May 14th, 2014 by Celine Charles
Every international student’s fear when thinking about joining Maastricht University is the language. ‘Will I have to learn Dutch?’ is a sentence I have heard by many first years or future students.
The answer comes in mind rather quickly: yes, you can learn Dutch, but only if you want. Some students will put in the effort, by joining a Dutch speaking student association or participating in one of the many language courses offered in Maastricht. Most will never bother though. They will learn ‘hoi’, ‘dank je’, ‘een biertje, alstublieft, and perhaps a few other words, and will return to their home country after three years in the Netherlands unable to introduce themselves in Dutch.
Being a French-speaking Belgian student, I have always known that I needed to improve and practice my Dutch. I have tried on several occasion, during my student years, but more often then not, the person with whom I was talking would know I was not Dutch-speaking, and would answer to me in English. It has also happened more than once that a cashier at the supermarket would overhear I speak French, and then address me in French. The same has happened with some German-speaking friends of mine. It is obviously a kind gesture, aiming at saving the poor foreigner struggling with expressing simple thoughts in Dutch, but it slightly discouraged me (and others).
Eventually, aside from one language course in my second year, I quickly postponed learning Dutch.