Online self-access course teaching reading skills for Business Dutch
Prof Theo Hermans, Department of Dutch, University College London
Dr An Vanderhelst
The project developed and delivered an online self-access course designed to teach reading skills to Anglophone learners who possess only a minimal knowledge of Dutch. The course consists of thirty lessons, including self-scoring and self-correcting exercises and revision sessions. It enables learners to build up a reading knowledge of Dutch sufficient for them to cope with reading the business pages of Dutch and Flemish newspapers and magazines. The course consists of two parts. Part one is geared to general comprehension of modern Dutch. It makes use of texts adapted and simplified to suit beginner’s level, ensuring the systematic build-up of vocabulary and grammatical complexity. The second part consists of authentic texts and concentrates on economic, business and financial usage. The exercises and tests make use of appropriate interactive software. The language of instruction of the first part of the course is English, the second half makes use of both Dutch and English. The course comes complete with a glossary explaining word meanings in Dutch before offering English translations.
The provision of comprehensive online learning and teaching resources is both innovative and a key element in the Virtual Dutch inter-institutional collaboration (http://www.dutch.ac.uk/), and in the joint SOAS-UCL Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning ‘Languages of the Wider World’ (http://www.lww-cetl.ac.uk/) which is concerned with the HE provisions for less widely taught languages. The project adds a valuable component to the set of resources available for Dutch studies. It enhances understanding of the use of online learning in selective language acquisition, i.e. reading skills only, in a restricted area of usage, i.e. business language.
In addition, the course provides a generic model of a reading course in the area of Language for Special Purposes for other languages and departments. It demonstrates that it is possible for even a relatively small unit like the UCL Department of Dutch or the collaborative venture Virtual Dutch in which the UCL department has been developing online teaching and learning resources jointly with the Dutch units at the universities of Sheffield and Cambridge since 2001, to develop distance-learning components step by step over a period of time.
The project also provides an essential building block for a planned distance-learning Certificate/Diploma/MA in Dutch Cultural Studies.