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Settling down? Share your voice about the Dutch language


Learning the language is one of the best ways of truly feeling at home in a different country. But why do so many people find it a struggle to learn Dutch? A new survey aims to find the answers.

Earlier research by the Kenniscentrum Arbeidsmigranten, an agency set up to aid the integration of people who move to the Netherlands to work into wider Dutch society, showed the importance of learning the language. After all, being able to chat to your neighbours, buy things in shops and speak to your work colleagues are all key parts of feeling at home.

It is often said that new arrivals don’t need to learn the language because ‘everyone in the Netherlands speaks English’, but that is far from the truth, says the centre’s Lars Hennissen.

‘We know from our earlier surveys that 38% of labour migrants in the Netherlands have followed a language course and that 51% think it is important for doing your job well. And many also see the language barrier and the lack of training opportunities as an obstacle to their career prospects.’

The expertise centre is now launching a new survey – its sixth so far – in an effort to find out more about why so many new arrivals don’t learn Dutch and the problems that those who take a course encounter. Lessons may be during the day, for example, which is difficult for those who work. And online lessons may be hard to follow if you share a home with several other people who all want to use the internet.

‘We hope to gain a better understanding of exactly what foreign workers need in terms of language skills. ‘When do they need Dutch, what obstacles do they face and what can we do to help them,’ says Lars.

‘Hopefully the insights the survey provides will enable us to improve language education for people who have come here purely to work. It might be that language lessons at work itself are an option, for example.’

The expertise centre was launched at the beginning of 2021 and so far has published the results of four Share My Voice surveys focusing on different aspects of life in the Netherlands, from housing to healthcare to job security and labour law.


The results cover the wide range of different people who have come to the Netherlands to work, whether as a company executive, a software designer or a slaughterhouse worker and have been shared with politicians, academics, employers’ organisations and unions.

The organisation is also in close contact with the Roemer commission and government officials who are working to improve the situation facing people who come to the Netherlands to do mainly manual labour, often low-paid seasonal work.

The Share My Voice survey on the Dutch language is now open to all foreign nationals in the Netherlands who have come here to work. ‘The Netherlands needs its migrant workers and they help keep the economy turning, yet they are often an unheard group,’ says Lars. ‘This is a way you can share your views and experiences and help others who will come in the future.

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