Author profile picture

A closer look at one of Language Institute Regina Coeli’s free Dutch workshops at the High Tech Campus in February.

How many expats living in Eindhoven can say that they really speak Dutch well? I’ve met many internationals who have lived in the Netherlands for 5, 10, or even 15 years, and who don’t speak much more than a few words.

Learning a foreign language you haven’t been taught in school is hard work, though. It took me three years and a lot of mental blood, sweat, and tears to finally pass the NT2 level II exam (the Dutch national language exam). I guess you could say I was lucky – I was able to put effort into learning the language partly because I didn’t have a job at the time. But what about all of these highly-skilled students and “knowledge migrants” that Eindhoven has been pulling in from all across the globe in recent years? Many of them work at Dutch companies and with Dutch colleagues, and many of them would really like to be able to have a conversation in Dutch at the coffee corner.

That’s why the High Tech Campus has teamed up with Language Institute Regina Coeli (the famous “Nuns of Vught”) to offer a Dutch language course for employees on the campus. This way, internationals don’t have to take time off work or tack on another activity to their evenings to learn Dutch. They can take lessons just around the corner from their office during lunch hours.

Priced at 349 euro, the eight-week course is designed to enable beginners and expats with little knowledge of the language to be able to have an informal chat with someone in Dutch. As a way of promoting the course, Regina Coeli offered a series of four free workshops during the month of February.

I decided to experience one of the workshops for myself. I attended the “Perfect Pitch Presentation” workshop, which focused on learning to introduce and tell a bit about yourself in Dutch.

It was a “global” turnout. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I heard names from Georgia, China, Romania, Turkey, and the UK. The instructor also introduced himself. Huub van Rooij is a language trainer at Regina Coeli, who speaks three languages in addition to his native Dutch. His career wasn’t always in teaching, however. He started as a land and water engineer, and gradually moved towards business development, before landing where he is now at the language institute. He’s lived in multiple countries, and worked with people from many different cultures, so he knows first-hand what it’s like to be an expat.

Huub was pleasantly surprised at how much Dutch we already knew. To internationals though, it comes as no surprise that Dutch people should be misled about our level. We hardly ever get the chance to put our Dutch to the test, since the natives so readily speak English.

After the introduction round, Huub started to teach us how to present ourselves in Dutch. We soon found that it’s harder to talk about your more abstract, softer skills than things like your nationality and your education, something that’s probably the case in any language.

Huub had some suggestions for how to talk about soft skills such as communication and “getting along with people”, but he also had some very useful tips for dealing with the infamous “de/het” scenario (or “fiasco”, as some of us call it). For example, when you’re unsure, make it a diminutive! (Diminutives such as “tafeltje”, meaning “table”, always pair with “het”.)

Another useful tidbit was the word “hoor”. When attached to the word “nee” (“nee hoor”) it essentially means “no worries”, or “nah, don’t worry about it”. The same word attached to “ja” turns a “yes” into a “yeah, sure”.

Somewhere in the conversation we came to know that three of us in the room had Dutch partners. Huub was able to suggest a book for us, called “De mannen van Nederland” (The men of the Netherlands). Written by Sophie Perrier, a French journalist who has lived in the Netherlands for some time now, it’s a compilation of insight received from interviews with around 30 foreign women who have or have had a relationship with a Dutch man. Long story short, he says that the basic conclusion of the book is that Dutch men are “saai maar trouw” (boring, but loyal). But no worries – at least we can speak Dutch with them now.