Finding a Dutch Class

Something you will quickly realize when you move to Flanders is the language! In this region, people speak Dutch, commonly known as Flemish. We will share some tips and explain a few practicalities for starting to learn Dutch in Leuven specifically, but also in Flanders more generally.

International House Leuven
13 December 2023

Is Flemish and Dutch the same language?

Good question! And, technically, the answer is yes. The spoken language in both the Netherlands and Flanders is Dutch, but you will find that the Dutch spoken in these places sounds very different. This is why you might hear people say that there is a big difference between Dutch and Flemish, but all in all, they are the same language.

Dutch is a Germanic language, meaning that it is from the same family as German and English. This means that if you already have one of these languages in your repertoire, you’re in luck! You will find many similar words in Dutch.

You will also find that the Flemish accent varies from province to province. The tone, intonation, and even some vocabulary can vary greatly from one side of the country to the other.

Determining your language goals

This is an important step before you jump into language classes. Do you want to study Dutch for your work, social life, sport, or to communicate while you're out and about?

Some cities in Flemish Brabant are easier to live in without speaking Dutch than others. For example, in Leuven, you will likely be able to communicate in English with many of the locals, in grocery stores, or on the bus. In less international cities, however, this might not be an option.

We recommend that everyone try to get a feel for the basics at least. This will make you feel much more at ease if you come across someone who only speaks Dutch.

Language levels/schools explained

The language levels can seem confusing at first, but once you figure out the logic behind it, it will all make sense.

Here is a quick breakdown of Dutch language classes or NT2 courses (Nederlands tweede taal) at a typical CVO (center for adult education).

  • A1 Breakthrough = 1.1

  • A2 Waystage = 1.2

  • B1 Threshold = 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, & 2.4

  • B2 Vantage = 3.1 & 3.2

  • C1 Effectiveness = 4.1 & 4.2

Via this link you can see a very nice visual explaining the different levels and the different types of schools where you can learn Dutch. The visual is only in Dutch, so we will give you a brief overview in English.

There are 4 different types of adult language education:

  • Centrum voor Volwassenenonderwijs (CVO) = Center for Adult Education
  • Universitair Talen centrum = University Language Center
  • Centrum voor Basiseducatie = Center for Basic Education
  • Alfabetiseringstraject Centrum voor Basiseducatie = Center for Basic Education (for those that can’t read or write)

Depending on the type of school you choose, the learning speed/curriculum will differ. For example, if you choose to take language classes at a University language center, then the pace and classes will be structured as in a university: high-paced and intensive (here, for example, they might not use the typical level system mentioned above).

If that seems a little too intense for your liking, then you can choose to study at an adult education center (CVO) for a moderately paced learning environment.

The visual in the link above shows that the University route, in theory, will take you through levels 1.1 and 1.2 in 3 months, whereas studying at CVO (center for adult education) would take you 3 months for level 1.1 and another 3 months for level 1.2.

If you are curious about the different levels and European framework for learning languages, then you can find more info here:

Language schools (with a focus on Leuven)

When searching for a school, you will want to look for schools that offer NT2 courses ("Nederlands tweede taal" or Dutch as a second language).

If you are looking for a step down from the university-level language classes, then we suggest that you go to a CVO (center for Adult Education).

  • CVO Volt is a school that offers all kinds of different courses, from admin to cooking, to Dutch for non-native speakers. They have campuses in Aarschot, Diest, Haacht, Leuven, Tienen and Brussels and of course online courses where the location doesn’t matter.
  • CVO CLT is only in Leuven and offers a wide variety of language courses. They are located inside of the city center. CLT stands for “Centrum voor Levende Talen” (or center for living languages).

If you are looking for a university-level course in Leuven, we suggest that you look into the language institute at KU Leuven.

  • ILT at the KU Leuven offers intensive and regular courses (on campus, blended, online), from level 1 to level 6. They also offer an intensive summer course.

Are you looking for a language school outside of Leuven? Try one of the following that may be closer to your home:

Assistance in finding a language course

The Integration office provides help to anyone interested in taking Dutch classes in Flanders. You can make an appointment with them here, and after sharing your language goals, they will inform you of the different options and their suggestion for you.

The integration agency does not organize Dutch as a second language (NT2) courses themselves but helps non-Dutch speakers who want to learn Dutch find an appropriate course.

Important info for beginners! If you would like to start in the first level at a CVO in Leuven, then you are required to first contact the Integration office. After their approval, you can sign up for level one at the CVO of your choice. (This is not required if you want to attend (ILT at the KU Leuven).

Good to know

  • Classes book up fast, so keep an eye on registration dates and register ASAP.
  • Some companies offer in-house Dutch language courses to their international staff (and sometimes also to their partners). Inquire about such initiatives at your company.
  • In Flanders, there is no standard obligation for internationals to learn Dutch. However, a certain level of Dutch language proficiency is required for people wanting to teach at a Flemish university or university or for people wanting to enroll in a Dutch-taught study program. For more information, contact your university or university college. If you want to eventually get citizenship, then knowledge of one of the national languages (Dutch, French, or German) is also very helpful.
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This page was last updated on: 14 March 2024