border. For those of us living in this region, that’s a very tempting prospect.

I started exploring classes in Belgium at PCVO Voeren, a continued education program located in the Limburgish area of the country that offers a wide variety of courses; of particular interest to me: Dutch lessons. A “school year” of weekly classes only cost 60 euros and were taught from an inexpensive book. While the levels are measured slightly differently than in the Netherlands, the program can slot you in to your approximate level via either a placement test or providing a certificate from previous courses. The class I took was best suited to people who can learn via lecture and in relatively large groups (20-25 people), but did include opportunity to practice your speaking. The school also offers a variety of other language courses as well as other skills.

After taking the Dutch class at PCVO, I found there are two caveats you need to watch out for if your interested in learning in Belgium: language and transportation.

If you don’t have a car, it may be difficult to attend classes in Belgium simply because the school may not be convenient to trains or buses, or because it’s a little too far away. PCVO Voeren knows that it gets many of its students from the Maastricht area and has a robust carpooling system to partner students with cars up with students without.  It was quite easy to get involved in the program and I had a carpooling partner within a couple of days of joining the classes.

The other caveat to keep in mind is since Dutch (Flemish) and French are the official languages of Belgium (although as always English runs a close third in unofficial tongues), classes are typically taught from those languages. While my Dutch class was advanced enough that the teacher mostly spoke in Dutch, she would provide explanations for more complex things in French since the majority of the students were French-speaking Belgians. Since I don’t personally speak French, these parts of the class were lost to me. You should keep the “teaching” language in mind when seeking out a class in Belgium, otherwise you make end up confused like me.

People taking Dutch for the purposes of passing the Inburgering program should also keep in mind that tests taken in Belgium do not count towards that goal.

But despite these caveats, our proximity to Belgium makes taking classes there worth considering. It’s always good to have a variety of options.

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