Andrew’s story is a familiar one. We get them quite a lot. Andrew is a teacher so busy term time schedules leave him with little time to indulge in his own interests. With learning Dutch high on his bucket list, we all know that learning a language requires frequent practice and time so how can you fit it in?
Being the smart teacher he is, Andrew figured a week of language immersion in the Netherlands could pack in more than a classroom experience and save him some time.
When Andrew got in touch again recently looking to book his SECOND Dutch immersion holiday, we asked him about his first holiday in Utrecht to see what brought him back for another go.
They were wonderful hosts and really included me in everything. This included all meals that they prepared (and I dined with them), the private lessons each day (3 hours), and just learning full time, even outside of structured lessons.
They refused to speak to me in English (although theirs was quite good), so I had no choice but to speak Dutch full time for a week. You couldn’t help but improve – there was no way out!
Their house was absolutely fantastic – more than I had expected. They had a private apartment just for me which was attached to the house and it was better than my flat in back in the States. Although I loved the peace of the apartment for studying, reading and sleeping at night, most of my time was spent in the main house with the family.
I couldn’t have asked for a better location – they were literally located in the city centre of Utrecht.
Utrecht itself is charming and filled with history, culture, inner city canals, an amazing Gothic cathedral and university. Anything I wanted was right there, not intimidating, and easy to get around. I made sure I got out and about each day, even if it was to pop in a shop and buy something simple to practice my speaking and listening.
I would definitely recommend to anyone doing an immersion experience to spend a few hours trying to get yourself around or making small talk wherever you can.
I would usually get up at about 8am and have breakfast, then do a bit of reading and homework to prepare for the next lesson. Helen teaches Dutch to immigrants in the morning, so she come home around lunch, which we would have together. My lessons then took place in the afternoon. Followed by a break before dinner.
My favourite day was when the hosts’ daughters were visiting from university, and had a bunch of friends over to the house. We all had a great dinner, then headed out to get ice cream – I enjoyed the chaos of trying to keep up with about 12 people all speaking Dutch. It was exhausting, but good fun.
When everyone refuses to speak to you in English, you’ll be amazed at what you can pick up! My comprehension really improved. I could speak to strangers on the street and not only understand them but they understood me. Even in a conversational context – not just one liners.
The biggest compliment for me was that locals didn’t switch to English when speaking with me – which is common for them to do as they all speak perfect English.
I missed the city life and never having to rely on a car. I could get where I needed and what I wanted just walking out the door. This is something lost in American suburbs.
Do not be intimidated, this is absolutely the best way to learn and get the most out of language studies in just one week. I feel I learned 3 times as much in a week than I would’ve in a classroom and I have also realised group lessons aren’t the best for how I personally learn. Having a one on one focus on my individual needs and speed, as well as the context to get out there and use it in the city will give you progress and confidence.
This time around, I am looking forward to improving my vocabulary and getting more grounded. I also look forward to meeting a new family or teacher – it is a great way to have new contacts in the country and I like keeping in touch.
This time, I am looking to focus on a small town, and perhaps gain even more confidence by getting out there with the locals.
If you feel you need to immerse in the culture to fully get a grasp on your language learning, an immersion experience may be perfect for you – the classroom isn’t for everybody. Please feel free to contact us today so we can find the perfect family for you!
Or browse our full range of language holidays here.