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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Learn Dutch Language (NT2) in Belgium as Part of Civic Integration Programme with Government Subsidy

Dutch (NT2) as Second Language in Belgium

Do you want to learn the Dutch Language in Belgium? The Dutch course offered is NT2 (Nederlands als Tweede Taal) which means “Dutch as a Second Language”. Dutch is one of the three official languages of Belgium other than French and German.

It is spoken by the northern part of Belgium which is the Flanders region. Flemish is a dialect variety arising from the Dutch language spoken by approximately 6 million people in the Flanders area. In different Flemish cities, the dialects are not the same too. As a result, Dutch is the common language understood by all the Flemish.

For the first part of the article, there is an introduction to the Civic Integration Programme in the Flanders region of Belgium. Therefore, as learning Dutch is part of the Integration Programme, I have highlighted the importance of this integration policy mandatory by law and the registration process.

Three Official Languages in Belgium


Huis van het Nederlands

The language institution responsible for learning the Dutch language is Huis van het Nederlands (House of Dutch). You will be able to find one in every city of Flanders and in Brussels too. There is no centralised website for Huis van het Nederlands in Flanders. Every province and even some cities have their own websites.

You can find Huis van het Nederlands location and opening hours of the cities by selecting from the provinces below.

In Antwerp, the situation changed since two years ago. People who are interested in learning the Dutch language no longer go through Huis van het Nederlands. Instead, they go directly to Altas – Integratie en Inburgering Antwerpen for registration of both the Dutch Course and the Social Integration Programme.

If a student has already had some knowledge of Dutch before, he has to take a language proficiency test from the Huis van het Nederlands to assess his level of Dutch so as to place him at the appropriate level.

The general name of the school is CVO (Centrum Voor Volwassenenonderwijs) which means ‘Centre for Adult Education’. To locate the CVO of where you reside, include your city when you search online. That is ‘CVO + Your City’.


Full Course Rate or Subsidised Rate?

There are two groups of people taking the Dutch Language Course with regards to paying a full course fee and receiving a subsidy from the government.


1) Full Course Rate

The first group of people pays a full course rate. They are not permanent residents in Belgium. These people can be tourists on social visits for a limited period or people who come to Belgium to study the Dutch language.

Or, they can also be residents who have not yet received an Orange Card yet but want to make use of their time to learn the Dutch language in the meanwhile. They can take the Dutch Language Course in private schools or universities in the meanwhile.


2) Subsidised Course Rate

The second group of people pays a subsidised course rate provided by the Flemish Government. They go to a CVO school. To enjoy the reduced rate, one has to produce a Belgian identification card or an Orange Card because it has a Belgian National Number.

Therefore, the subsidisation from the government signifies that the Dutch classes are part of the Integration Programme. However, bounded by regulation, the students have to meet the minimum attendance requirement in class.

EU citizens can also take the Dutch course with a subsidised rate, provided that they have signed an integration agreement with the integratie and inburgering agency. In another word, they are obligated to attend the Social Integration Course too.


Is Learning Dutch Language Really Free?

The term “free Dutch course” used widely by netizens is often slightly misleading. As long as one has to pay something such as the course material, it is never free. In fact, the Flemish Government subsidised heavily on the Dutch lessons as part of the Civic Integration Programme for most people. Here is an enrolment fee guide from CVO Stroombeek in English. You can check whether you are eligible for full or partial fee reduction according to the category.


Flemish Government Subsidy

Under the Civic Integration Programme, it is compulsory to attend two terms of Dutch Language Courses – Level A1 (1.1) and A2 (1.2). Subsequently, it is optional for the students whether they want to advance to a higher level from B1 (2.1) onwards. Additionally, the Flemish Government will continue to offer the Dutch Course subsidy up to Level 2.4. In Antwerp, the full course rate of the Dutch course is €108. With the Government’s grant, one will pay the course material fee not exceeding €36.


Course Intensity

One level of Dutch course is typically 120 hours. For the slower learners or people with lower education, the duration will go up to 180 or 240 hours per level (for level 1.1 and 1.2 only). They would require more time to learn the Dutch language. There are three or more types of schedules with different intensity for the Dutch courses. Thus, the students can choose the schedule based on their availability. On the other hand, the Dutch Course timing offered in every city is not the same so check with your agency again.


1) Super Intensive Course

  • 1-month duration: 4 days per week, 6 hours per day
  • Morning (9 am to 12 am) and afternoon (1 pm to 4 pm)
  • Available for Dutch Language Level 1.1 and 1.2 only


2) Intensive Course

  • 2-months duration: 4 days per week, 3 hours per session
  • Select your preferred timing – Morning (9 am to 12 am), afternoon (1 pm to 4 pm) or night (6.30 pm to 9.30 pm)


3) Less Intensive Course

  • 4-months duration: 1 day per week, 3 hours per session
  • Select your preferred timing – Morning (9 am to 12 am), afternoon (1 pm to 4 pm) or night (6.30 pm to 9.30 pm)

The most popular choice for many people to learn Dutch is the Intensive Course, particularly at the first two levels (1.1 and 1.2). The number of days varies between different cities and schools. Some schools offer 2 or 4 days per week of lessons. Your Programme Counsellor would be able to advise the most suitable schedule when you register at Atlas or Huis van het Nederlands.

The bizarre thing is that you would not be able to find the course schedules of your desired locations for most of the CVO websites. That is if you want to plan in advance. In another word, the selection dates of the Social Integration Course and the Dutch Language Course are conducted in the Agency like Atlas in Antwerp.

The staffs at the Agency will go through the available time slot and CVO locations together with you. You choose the schedule for either or both the courses on the spot. Besides being mandatory for Civic Integration Programme purpose, Dutch Level 1.2 is also the minimum level required to apply for a Belgian citizenship in future.


Long Waiting List for Dutch Language Courses in Atlas

There is one more thing to take note for Atlas Antwerpen and some other cities with a lot of newcomers. It is common to wait several months later for attending a Dutch Language Course due to the high volume of registration. One advice to speed up your Dutch Course enrolment process is to register immediately upon receiving your Orange Card or residence permit.

Firstly, there is a waiting time to get an appointment date in Atlas to talk to the Programme Counsellor. Secondly, the classes are always full. So, you have to grab the earliest commencement date available for the Dutch Course even if the distance is slightly away from your house.


Documentatiecentrum Atlas, Antwerp

After the Civic Integration Program registration at Atlas House, I was recommended by the lady to take a look in the library at the backyard of Atlas Building. She further emphasised that the library had a lot of resources to help people to learn and improve their Dutch language. The image profile is the Documentatiecentrum Atlas in Antwerp.

Following the recommendation, I went to the library, Documentatiecentrum Atlas and approached the counter staff. The lady was warm and helpful to explain about the membership that they have. Furthermore, she showed me the type of books and audio material that they have to help improve the Dutch language.


» Membership

It costs only €5 to have a 1-year membership. The renewal is annual. One person can borrow up to 7 items consisting of books and audio material altogether. The loan period is three weeks. After which, it can be renewed one more time for another three weeks in person, by phone call or online. Do consider the membership since it has a lot of books for doing grammar and reading comprehension exercises. Even the Public library like Permeke Antwerpen does not have so many resources as this library.


My Dutch Language Class

In one of the CVO school in Antwerp which I am currently attending the beginner course, I took the intensive class that runs for two months. After the end of Dutch Course Level 1.1., the school will continue directly with Level 1.2 with the same teacher. Given that the students pass Level 1.1 and want to advance to 1.2. The registration for Level 1.2 will take place only after the examination. So, this time, the students need not go back to Huis van het Nederlands or Atlas for registration. They can do it directly with the school.


General Information

Here is a general information in English about learning the Dutch language in Belgium.


GO! CVO Antwerpen – Infofilm NT2

This informative video with English subtitle from CVO Antwerpen will briefly explain what students can expect when they enrol for a Dutch Language Course through CVO school in different modules.

Video Length: 2m 23s


CVO Antwerpen – LBC-NVK | Valentine’s Day Celebration 2017 – Ik Hou Van Jou

On Valentine’s Day Eve, CVO LBC-NVK Antwerpen celebrated this romantic day with a beautiful song – Ik Hou Van Jou (I love you). Towards the end of the song, the singer invited the students to say the words in their native language. Video recorded in High-Definition.

Video Length: 3m 51s



About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call ‘home’. Join me in discovering the fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.

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