Learning the language of the country you live in is helpful in feeling fully integrated in your new home. In Omniglot’s article The Importance of Learning the Language in a New Country by Ivana Vitali, the author points out that second language (or 3rd or 4th,for that matter) acquisition helps one in looking for work, making new friends and in simply getting things done.
In daily life for example it would be easier for a plumber to unclog your drain if you can explain to him what exactly the problem is. For bureaucratic conundrums, how much easier to point out that one mistake in your pile of Dutch administration papers, when you can clearly and precisely make yourself understood. Whether you are here for a short period or till your twilight years, being able to get one’s point across is liberating.
Attending official courses like those given at Kickstart, Direct Dutch Institute, & BSN Language Centre are a great start. These help in giving each participant a firm foundation in the Dutch language. They also prepare you to take exams, which will help you achieve necessary accreditations like the NT2, that make one more marketable in the Dutch labor market. Practising what you learn outside the classroom is very important. However, sometimes local communities can be (though not always) an obstacle course of frustration. One local will always switch to English as soon as you say “Goede Morgen.” Another will only speak Dutch but scowls every time you try to utter a sound; especially the “chocking” G sounds that scares many a non-native speaker from ever uttering a word of Dutch. Having such experiences can leave one feeling disenfranchised.
Don’t fret! There are places to practice Dutch outside the classroom that are welcoming. WINWIDE is one such organization. If you are living in the Hague area, it doesn’t matter if you are a newcomer, a student or young professional (18-35 yrs); WINWIDE welcomes you!
This is an organization that allows its participants to not only practice the Dutch language but to truly start participating in Dutch society. It welcomes everyone that wishes to practice Dutch; even newcomers who do not yet speak Dutch very well, have the possibility of being paired with a language buddy to help them. The topics covered in WINWIDE's various projects are meaningful and relate to common societal issues that affect everyone. One such project is called AlleTonenTafels (ATT); tables where people eat, drink, socialize and you can hear accents from around the world. Through this medium, locals and internationals are given the opportunity to use their potential and abilities to organize ATT debate tables and other ATT intercultural projects, which pay close attention to social and civic issues. Some of the topics covered in the past have included: 2009-2010 - Diversity; 2010-2011 - Human Rights; and in 2012-2013 – Education and Creative Development. The upcoming 2014 – 2015 discussion cycle looks to be promising with topics relating to contemporary integration, equality, and participation issues. Sessions shall look particularly at integration and government policy as well as emancipation as it relates to world religions and philosophical streams.
Sandra Winifred Fransz
The driving force behind WINWIDE is Sandra Winifred Fransz. Sandra founded WINWIDE and is the creator of the ATT concept. She uses her past 25 years of gas & oil industry management assistant experience to great effect. Having lived and worked in France, Spain, and Germany she has first hand experience of what it means to be an international, an expat. Educationally she finished her counseling & coaching studies in 2007 with a major in integration and a specialty in work environments, life cycles and multicultural society. Her fieldwork led her to coach and counsel higher educated migrant women to facilitate their integration in the Netherlands.
She discovered that women in particular had few opportunities to practice the Dutch language often due to very few opportunities to come into contact with Dutch natives in a welcoming social environment. This was a great impetus in creating AlleTonenTafels. She saw a need and knew it had to be filled.
From here ATT’s were created for women, men, and gender mixed groups. Each table strives to have well-integrated participation with people from various demographics represented at each table. To date more than 1000 women and men from over 50 different countries, including Holland, have participated in the ATT projects. This is what WINWIDE is all about…valuing difference, utilizing the common bond of speaking the Dutch language; each person’s beautiful accent making the conversation richer both metaphorically and literally.
In 2014, WINWIDE will be organizing monthly Meet, Greet & Eat – [MG&E] events where internationals can meet locals, expand their networks and have in-depth discussion about civic and social subjects from an intercultural perspective. MG&E’s start on Tuesday 14th January 2014 for a New Year’s dinner at Resto VanHarte’s Resto, Diamanthorst 183, The Hague ;time 18-22 hrs; entrance fee is € 6 incl. dinner. MG&E’s will continue once a month for the 1st half of 2014, on 25/2; 25/3; 22/4; 20/5; & 24/6.
Moreover, WINWIDE is looking for volunteers for their Youth Participation Team (YPT), Culinary Team, Public Relations & Communications Team (PRC), and WINWIDE’s AlleTonesChoir (ATC). If you would like to get involved do not hesitate to contact Contact Esther or Sandra when you have questions or want more information:
Many thanks to Sandra Fransz for providing her time and expertise to help with the creation of this article. www.winwide.nl/english/