Social Issues: Language learning & Integration

Social Issues: Language learning & Integration

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 acquisition helps one in looking for work, making new friends and in simply getting things done.

In daily life, for example, it’s easier for a plumber to unclog your drain if you can explain to him what exactly the problem is. For bureaucratic conundrums, it is much easier to point out a 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 have decided to settle down, being able to get one’s point across is liberating!

Beyond classroom Dutch

Attending a language course is a great start to getting a firm foundation in the Dutch language. Such courses also prepare you to take exams, which help you achieve necessary accreditations like the Staatsexamen NT2, and make you more versatile on the Dutch labour market.

Practicing what you learn outside the classroom is important. Sometimes, however, practicing Dutch can be frustrating. Locals may switch to English as soon as you say "Goede morgen", or they'll speak Dutch but scowl every time you try to utter a sound; especially the "choking" G sound that scares many a non-native from ever uttering a word of Dutch!

Practice Dutch with WINWIDE

Don’t fret! There are places to practice Dutch outside the classroom that are welcoming. WINWIDE is one such organisation. If you are living in The Hague area, it doesn’t matter if you are a newcomer, a student or a young professional; WINWIDE welcomes everyone who wishes to practice speaking Dutch!

This organisation allows its participants not only to practice Dutch but also to truly start participating in Dutch society. Even newcomers, who do not yet speak Dutch 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.

One such project is called AllTonesTable (ATT); tables where people eat, drink, socialise and you can hear accents from around the world. Through this medium, locals and internationals are given the opportunity to organize ATT debate tables and other ATT intercultural projects, which pay close attention to social and civic issues.

Past topics include Diversity, Human Rights and Education and Creative Development. Topics for the 2014 - 2015 discussion cycle will cover contemporary integration, equality, and participation issues. ATT sessions will focus on integration and government policy as well as emancipation as it relates to world religions and philosophical streams.

Sandra Winifred: the founder of WINWIDE

Sandra Winifred Fransz is the founder of WINWIDE and the creator of the ATT concept. Having lived and worked in France, Spain, and Germany, Sandra has first-hand experience of being an international and expat. Now Sandra is putting her past 25 years’ experience as a management assistant in the gas & oil industry to great effect.

Educationally Sandra finished her counselling & 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.

Opportunities to speak Dutch

Sandra discovered that women in particular had few opportunities to practice the Dutch language often due to limited opportunities to come into contact with Dutch natives in a welcoming social environment. This was a great impetus in creating ATTs. She saw a need and knew it had to be filled.

From here, ATTs were created for women, men, and mixed gender groups. Each table aims to have well-integrated participation with people from various demographics represented at each table. To date more than 1.000 people from over 50 different countries, including Holland, have participated in the ATT projects.

This is what WINWIDE is all about: valuing difference and utilising the common bond of speaking in Dutch; each person’s beautiful accent making the conversation richer both metaphorically and literally.

WINWIDE events

WINWIDE organises regular Meet, Greet & Eat (MG&E) events where internationals can meet locals, expand their networks and have in-depth discussions about civic and social subjects from an intercultural perspective. For future MG&E’s please check the WINWIDE website.

Excitingly, for the first time, WINWIDEis organising an international-AllTonesTable for the community in Scheveningen on November 12. The theme is Integration, Peace and Human rights. The Table will be multilingual, so people can both practice their Dutch and talk in their own language. Check it out!

WINWIDE needs you!

WINWIDE needs your help with the organisational part of the evening as well as in choosing the best content. A basic understanding of the Dutch language is a plus. Thus, if you are interested in participating in the Dutch community while learning and practicing the Dutch language, come and join the WINWIDE Team.

WINWIDE is also looking for volunteers for their Youth Participation Team (YPT), Culinary Team, Public Relations & Communications Team (PRC), and WINWIDE’s AlleTonesChoir (ATC).

For more information or to get involved contact Sandra Fransz:
 Email: [email protected]
 Tel: 06 24520149

Christine  Fischer


Christine Fischer

Christine Fischer holds an M.A. & a M.Ed. in multicultural counseling psychology from TC, Columbia University, NYC. She created FischersFiresidechats discussions, workshops, and seminars to foster warm, informal, yet informed...

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