Make friends and brush up your business English – all for free
We have previously advocated for learning – or improving – your Dutch skills. Many of the
internationals we’ve been in contact with have experienced the language barrier as the biggest
obstacle in their job search.
Take for instance Fang Yin, whom we have had the pleasure of meeting.
She is a highly-educated designer and communication professional, and she said:
“If you don’t speak Dutch fluently, it is definitely a disadvantage when looking for jobs in Flanders.
Companies here do request a proficient level of Dutch, even for designers.“
You can read all about Fang Yin’s journey to her first job in Belgium. What she, and many other internationals, ended up doing was finding a job in a company where English is the corporate language.
However, this requires that you have a very high English proficiency. Even though we are more exposed to English, there is a long way from speaking it on a conversational level to excelling in business English.
And guess what can be done about that? Practice, practice and a little bit more practice.
We’ve previously recommended watching movies as a way to learn Dutch along with other
informal initiatives. This can be also be a good and fun way to improve your English.
To make the process a little easier, we have found 7 free options to learn English in Belgium.
Without further ado, let’s get right into it:
1. Meetup Language Cafe in Brussels
With a mission of being the friendliest group in the Meetup network, you will surely be surrounded by open-minded and good people. This will be reflected in the laid-back learning environment, where it is okay to make mistakes, and everyone has something useful to bring to the table. Are you a native Swedish speaker for instance? Great, that can be utilized as well! The rule is just that you should teach your own native language for 40 minutes, then shift to another table – for instance the English table and then switch once more. This means that you can actually kill two birds with one stone and practice English and Dutch in one evening!
We have previously recommended Duolingo as an easy way to practice a language. It is an online
language-learning platform with an app for your phone, so you can take with you wherever you go.
You get the chance of practicing listening skills, grammar, writing skills, pronunciation skills and
much more. And if you are someone who is a little insecure speaking publicly, this is a great way to
practice by yourself.
On the website of Conversation Exchange, you can search for your next language partner. They offer
a large database of people willing to teach English and learn your native language. Depending on the
person you want to practice with, you can do it either by Skype, Face-to-Face conversations or Social Media. Who knows, maybe you will make a new friend?
The British Council offers different online resources to help you learn or practice your English. You can choose between apps, videos, podcasts and quizzes, and you will surely have fun in the process.
5. TaalCafe Mundial – Gent
Just as with the Meetup Language Café in Brussels, this too is a place that allows you to practice multiple languages in one evening. Signing up beforehand, the organizers make sure that there is a good balance between the demands and offers so that everyone goes home feeling like they have learned something. They also serve chilled beverages which adds to the cozy, laid-back setting. Our intern Josefine goes there sometimes, and she definitely recommends it!
Similar to Conversation Exchange, this is a platform for you to look for your next language partner. Especially Asian languages are requested a lot by someone speaking Dutch, English and French, so if you have any Asian language skills, chances are that you can find yourself a great match on this website. Whereas Conversation Exchange focused a lot on Skype Meetings and Social Media, Language Exchange puts emphasis on meeting face-to-face.
7. My Language Exchange – Antwerp
If you are living in Antwerp, this might be the perfect opportunity for you to practice your English skills. You can meet up over a drink if you prefer the more personal approach, exchange protected emails with each other or use voice/text chat on Social Media platforms. As with the other meetups, this is also a perfect opportunity for you to expand your network here in Belgium.
Apart from these recommendations, we urge you to be curious! If you are in a cafe and hear
someone speak English, why don’t you just reach out? Make sure to also check Google, Facebook
and other social platforms for monthly or weekly meetups with other like-minded people. Not to
mention the many opportunities you have to work intensely on your business English through
different paid courses.
If you want us to do a blog post on English paid courses, let us know!
Good luck with your language journey!
All the best,
Psssst… By going to networking events you’ll have the perfect chance of practicing your business
Are you still doubting the importance of language? Go ahead and watch Lera Boroditsky’s TED Talk,
“Does Language Shape the way we think?”. She interestingly explains how language can influence
our thinking process and our way of living.