For 24 million people worldwide, Dutch is their first language: in the Netherlands, Flanders and Surinam. It is also one of the official languages in Curaçao, St. Maarten and Aruba. Afrikaans differs from Dutch and is a separate language, but speakers of Dutch can generally understand Afrikaans, and vice versa.
The Dutch language provides access to a rich and complex culture and its history. Without Dutch, one can examine the architectural and artistic treasures that have survived from the past – or created just yesterday – and one can easily find people who speak English among the world’s Dutch speakers. But to understand how this small region developed as it did, has had the effect it has, or even what is unique about the cultures of the world’s varied Dutch-speakers, one needs to be able to read and speak Dutch. To appreciate the uniqueness of the political culture, today and yesterday, of these regions, one needs Dutch. In fact, to understand what the Dutch brought to the Americas and what is still deeply rooted in our own culture, one needs Dutch.
Our library collections concerning the Dutch-speaking world are arguably the best in the country. Faculty includes scholars in several disciplines who concentrate on the history and culture of the Dutch-speaking world. The university is surrounded by museums and galleries, which contain some of the best collections of art from Belgium and the Netherlands. New York's concert halls, dance studios, and fashion emporia regularly feature artists whose language is Dutch
Columbia University has a long history of scholarship and teaching about the Dutch-speaking world, in large part thanks to our location in what was once named New Amsterdam. The program of studies in the Dutch language and the Dutch-speaking world at Columbia dates from the post-war period when the the Stichting Koningin Wilhelmina Professoraat (Queen Wilhelmina Professor Foundation) joined with Columbia to create a chair in the history, culture and language of the Dutch-speaking world. Today, instead of a full-time resident chair, Columbia annually hosts a visiting Queen Wilhelmina professor, sponsored by the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union), who teaches one semester a year. The visitor, along with a committee of resident faculty, also organizes a series of lectures and workshops focusing on the history and culture of the Dutch-speaking world. This program of scholarship and teaching is supplemented by a rich offering of language courses taught in the Germanic languages department.
Approximately a half dozen faculty members at Columbia are actively associated with the program; graduate students in several disciplines have completed or are completing dissertations on the culture or history of The Netherlands, Belgium, or other Dutch-speaking regions; undergraduates and graduates from Columbia and many neighboring institutions are enrolled in language and literature courses that prepare them to use the language in their own research, acquire oral competency in the language, and thus gain direct access to the varied cultures of Dutch-speaking society today.
For a look at one of the many interesting things going on The Netherlands today, see this fascinating article and video.
Each June, a tuition-free intensive 3-week summer course is offered for PhD students. The course consists of two weeks (20 hours in total) Dutch for Reading Knowledge, and one week Reading 17th century Dutch Texts and Paleography (10 hours in total).
Enrollment is open to doctoral students from any university.