Dutch is a must for leading a company like Heineken

door Regina Coeli

Frenchman Pascal Gilet has been at the head of Heineken Nederland for quite some time now. From the very beginning, he was determined to only speak Dutch with his colleagues. At first that was in fairly straightforward, simple Dutch, but as time went by, he began communicating in increasingly beautiful and complex sentences. In fact, you can hardly catch him out on mistakes these days. The only thing that betrays his non-Dutch heritage is his French accent.

Speaking Dutch is a logical step

“Nobody asked me to learn Dutch when I accepted this position,” explains Pascal Gilet. “I was personally extremely motivated for two reasons. The first one is that I am proud to be leading Heineken Netherlands. It’s a fantastic Dutch company, so it’s only logical that I would speak Dutch. I really want to stay in touch with the people. If I want to meet with a ministry, for example, I think I have to be able to speak Dutch with them. You can look at it this way: it would be unthinkable for a foreigner at the top of the French company Danone to not speak French. 

A second reason is that I had previously lived in the Netherlands for six years. When I left, I still didn’t speak a word of Dutch. I was not exactly proud of that. At that point I promised myself that in the future, every foreigner I sent to the Netherlands for a job had to learn to speak Dutch.” He stuck to this promise, even when he never could have imagined that he would be returning to the Netherlands himself.

You cannot truly know the Netherlands if you do not speak the language

According to Gilet, “The Dutch can, at times, unwittingly make life a bit difficult for expats. It’s really a challenge to speak Dutch here! Everyone easily switches to English or French. And let’s be honest, I really appreciated that. It helped me feel welcome—but it didn’t allow me to really and truly get to know the country.”

Before Pascal Gilet started as Heineken Netherlands’ General Director, he began preparing by learning the Dutch language. He first took an intensive group course in Belgium, and then came to Regina Coeli to take his skills to the next level.

A big step to carry on a conversation in Dutch

Pascal Gilet candidly explains: “The training at Regina Coeli was painful. It was incredibly difficult and I was completely shattered by Thursday morning. It was an enormous step for me to be able to confidently carry on a conversation in Dutch. I also spent the week focused on learning crucial business vocabulary and expressions so I could jump right in and run the company in Dutch. The training I received at Regina Coeli was incomparable to what I had done before, purely because at Regina Coeli the programme is individually-tailored and the pace is faster.”

Being corrected

The best way to maintain and improve on your language skills is by speaking the language and being corrected by native speakers. “I’ve asked my direct reports to always correct my Dutch. I thank my colleagues for all their help in this. It speaks volumes about the quality of Heineken’s employees. They help others feel right at home and are very open to others. I am so grateful to them.”

Interested in following language training at Regina Coeli?

The Regina Coeli method ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. Our highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation so you can immediately start communicating in the language.

Do you require more information? Please contact us!

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