Concerns about the state of second language education in Australia periodically erupt throughout the country. Despite the well documented benefits of language study, and the information recommending languages be taught from early childhood through to the end of secondary school, the reality is quite different.
According to the most recent census data, 28 per cent of the people who responded speak a language other than English at home, yet only 10 per cent of students in Year 12 study a foreign language. This figure is inclusive of native speakers. More alarming is the fact that this number has dropped from 40 per cent in 1960.
Without going into the research as to why this may be, we have to consider the impact of two key points:
- The Australian Curriculum only identifies 16 languages. These include the traditionally popular French and German, along with commonly spoken community languages, Auslan, classical languages and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. A good range, but maybe not when you consider that over 200 languages are spoken in Australia.
- The mandatory status of language study is highly flexible. Primary schools are expected to teach language classes, but the lines are blurry as to what grade level to start and how much time is devoted each week. In high school, students in Years 7 and 8 are supposed to study a second language for 100 hours. Everything after this is optional.
With only 0.3 per cent of people identifying as having a Dutch background, unsurprisingly it is not one of the languages in the curriculum.
If you're keen on studying Dutch in high school, though, don't despair. Superprof has some suggestions for you.
Dutch Courses Available in Senior High School
If you are in Years 7 through 10, it is unlikely your secondary school will offer a Dutch course. For students in Years 11 and 12, however, there is an option available in most Australian states through the Collaborative Curriculum and Assessment Framework for Languages (CCAFL).
Dutch Continuers (New South Wales)
If you are a student in New South Wales, once you reach Year 11 you can opt to enrol in the Dutch Continuers course. Designed for students who have had minimal formal Dutch study and have not lived in the Netherlands for an extended period of time, the Continuers programs focus on Dutch culture and language through different texts. Independent self tuition is common, with help from a teacher as needed.
Contact schools or check online at the NSW Education Standards Authority to learn more about the teaching programs, assessment and HSC requirements.
VCE Dutch (Victoria)
This course for Year 11 and 12 students is suitable for first and second language learners of Dutch. There is a strong emphasis on communication and culture, and is ideal for students who want to use their skills for work or university level training.
Further information can be obtained through schools or online via the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority.
In South Australia, a student who has been learning Dutch can enrol in the Language Continuers program, while Tasmania offers self directed CCAFL programs in Dutch and other languages.
Check online with the relevant departments of education in your state for more information.
Alternative Pathways for Studying Dutch
If you really want to learn Dutch, there are several other opportunities worth pursuing outside of the formal education setting.
Student Exchange Programs
There is no better way to fast track your language learning than by gaining in-country experience.
Companies such as WEP, Student Exchange Australia New Zealand and YFU Student Exchange offer programs ranging from short culture tours to a year long academic experience.
Participants are usually accommodated in private homes with a host family and divide their time between sightseeing, classes and family life. Main cities, such as Amsterdam, are more popular so why not choose to stay in a smaller town and really experience the Dutch way of life?
If you're not ready to travel yourself, you may wish to open your home to an exchange student from the Netherlands—also a great way to practise and improve your communication skills.
Community Languages Schools
Depending on where you live, you may have access to a community language school. There are a number of these schools in and around Sydney, and a couple in Perth. Some are exclusively for Dutch nationals, such as Kangoeroe in Sydney, while others offer classes for second language learners.
You may also want to contact your community association to enquire about Dutch lessons.
Australia is a big country and not everyone will have access to a school or community language group. If this is you, why not consider individual or small group private lessons?
There are a number of Dutch tutors listed on the Superprof platform, many of whom are native speakers. If you can't find one near you, there is always the option of online lessons. One advantage with Superprof is many of our tutors provide their first lesson for free, allowing both student and teacher to get to know each other before committing.
Other tutoring companies may also offer private or group Dutch tutorials, either in person or online. Italki, a platform based on video chat, could be worth exploring as they can connect you with native speakers.
Look for Language Exchange Opportunities
The Dutch expat community is not exactly large, however, there are close to 30,000 Dutch nationals residing in Australia. It may well be that you have some native Dutch speaking students at your school, or that your local shop is run by someone who migrated here from Amsterdam. If you are lucky enough to discover this, take the initiative to ask if they'd like to do an informal language exchange with you.
A language exchange involves nothing more than getting together and spending half of your time speaking in English, and the other half conversing in Dutch. This is one of the best ways to build your fluency and confidence, and a great way to make a new friend who may share some common interests with you. Age makes no difference—set a topic, and let the conversation flow.
You have to be super motivated to succeed with independent language study, but if you already have a huge list of reasons why you want to learn Dutch, you should have no problems.
Online, you'll find a large number of websites, apps and programs to help you further your Dutch education. Choose some that are fun to keep that motivation going. A few options to get you started include:
- DutchPod101 has short lessons in Dutch language and culture, presented by native speakers and with a handy student forum chat function.
- Glossika uses the mass sentence method and the repetition strategy to aid learning, also with audio produced by native speakers
- Van Dale dictionary is now online, and includes a 'test me' function
- Apps, such as Duolingo, offer personalised lessons in a game-like environment. The basic version is free, but you'll have to put up with the ads.
- YouTube has a variety of channels offering Dutch lessons of varying levels and quality.
- SBS and the ABC have podcasts on both Dutch culture (in English), and topics of interest (in Dutch)—perfect to practise your aural skills.
- Netflix or SBS online are a good source for quality Dutch movies
In addition to online resources, it would be handy to also have access to a few hardcopy resources as well:
- a good quality Dutch English dictionary
- a book on Dutch grammar—you may also wish to invest in a workbook which includes audio lessons
- magazines, comic books, short stories, newspapers from the Netherlands—look for bilingual versions if they're available
- if you prefer textbooks, find one or two at your level—Bruce Donaldson's Colloquial Dutch is recommended by many sites
Even the most motivated, independent student needs someone to keep them on track though. Give some thought to touching base with a private tutor on occasion, or find a teacher at your school to check in with, or even another student who is also working through independent study. Set yourself some goals, share them, and ask people to check in on you.
Your next steps will really depend on your reasons for learning Dutch and your future goals.
Travel? Work? Perhaps you'd like to pursue further study and achieve a language proficiency certification?
Once you've learned another language, the world opens just that little bit more.