Although I am an engineer by education, I have a passion for languages. At school I learned 3 foreign languages: German, English and French. And then I learned 2 more languages completely by myself: Russian and Spanish.
After university (in 2002) I ended up in Russia where I helped Dutch companies set up their businesses. Because they understood the need to understand the local language, I set up a program for Dutch people to learn Russian – intensive language courses with accommodation in St. Petersburg (a language centre that still exists today with almost two thousand clients in 15 years).
In 2014 I acquired learndutch.org (set up in 1997 by Chris Sonnemans, former education director of Teleac – the Dutch television company that produced courses for national TV).
My mission: to teach my native language Dutch to as many foreigners as possible, in a fun and efficient way… using all my experience of running a language centre and learning foreign languages myself.
Main components for learning a language successfully
1. Self study
As a self-taught person, I know it is possible to learn a lot by yourself (although most language teachers argue with that)… as long as the materials are well structured, especially: vocabulary and grammar. Learning a language does not need to be expensive. You can learn a lot from books or online resources. Discipline is actually more important than money. But if the materials are presented in a fun way, then there is not even that much discipline needed. I believe that a video is more fun than a (boring) book, so that is the basis of this website: well structured materials to learn Dutch efficiently, presented in a fun way that makes you want to keep on studying!
Although you can learn the theoretical basis by yourself with self study, you need othersto apply what you’ve learned. Speak Dutch with your Dutch friends, relatives and colleagues as much as possible. Although it is difficult to switch to Dutch from the language you are used to communicating in, just do it! Watch Dutch television. Listen to Dutch radio. Being in the country where the language is spoken is a major factor in learning the language fast. This can be an issue if you live anywhere else
3. A teacher
I proved I could learn to speak Russian fluently, completely without a teacher (only self study and practice). Nevertheless, I regret that I didn’t take some real classes. I would have learned the language better, and I would have avoided learning the mistakes that I still make today. I believe that interactive classes with a good teacher, contribute to a better understanding, better speaking and listening skills, a faster learning process, and it prevents learning things incorrectly.
I really believe in the ‘live + study together‘ approach: to create an environment where course participants are immersed in the language 24 hours per day (not only in class!). And solving the issues for those who learn Dutch while living abroad… who don’t get enough practice, who need accommodation during the course, and who want to be 100% sure that the course will take place and not be rescheduled (like regular language schools usually do when they do not get enough people in a group), because of their travel arrangements.
I believe in sharing
I create a lot of content for free. I devote the majority of my time to this. You can find these materials here on the website and on my YouTube channel. I managed to make this a sustainable project (I keep on creating more materials): not being dependent on government subsidies or my spare time.
This is my full time job. Therefore, there is a business model behind this website to generate revenues: the premium Dutch grammar courses #dutchgrammar-1 and #dutchgrammar 2. These video lessons are not on YouTube, you can access them – together with the exercises, handouts and other related materials, after you buy a licence. I believe (and of followers agree) that these courses are very reasonably priced (€39 + VAT) in relation to what you learn from them.
Because of the revenues from the premium courses, I can hire the expertise of the best Dutch language teachers and I can spend my time creating more materials to learn Dutch, including free materials.
I’m grateful to my audience
At the moment I have almost 50,000 followers on Facebook and You Tube, more than 2500 visitors per day on the website and about 12,000 video views daily on YouTube. I’m grateful to everyone for watching my videos and to the people who buy my courses. But I’m also grateful to those who support me in other ways… by liking and sharing the videos, by providing feedback and by helping to make the content better (such as proofreading, providing subtitles and graphics).
Thanks to your help in voting, Bab.la announced my YouTube channel the Number 1 social media language resource!
You make me feel that this is the right thing to do… and so, I am motivated to come up with the best I can!
I would like to name some people who made a significant contribution to this course:
– Dutch language teacher Kirsten de Gelder with whom I created #dutchgrammar
– Dutch language teacher Mirjam van Beijsterveldt with whom I created the pronunciation videos
– Tom Faes with whom I created ‘studio studeo’
– Michele Robinson for proofreading a lot of my online lessons
– Kata Szep for providing the graphics of ‘250 dutch proverbs’
Have fun learning Dutch!
Bart de Pau