Institute for Dutch Language Education
Instituut voor Nederlands Taalonderwijs en Taaladvies (INTT)
A vision on the education of the Institute for Dutch Language Education (INTT).
The student as a priority
The INTT’s education is primarily geared towards the learner.
- As a result of the large variety of courses offered throughout the year, students can always choose the course that suits them the most.
- An intake insures that the learner is given a course in line with his/her own level of proficiency.
- The variation within the groups does justice to the individual’s own learning wishes and goals: extra exercise material, auditory, visual and textual input.
The course material is founded upon tasks. These tasks aren’t abstractions but functional, and are directly linked to a concrete situation, such as ‘having conversations with people on the street’, ‘writing a job application’, ‘talking about a cultural activity’ and ‘requesting information about study programmes and courses’.
The most important function of language is communication. At the INTT the function of language takes centre stage: is the message you wish to convey clear? A primary focus on content does not, however, generally result in a higher level of language proficiency. To attain the latter, attention also needs to be paid to form. Reflection on language and language structures is a key word in education, and grammar is offered in a myriad of ways.
The language of instruction within the course is Dutch. Students thereby receive plenty of input and are given the opportunity to test their own output. The native language and other auxiliary languages are strategically employed for the purposes of effectiveness and efficiency, e.g. by using multilingual word lists or dictionaries. Sometimes English is spoken to absolute beginners or difficult grammatical topics explained in another language. However, the key point always remains: ‘target language = spoken language’.
Every learner learns differently. There are slow and fast; audibly, visually, and verbally inclined; analytical and synthetic learners. By making use of multimedia, learners can exercise in their own time and at their own pace. Internet plays an important role as an information source.
At the INTT learners can start with a course four-six times per year. The courses are divided into periods of six-eight weeks, and after each period the proficiency level is newly redetermined. This insures educational efficiency. Due to the combination of contact hours and self-study, learners can complete a part of their programme in their own time and at their own pace.
The courses prepare learners for the aims as outlined in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The descriptors of the CEFR form the end goals of the different courses (A1, A2, A2+, B1, B1+, B2).
Lecturers play an important part in a learner’s performance. Learners book the most progress when they find themselves in a safe environment and are stimulated and challenged to learn. Lecturers constantly look for tasks which can motivate and challenge learners, whilst at the same time ensuring a stimulating milieu. Excursions and extracurricular exercises hereby form an integral part.
Language learners must speak and write extensively so that they can assess their expressions on comprehensibility and correctness. Language is learned by actively doing so; you have to be immersed in it. Interaction, between learners, between learner and lecturer, etc. is therefore crucial. Feedback, implicit and explicit, plays an important part in this process. Working together in small groups results in much interaction and is an important component of the programme.
Language and culture are inextricably linked to one another. The attention given to culture is closely intertwined with language education at the INTT. Course materials contain a great deal of information about Dutch culture and develop learners’ intercultural competencies. Dutch songs are integrated in the programme, and aside from courses there are also excursions in the historical centre and to Amsterdam museums.