Although English and French are widely spoken in Ghent, Dutch is the main language used in this city and the region of Flanders. If you’re only planning on staying in Ghent for a few months then just picking up some everyday phrases might be all you need. There are however special courses for Erasmus students who are only staying one semester. If you plan to stay longer and want to work here, it might be a good idea to take Dutch lessons. This overview aims to provide information about the 4 main options and the process of joining a course.
- Daytime and evening courses – evenings generally two lessons a week (Mon/Weds or Tues/Thurs) from 7pm-9.30pm. They also offer intensive courses which last one full month and include 3 hours of teaching time every day.
- The middle price option – courses cost around €350. This can be paid in part or full by your company if you are working here. If you’re unemployed or have low income, you might be eligible for financial support from the city which you can apply for via In-Gent.
- Good for anyone with an academic background and people working in an office job or studying/doing a PHD in the city.
- Uses a scale of 1 to 6 where level 1 is beginners. However only levels 1 to 3 (sometimes 4) are offered in the evenings. At the end of level 3 you will be good enough to hold a conversation about an everyday topic. For many this is enough, especially as it’s tricky to attend the higher levels during the day.
- Courses run for a semester with one week off in the middle.
- Classes are most likely to be held in the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy on Blandijnberg street and you’ll be in a group of around 20 people.
- You will need to follow the online registration process.
- If you have some Dutch knowledge already, make this clear when you register and they’ll then ask you to attend a test (in person, and on a specific day) before you can start. For more info on this test, please see below. The test is charged (around €50) which is then deducted from the cost of the course. If you don’t get a place on a course because they are full up, this cost is refunded. But not if you drop out.
In-Gent (Het Perspectief)
- In-Gent is the integration and citizenship department of the city
- Runs daytime and evening courses
- Aimed more at ‘getting by’ in the city, or getting a vocational job
- Based on a scale of 5 levels.
- No online registration. Instead you have to go down to Kongostraat 42 in person, take a ticket and wait till you are called. Then you will discuss what you want to do and provide your details. They’re open Mon-Fri 9am-11.30am and Tues-Fri also 1-4.30pm.
- If you already have some Dutch knowledge you will also need to take a test. But skip the visit in person and first contact them by email to arrange a date – firstname.lastname@example.org. Tests are also free.
- The cheaper option, with a course costing around €50.
- Lessons will be held at Kongostraat 42, on Henleykaai or in the Leopoldskazerne.
- VDAB is the public employment service for Flanders, so you may later cross paths when you are searching for a job. But they also offer Dutch language courses to speakers of other languages in order to help them into employment in Belgium.
- In order to join one of VDAB’s courses you need to have basic Dutch knowledge already. You can see if you have enough knowledge already by taking one of the VDAB’s free online tests.
- The aim of these courses is to focus on real-life situations in the workplace, help you find a job or help you with the job you have.
- Call into the training centre near Sint-Pieters train station on K M Hendrikaplein to discuss the options. They are open Monday-Friday 8.30am-12pm and 12.30pm-4pm.
- Run courses at flexible times to suit you.
- Good for intensive Dutch learning for people working in Ghent temporarily, for example if you have been posted here by your company.
- Lessons are often held one-to-one or in very small groups.
- You will need to meet with someone at the school to discuss what you want to achieve and what your level is before you start.
- This initial meeting is very flexible i.e. you can visit them in the evenings if you’re working during the day.
- The most expensive option, with courses costing nearer to €1000.
Testing your level of Dutch
If you opt for the University or In-Ghent, you’ll need to take a test if you already have some knowledge of Dutch. This is so that you’re not put in at level 1 and it’s too easy. However it is the provider (not you) that will decide which level you should be in. After having made contact with the provider you’ll be invited to attend a test in person. Because this can sound daunting, the following information might be useful:
- Tests last 2 hours.
- There’ll be a teacher from the provider sat in the room while you take it.
- You will not be alone – the tests are run for groups.
- You’ll do a test where you have to read short texts and then fill in missing words or pick from a list of options. There is also a listening part. This is either done using a computer or with pen and paper.
- You’ll be asked to write a short text (for example on your favourite city) and have a short chat with the teacher in Dutch.
- The test is aimed at all potential levels so don’t panic if you are saying ‘I don’t know’ a lot.
- After the test, you’ll find out which level you will be in, and when the course will start. This happens either immediately when you’re still there, or later via email.
- Unfortunately it’s not the easiest to sign up for a Dutch course online from your home country before you arrive in Ghent. If you don’t want to arrive completely unprepared then the best thing you could do is some research. Or perhaps buy a Dutch grammar book in your native language and start some self study. It is best to wait until you are physically in Ghent to sign up for a course.
- The academic year in Ghent (remember that Ghent is a big university city) starts late September/early October. So if you plan to arrive in Ghent in August or September, sign up for a course immediately so you don’t miss out.
- Once you’ve started your course, sign up for the Taalcafe Mundial language cafe. This free evening event runs every last Wednesday and every second Tuesday of the month. Held at the De Centrale event hall, it’s a great way to meet new people and practise your Dutch with natives.
Please note that the specific details listed above are based on our experiences. It is the information that you receive from the course provider which you should follow. We have found that it’s quite difficult to track down upfront detailed information about what to expect from a course. This is probably because each course will differ slightly depending on the number of students, the teacher, the current year’s programme etc.