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What’s the deal with ‘Dutch Studies’?

Dutch Studies teaches you how to pronounce Van Gogh and discuss the Dutch translation of Harry Potter books. Source: Finan Akbar on Unsplash

Last week, the University of Sheffield celebrated seven decades of Dutch Studies being taught at the institution. Dutch and Flemish diplomats joined academics and postgraduates from four continents to explore the language, history and culture of the Low Countries in an international context.

In a world that’s eager to learn Spanish and where Mandarin is the second-most spoken language globally, we often forget fields like Dutch Studies exist and aren’t even so sure what they teach.

At Sheffield, Dutch Studies have been around since June 1948, housed at the university’s School of Languages and Cultures.

The study goes beyond improving fluency in Dutch. It encompasses the historical, cultural and philosophical impact of the Netherlands – all topics of international significance.

Its popularity among students is due to the ease of picking up the language as an English speaker, with the added bonus of exploring interesting history and culture.

And while it may not seem so, employability also ranks highly on the list of reasons to enrol on a course in Dutch Studies. According to a recent report on languages skills in the UK, Dutch is the 6th-most requested language by employers in the UK.


Dr Henriette Louwerse, who leads Dutch Studies at Sheffield, said: “Spoken across the Netherlands, Flanders, Surinam and parts of the Caribbean, Dutch is one of the most useful languages that students can learn in the UK.”

In a post-Brexit world, the practicality of having Dutch language skills is further heightened since the Netherlands is a top export and import destination for the UK.

“Being able to speak more than one language has never been more essential and valuable than it is today for developing a career and building connections between people and nations – people with multiple modern languages and with the cultural awareness that comes with language study are the lubricant of the world,” Louwerse explained.

Former students’ career trajectories show a promising path through the international arena, from working with organisations like NATO, to national governments and blogging about Dutch literature for the European Literature Network.

Other notable institutions offering this course include the University of California, Berkeley and University of Texas in the US; Leiden University and University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands; and even Nagasaki University in Japan.

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