The Delft method is faster
The Delft method is faster, but why is learning Dutch faster with the Delft method than with a traditional course?
What makes the system so effective? On which points does the Delft system differ from traditional Dutch courses?
Estimated reading time 14 minutes
Author: Margreet Kwakernaak – Dutch for Dummies
What makes the Delft method faster is student talking time, teacher talking time. and the role of grammar
Three years ago I started teaching with the Delft method, but I have been teaching within traditional language learning for more than 40 years. In other words, I can compare. After 25 years I got to know the Delft method. Certainly, the demonstration of a Delft Dutch class was impressive, but after that, I continued teaching the traditional way. My students praised me for explaining grammar well and I loved it. In addition, we spent time on the conversation.
However, in 2019, one of my students stunned me. At the same time that she was in my traditional course, she studied the Delft method at home. Shortly after, she found a job, where she could practice Dutch. She reached level Dutch B2 twice as fast as the others!
Student talking time, teacher talking time, and the role of grammar: three essentials. Those three make learning Dutch or NT2, Dutch as a Second Language, with the Delft method so fast.
Before starting, I am not a co-maker of the Delft method, nor a Delft method specialist. On the contrary, you might consider me a specialist in traditional language methods. That is to say, I have been teaching languages for more than 40 years. However, I switched to the Delft method 36 months before re-editing this blog.
Let’s make sure that the information in this article is not scientific. My first source is the book in which the founders of the Delft method, explain their basics. Its title is : ‘Hoe leer je een taal?’ A.G.Sciarone en F.Montens, De Delftse methode. Boom, Meppel-Amsterdam, 1984 (no longer available)
Secondly, I have lifelong experience as a traditional language teacher.
In addition, I have three years of experience with the Delft method at the moment of re-editing this blog.
36 months proved that learning Dutch with the Delft method is faster
Three years of experience with Delft method courses, is that enough to be so sure that learning Dutch with the Delft method is faster? Yes, with each month I am becoming more convinced of the effectiveness of the method. Current Suitcase talen students study Dutch for 4-6 hours per week and so did the former ones. However, current students spend these 6 hours differently from previous students.
As a result of my and my student’s enthusiasm, my Dutch school Suitcase talen switched to the Delft method for all A2 and B1 Courses Moreover, I am so enthusiastic, that I love to explain its characteristics to you. Read all about it in the next section.
The first essential that makes the Delft method faster is real communication
Real communication, is the first essential that makes the Delft method faster. However, on the condition that you do a Delft method course with conversation classes. If you stick to e-learning, the communication is with your computer only. In other words, you are missing the essential part when you don’t have conversation classes!
Especially TU Delft , Nedles and Suitcase talen offer Delft method courses. TU Delft courses are the most intensive, Nedles comes second. Suitcase talen courses however are meant for full-time working people. In short, in all of them, you talk Dutch to your fellow students. Similarly, those interesting Dutch conversations keep you motivated. Certainly, you need that motivation. you have to work pretty hard to prepare for that conversation.
First, let’s see how you prepare for your class.
Your preparation before you start communicating
Certainly, your preparation takes two hours per text. Fortunately, students say that it is fun to study with e-learning.
Using the book and the e-learning on your computer at home, you prepare one text per class. Each text has 50 new, actual, and useful words. All Delft method words have been translated into 26 languages.
All in all this studying is a process of listening, repeating, clicking on words to see what they mean, understanding the complete text, and repeating. After these first steps, you continue learning Dutch by filling gaps in this and another text. Finally, you test yourself with a listening test.
At Suitcase talen, you have two Dutch conversation classes per week
The Delft method of e-learning is fine for self-study. You can learn a lot from it, but one thing you cannot. You cannot have a conversation with a living person! And that’s exactly the reason why Suitcase talen offers conversation classes.
After you have scored 80% on your listening test, you are ready for your conversation class. Next to making sure that you studied well, it’s time to meet your fellow students and have fun!
First, you answer teacher and student questions. The questions directly refer to the text and the teacher uses the words of the text-only: so, sure you’ll understand.
Second, you have two one-to-one conversations with a fellow student, talking about the text in a more personal way. You do not only talk about Dutch life but about your own international experiences as well. Texts are about daily life, as well as about the history and geography of the Netherlands. Nederlands voor Buitenlanders is the perfect preparation for the Civic Integration Exam at level A2. Read more about this in The Delft method and KNM.
Your conversation class is online with Zoom, with two breakouts (a one-to-one conversation with a fellow student) per class.
It’s not that easy to talk Dutch with a Dutchman
Because of not enough speaking time in class, students of traditional courses need to talk Dutch outside of class. As you may know, it is difficult for Dutch learners to practice Dutch outside of class. Many of you work from home. Others are a mother of young children. When your children are very small, you leave the house mostly for shopping or a stroll in the park. And then, when you try to speak Dutch in shops or on other rare occasions, Dutchmen answer you in English most of the time.
Last but not least you might prefer the Delft method because it offers enough talking communication in Dutch. All Dutch that you practice outside class helps, but with the Delft method communication outside class is not indispensable, like in most other courses.
Let’s go to the second difference point. Wouldn’t it be fine to learn a language without the teacher talking all the time? Read all about it in the next section
Second Delft method essential: teacher talking time
Teacher talking time
Traditionally the teacher is very important in language learning. Maybe you loved your language teacher, or you hated that person. Or you don’t remember, because it is a long time ago that you learned a new language. Let’s suppose that how you feel about your teacher, is something personal.
But even if so, a teacher should help you, consider mistakes as a natural part of the learning process, be patient with you, and never let you down as long as you want to learn.
Let that be exactly what e-learning gives you in the Delft method!
Vocabulary learning, listening, part of the writing, all that you do yourself with e-learning. However, you don’t speak. Speaking must be done in a conversation class,
Even if e-learning has taken over most of the routine work of the teacher, the Delft method leaves room for a teacher. However, under strict rules. The conversation class is for the students and the teacher facilitates the conversation.
Strict rules for the teacher
Which are these strict rules? In the first place, in the conversation class both the subject and the words that the teacher is using, are restricted to the Lesson studied. The teacher uses the words and sentences that the students prepared in the e-learning only. No long personal teacher stories – maybe a short anecdote, in case it fits in the theme.
And how about questions? Can a student ask questions? Yes, you can, in the last five, six seven, or eight minutes of class. And, how does the teacher explain, when it is a grammar question? Following the Delft method, the teacher gives examples, leaving it to the students to conclude – and those conclusions, made by the students, may be of great help to the other students.
In conclusion, the restricted teacher’s role is a Delft method fundamental. Why? Because in the Delft method, the student is active, the student thinks, and the student concludes. What you learn by experiencing and finding out yourself, stays forever.
Let’s go to the last Delft method essential: grammar.
Delft method essential three: grammar
Did you ever wonder how a child learns the language? Why is the popular word for ‘native language’ ‘your mother tongue? It’s because you, as a baby, started imitating the nearest person – generally your mother. She fed, washed you, and dressed you. Doing this, she was watching you, smiling at you, and … talking to you all the time.
To be more specific, your mother was ‘motherising’, talking in that special language that adults use to talk to babies – full of tenderness and in that special tone that is used all over the world. Like all mothers, yours wanted you to laugh at her and that’s why she talked silly words to you, hoping for your first smile.
Besides, both your mother and father hoped that your first spoken word would be ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, and after having heard both words many times, you finally imitated one of them. Which was your first word?
Your parents’ grammar rules
Did your parents ever teach you grammar rules? Can you remember? No, of course not – they did not. What did they do to get you talking? They took you on their lap, and read a book with you, pointing at the pictures and telling you the word: ‘cat’, ‘ dog’, or ‘car’.
After a while, you started repeating those words, pointing at the picture. In this and other ways, you were learning more and more words and sentences. No rules, just an imitation of what you heard.
And when you were lucky, your parents read a story when you went to bed.
Do you remember your parents correcting you? They may have told you the right word in case the one you made, did not exist. They may have done that occasionally – and it may have been of help. But even if they did not, your language improved as long as you heard others talking.
Grammar in your language learning process
How about grammar? Do you remember your parents first talking to you about today only and never about yesterday or last month – because you did not yet know the past tense?
No, of course not – nonsense. Your parents told you what they wanted to tell you. Whatsoever, they did not consider which language rules you should learn first and which ones later. They did not talk only about the present because you had not yet learned how to make the past tense.
However, this is what teachers do in traditional courses! And that’s why real communication is so difficult in beginners’ courses. For months, a teacher does not ask the student: ‘How was your weekend?’ A traditional teacher starts by teaching past tense grammar, supposing that the student is not able to talk about the past without that grammar.
So, how do you learn grammar in the Delft method?
Read all about it in the next post.
In the Delft method, the grammar is in the texts
In the Delft method, the grammar is in the texts. It is hidden there, and grammar structures are repeated and repeated. Verbs, plurals, word order, and all of them.
As said before, children learn the language without grammar rules. They learn to speak by imitation. Also, children discover similarities between words and word constructions, and they draw their conclusions. However, they do this unconsciously, finding out language rules without the help of grammar books. The founders of the method decided that Delft’s learning should be natural, like that of children. Students should find out similarities themselves and infer grammar rules from the text. We discovered grammar rules learning our native tongue- so we can when learning Dutch as a second language!
Grammar is not difficult
This explains why the Delft method limits formal grammar rules. The method has an accompanying grammar book, De Delftse Grammatica. Grammatica is niet moeilijk. It has the essentials, plus a small number of exercises. Students of the Suitcase talen optional Grammar Module asked us to explain more and add exercises- and we did.
However, there is one big difference with most traditional methods for sure. In the Delft method, you hardly will find rules formulated in grammar terms, like ‘In the main sentence the verb is always in the second place. Instead of that, examples are given. More and more recent methods tend to do so.
Let’s go to a related question that might come up. You could question grammatical correctness when studying Dutch as a second language (NT2) with the Delft method.
How correct is my Dutch when I study with the Delft method up to level B1?
It is 100% sure that when you reach level B1, your Dutch grammar is not yet correct. At that stage your language is never correct, it does not matter whatever method you use. It may take many years before your Dutch will be correct – if ever. Dutch is not your mother tongue!
The Delft method tells us that most mistakes will disappear, as long as you continue learning Dutch. This theory should be right: the Delft method is one of the most researched e-learning systems.
Read all about it in the next post.
Scientific research and 35 years of experience – the Delft method speeds up learning languages.
Let’s look briefly at the origin of the Delft method and its background
In the eighties, a great number of Chinese students came to Delft University for their technical studies. In those times, all lectures were in Dutch.
How do teach Chinese students Dutch in the most efficient and cost-effective? The required level for understanding and taking part in the lectures was level B2 at least. Up to then, that took one year of full-time study as a minimum.
The Delft method founders were pioneers
Bondi Sciarone and his Technical University team decided to use e-learning as the most effective way of helping his students to learn Dutch fast.
As well, the Sciarone team tried out new exercises and features with the help of computer programs. They made variations of exercises and compared results.
They were pioneers, the Delft linguist – who learned to program themselves. Nowadays Technical University Delft is teaching hundreds of students every year. Consequently, the team is continuously updating and renewing the method. That’s why the Delft method is the most researched e-learning system.
After lots of testing and improvement, the e-learning system turned out to surpass human teachers in helpfulness, patience, approval, and disapproval without moral judgment, and never letting the student down – as long as the student continues studying.
That is what the e-learning does – and, if you want, you, Margreet Kwakernaak, and fellow students will do the rest.
Conclusion and further steps:
Delft method gives you all opportunities to learn Dutch fast
It differs from traditional methods in three aspects:
- Its conversation classes offer room for real communication
- grammar is practical
- teacher time is restricted.
Are you interested? Go to Contact for a free intake interview by phone