My experience learning Dutch has been enjoyable thus far for someone who is at an A2 level. I admit it’s not the easiest language nor sounds as endearing to the ear like French or Spanish. However, with an eagerness to learn and a great teacher you can steadily make your way towards fluency. While this is definitely the case when you’re in a classroom setting; once COVID-19 hit this became a challenge for all institutions, teachers, faculty and students. What was once traditional face-to-face classroom learning came to a halt. From June 2020 my peers and I resumed class online via distance learning. We were already in a small group of seven for personalized learning.
The reality is that remote learning, virtual learning or whatever you want to call it may be here to stay indefinitely. Transitioning to an online environment can take some time. It took 5 months of adjustment for myself with learning Dutch but for others this will vary. So the questions is with Dutch being one of hardest languages to learn, is it difficult to learn Dutch online? Over the past 5 months this is the conclusion I’ve come to.
Pronunciation Can be Hard to Get Down
I find this to be the biggest struggle of them all. Without the person to person interaction that you get in class, exact pronunciation may be a bit more difficult to master. I cannot count the number of times our teacher says for us to repeat after her then the internet starts lagging. This can make it especially hard to hear what your teacher is saying as well as waste valuable class time. However, I appreciate what my current teacher is doing to ensure we get to practice. She creates outbreak sessions in Zoom where we are paired off with other students. This way we practice a dialogue or listening exercise to have speaking time. After 10 minutes our teacher joins us to help correct any mistakes. It can hard to correct three students at a time but this method is still better than not doing an oral exercises.
If you worry that your pronunciation is still not being developed it’s a relief that the internet is at your disposal. There are countless Youtube videos and shows to watch and better help with this. I love watching videos from Bart de Pau and Dutchies to Be.
Self Discipline Really Comes into Play
Let’s face it, with distance learning your workload may have increased. Also add to the fact that you may now have less contact with your teacher. What do you do then? Learning Dutch online means that you have to be more self disciplined and work efficiently since your on your own. Your teacher is not there to give you reminder or make sure you’re following the schedule or syllabus in place.
Time management is one of the important skills that comes to mind. For instance, if I have two chapters of homework due on Wednesday, I’ll be getting a head start in order to be prepared. There is also a lot of self study when it comes to distance learning so having a set schedule really helps. I like to fill my Google Calendar with blocked times for study and homework. It’s also easy to get disorganized with all the papers and coursework. Have self discipline encourages me to put all this material in respective binders and folders so I can find things easily.
There Can Be a Lack of Social Interaction
One of the best aspects of class is meeting new students and interacting with one another. In the classroom environment our teacher would put us into different groups. It gave us a chance to get to know other students and make friends. Now, our interactions are on Whatsapp, email and discussion groups. While this is great it can feel unfulfilling compared to interacting in person. Our teachers are attunely aware of the separateness, but overall the classroom experience promotes better collaborative learning than e-learning does.
Learning Dutch Online Can Be More Cost Efficient
The option to have an in person Dutch class with 4 people or less is more expensive than online. This in turn eased the stress on my wallet. Not to mention there is no need to spend extra cost or time on commuting to your lesson.
Your Work Space Must be Functionable
For both teachers and students having a suitable workspace can have an effect on the learning experience. If you need to sit in a chair for three hours make sure it’s a comfortable one. Is the lighting okay? Having too much backlight can distort your figure so if you can go for natural light that is the best option.
To Break or Not Break?
Breaks are essential for any type of learning. It’s proven to increase students’ focus and productivity. However, what I notice is that I take less breaks when learning online. That 5 minutes is so crucial for me to check over any corrections or misunderstandings (or maybe there were too many distractions and I need these 5 minutes). I feel that breaks have different meanings when you’re learning from home. There’s all kinds of distractions around and it’s easier to make excuses and procrastinate. Do yourself a favor
Limit your social media time, put your phone in another room if you need to
Teachers have Done a Great Job of Adapting
We really need to give more credit to our instructors for adapting to the ‘new normal’. They are working tirelessly and have done an exceptional job of transitioning to an online environment. Some of them had nor prior distance learning experience and are now experts! My first Dutch teacher switched us online when the Netherlands first went into lockdown. She had to think of new and innovative ways to encourage and motivate us throughout the lesson. With each week the transition became smoother with each lesson. I’ve heard from other friends that their teachers adjust well to challenges such as technical difficulties and other disruptions. Since our teachers have adapted so well we students feel comfortable to learn Dutch online.
Is it Hard to Learn Dutch Online?
Whether taking Dutch or another class shifting to an online environment has been a trial and error process for us all. If you’re debating whether to wait and take a class until the pandemic is over, I recommend to reconsider. There is a possibility the wait will be long. If you’re thinking that Dutch is too hard of a language to learn online you are not necessarily wrong. It’s not an easy language but in hindsight, you can master anything with good motivation and persistence. With any language you need to step out of your comfort zone and just start practicing. Nonetheless, education must continue on and teachers are doing a fantastic job of conducting lessons online.