One of the most important parts of working as a dentist in the Netherlands is, of course, the language. While much of the population speaks English, nearly every clinic exclusively uses Dutch when treating its patients. Since January 2017, it is required by Dutch law to pass a language test before being able to register as a medical professional.

This article tells you what to expect of the language-learning process and how we can help you with it. But before we delve into the specifics of our language course, let us take a look at how language skills can be classified. This will help you understand what is expected of you if you intend to work as a dentist in the Netherlands.

Understanding the CEFR System

In an effort to categorise how well someone speaks a language, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was created. Speakers are assigned a rating that tells us how proficient they are at the language in question.

A1 is the lowest level, with the person only knowing the most basic words and phrases. A2 indicates an increased vocabulary, understanding and proficiency, but the overall language proficiency is still at a beginner level.

B1 and B2 are grouped together under the category ‘independent user’. This means that the speaker can understand others and make themselves be understood in a variety of situations and contexts. In addition to competence in everyday situations, B2 users also possess the knowledge to discuss more technical and/or abstract ideas that are related to their field of specialisation.

C1 and C2 levels are reserved for (near-)fluent speakers, with C2 indicating the highest level of proficiency in a given language.

Language requirement for dentists

The level required to work in a Dutch dental clinic is B2, while the language test covers a level between B2 and C1.

However, we must realise that, rather than being strict categories, the different qualifications in the CEFR offer an indication of someone’s level in a certain language. As a result, some additional explanation is required before we can fully understand what needs to happen before a dentist from another European country can start working in the Netherlands.

As we saw earlier in the article, the difference between B1 and B2 levels mainly boils down to the ability to both give and process information on a more abstract and technical level in a certain area of expertise.

For dentists, this area of expertise is, of course, dentistry. In order to function properly in a Dutch clinic, the dentist must have active knowledge of the full spectrum of dental vocabulary and terminology.

Language test

In order to make sure all foreign dentists who want to work in the Netherlands have a sufficient level of Dutch, the government has issued a mandatory language test. This test consists of 2 parts, which in turn are divided in 2 tasks each.

Part 1 of the test covers reading and presenting. In the reading test you have to read a medical article on a dentistry-related topic. You then have to summarise this text in a maximum of 80 words. The presentation will also have to be about the article. In addition to giving a verbal overview of the material covered in the article, you also have to create an accompanying Powerpoint presentation with at least 2 sheets.

Part 2 of the test includes a roleplay and a writing test. During the roleplay, you will be presented with a case about a patient, which you then have to play with your ‘patient’ as if it’s a real dentist consult. Meanwhile, the writing test has you write a report about the patient and your consult.

BGB course

BGB’s language course at the BGB Academy in Seefeld, Austria is specifically designed to prepare for the Dutch language test needed to register as a dentist.

The course starts at home, with an online course developed by the BGB Academy that consists of 2 blocks of 4.5 weeks each.

By the time they arrive in Seefeld, students already have a good understanding of Dutch. The teachers in Seefeld can then help the students reach levels B1 and B2, and prepare them for the exam.

The purpose of the initial months of online learning is that it frees up time near the end of the course, which can now be fully dedicated to learning specifically about dentistry-related Dutch. This includes mastering a complete Dutch vocabulary of all important dentistry terms as well as working from the book “Dentaal”, which was developed by the BGB Academy especially for dentists who are learning Dutch for employment purposes.

The dentistry-specific training is concluded with a week of exam preparation, which is then followed by the exam itself. Both are organised by the BGB Academy.