Dutch B1 – how to reach
From January 2022 on, language level B1 is required for Dutch Civic Integration. Among refugees, some groups are exempt, but expats need level B1, be it for a permanent residence permit or naturalization. Shortly: the B1 exam is much more difficult than the former one at level A2, and requires studying twice as long. Continue reading for more information.
Author: Margreet Kwakernaak, director of Suitcase talen. The Second Edition of Dutch for Dummies was published in 2014.
Dutch at language level B1 – 5000 words
Level A2 is not enough for work, nor social life in the Netherlands. Though living in English may be an option in towns with 200.000+ inhabitants, Dutch integration requires level B1.
First of all: for level B1 you must know 5000 words, double the 2500 for level A2. Consequently, reaching level B1 takes twice as much time than level A2. Fortunately, you are not expected to know 5000 words actively. You should understand those 5000 when you read or hear them. Luckily, the other words in the text will help you to understand. Moreover, the more languages you know already – the easier you will guess the meaning of words.
What comes first: reading
To master a level means that you have all four skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Consequently, to pass the Civic Integration Exam means that every single skill has to be at that level B1.
Provided that you grab every opportunity to understand parts of texts that pass your eyes in your Dutch life, the reading skill is the first that you’ll master. Keep your eyes open and check your phone for the meaning of the new words!
When your child is at a Dutch school, at level A2 you understand most notifications of that school. However, level B1 is needed in case there are complications around your child or in your own life. You will understand written texts at intermediate level. Unfortunately, Dutch level B1 is not enough to understand texts aimed at highly educated people.
Dutch B1 – how to reach. Understanding or ‘luistervaardigheid’
As to listening at level B1- you will not reach that level if you don’t expose yourself to it every day. For many reasons, listening comprehension is such a complicated skill, that even teachers cannot help you with it. Factors like speaking speed, regional accents, bad articulation, ambient noise and not knowing the subject that the person is speaking about, play a big role. Start with watching Dutch tv for 15 minutes every day: all above mentioned factors are in it.
Hearing Dutch should become normal first, and then, as your vocabulary grows, you ‘ll understand more. When you finally dare to talk with a Dutchman who is speaking fast, ask him: ‘Kunt u wat langzamer spreken alstublieft? – Can you speak a bit slower, please? At level B1, a speaker should take you into account.
Speaking in sentences connected by ‘dat’, ‘omdat’ or ‘als’. Dutch B1 – how to reach
In the act of speaking, all your skills come together. Do the words that you need come up in time, do you understand the person who is speaking to you, does the other person understand you? If yes, you probably are at level A2. For level B1 more is needed: you should speak in compound sentences, using the correct word order after words like ‘dat’, ‘omdat’ or ‘als’.
Either way, speaking in a new language takes courage. Courage helps you to overcome your shame. For sure, you are not the only language learner who is fighting shame and fear! However, once you accept that making mistakes is a normal part of any learning process, you ‘ll start speaking. By trial and error, you’ll find your way. It is easier to remember words that someone spoke to you, than from books.
Finally, B1 will make an end to the frustration that all A2- speakers feel. At level A2 you can never tell what you mean. On the other hand, at level B1 you’re almost there – real complex situations excepted.
Writing Dutch at level B1: the last hurdle
The last hurdle: writing at level B1. Which are the requirements? They are the same as for speaking at B1. Most importantly: at level A2 short sentences will do.
For example, when telling about yourself:’ Ik woon in Almere. Wonen in Amsterdam is erg duur. Ik rijd nu elke dag naar Amsterdam. Ik werk in Amsterdam’.
However, level B1 requires more complex sentences: ‘Ik woon in Almere, omdat wonen in Amsterdam erg duur is. Maar, omdat mijn werk in Amsterdam is, rijd ik elke dag naar Amsterdam’.
Though you may not write a lot in your Dutch life, once you can make sentences when speaking, writing will follow. Moreover, when writing you have more time to think. As a consequence, some students prefer writing to speaking!
Dutch B1 – how to reach. Do language programs help?
Even though more and more language programs offer great help, you will not master the last writing steps without a teacher. For this blog in English, I use three language programs. The first one is to look up some words.
The second language program I use, checks the readability: the lenght of the words and the sentences. Moreover, each text needs signal words. These words, like ‘however’ and ‘moreover’ introduce what comes next.
The third program checks my spelling and grammar. Besides, it suggests more appropriate words. By using them, I slowly expand my vocabulary
These programs do great work. They give insight into repeated mistakes and teach you small parts of grammar and vocabulary.
A good teacher leads you to level B1
However, up to now, there is no program that replaces a good teacher who leads you up to level B1. A good teacher not only corrects your written texts but, more important, gives you tips on how to improve! Straight to the writing exam, if that’s your target.
The author of this blog is such a teacher. After having prepared your class with e-learning, you meet your teacher online. You are in a small group. Are you interested?
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