Level Up Academy: Can you tell us something about yourself? How many years have you been teaching Dutch?
Eliza Kośnik: I graduated in Dutch studies at both the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland and the University of Amsterdam. My teaching adventure began during my studies in 2015 and quickly turned into a passion and my profession, which I carry out with great pleasure and satisfaction.
Why did you choose to study the Dutch language?
Eliza Kośnik: It was a complete coincidence. My first study choice turned out to be a mistake. Although I graduated, I knew that I did not want to do anything in that particular field in the future. Then I started browsing the university’s courses in search of something that caught my attention. I chose Dutch studies, but I must admit that at that time I had no specific plans for the future or any hopes for this direction. I just wanted to give it a try. ☺ And fortunately I fell in love with the language and it brought me to the Netherlands!
Based on your experience, who chooses to learn Dutch, and why?
Eliza Kośnik: If we are talking about students in the Netherlands, the main motivation is getting a job, the possibility to improve their communication skills or gain a job promotion, all of which are of course easier for those who know the language. The second common reason is a Dutch speaking partner.
An interesting phenomenon is the popularity of Dutch studies in Poland compared to the same studies in the Netherlands. In 2019, at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, it was not possible to start Dutch studies in the new academic year due to the lack of applicants, but at the same time Dutch studies in Poland were flourishing. The size of the labour market for people who know Dutch in Poland is significant, and knowledge of the language increases job opportunities even after returning to Poland. Of course, having learned the language new opportunities also open up in the Netherlands.
Is it true that everyone in the Netherlands speaks English, so it's not worth learning Dutch?
Eliza Kośnik: It is true that the Netherlands ranks first among non-English speaking countries in terms of knowledge of English, but it is not true that it is not worth learning Dutch. The Dutch like to speak English and as soon as they hear a foreign accent, they switch to English, with the aim of facilitating your communication. And that, unfortunately, is something learners of Dutch have to constantly battle against. So why should you learn Dutch?
First, it’s a beautiful language! Secondly, communicating in Dutch simply makes life in the Netherlands easier, for example, contacting various institutions, but also for expanding your circle of acquaintances and friends. Certainly, many of us have experienced a situation when the Dutch are gathered around talking in their own language, and all we could do was smile, not understanding anything. 🙂
Suppose my employer wants me to start communicating in Dutch as soon as possible. I have several months to master the basics of the language. What learning methods do you recommend so that you can start understanding and speaking Dutch as quickly as possible?
Eliza Kośnik: I always say that learning a language requires regularity. I don’t expect my students to spend 2 hours a day reading books, but they should spend at least 20-30 minutes each day studying. Practice is important! I recommend that you listen to the radio and watch TV in Dutch. Even if you are not able to understand the majority, this method of passive learning will help a lot and you will remember many phrases this way. And of course, it’s best to break down the language barrier as soon as possible and try to communicate in Dutch right from the start!
Some people say that Dutch sounds funny, and the Dutch don't just speak but they ... splutter. Hence, many people are afraid to start speaking Dutch. How can students overcome this apprehension and learn to make the sounds that are so different for native speakers of many other languages?
Eliza Kośnik: I will bring up television and radio here again, because they can definitely help you learn and practice pronunciation. I remember that while still studying in Poland, when I was unable to speak Dutch, I often repeated words or sentences that I heard on TV. The more you hear and repeat something, the more chance you have of saying it correctly. You learn to copy the sounds that are unfamiliar in your native language and practice makes perfect!
You have experience of teaching Dutch both online and in person. All lessons at Level Up Academy take place online. Is online learning as effective as traditional classes?
Eliza Kośnik: Definitely! Online classes are basically no different from classroom studies, except that the screen of the monitor separates us. We master the same amount of material and devote the same amount of time to communication exercises. A working computer, laptop or phone with a good microphone and a good Internet connection are important. So, if there are no technical problems, I guarantee the same results.
How can students keep the motivation to learn a language at a high level? Do you have any proven methods?
Eliza Kośnik: If you want to achieve a high level of knowledge of a foreign language, you must devote a lot of time to it. And in order to persevere in your resolution, diversity is important. The exercises must be interesting and motivating, so that you are inspired to put energy and time into them. In addition, the learning material is practical and explicitly contributes to achieving the planned goal. This is the basis on which Level Up Academy organises such interactive online classes.
Coming from Poland, do you think Polish and Dutch customs are very different? What is the most surprising thing for Poles who end up in the Netherlands?
Eliza Kośnik: It seems to me that the biggest cultural difference is the distance the Dutch keep. They seem open and friendly on the surface, but it’s hard to really connect with them. In addition, the Dutch like to organise and plan everything in advance, we are probably more spontaneous by nature.
How do you think the Dutch see Poles?
Eliza Kośnik: Positive enough, they like our culture and hospitality. You also often hear about how hardworking Poles are! But of course, as with everything, there are exceptions to every rule.
Finally, is there anything you would like to pass on to those who want to learn Dutch?
Eliza Kośnik: Gewoon doen! Just get started! Don’t put it off and make excuses. The Dutch language is great and fun to learn. You will soon see for yourself the satisfaction and pride that each new situation brings when you manage to communicate successfully in Dutch. 🙂
Level Up Academy is a Dutch language school in the Netherlands that uses interactive teaching methods to learn Dutch with online live classes.
Here you will find more details and a list of courses for which enrolment is currently open. We use flashcards, interactive exercises and teach culture-related topics as well!