Learn Dutch quickly by putting your brain to work
We are often asked what the secret of ‘the Nuns’ is. Why are our course members able to learn a language so quickly when they struggled with it at school and were utterly convinced that they had no feeling for languages? Over the last fifty years, our method has gradually evolved to become what it is today: individual, extremely intensive language training, fully tailor made to individual requirements and put together by a team of language trainers.
Ability to make links quickly by activating existing knowledge
“An important trademark of our method is that we start by activating the course member’s existing knowledge of the language,” says Elles Gratama. She is a Dutch language trainer at Regina Coeli. Over a period of several years she and a team of colleagues worked on a new beginner’s method for teaching Dutch and, during this time, she studied in depth the didactic principles of the Regina Coeli method. “Most course members have some knowledge of the Dutch language. By bringing this knowledge, or even their knowledge of other languages, to the forefront, their brains are activated in such a way that they are able to make links quickly which means that certain areas of language do not need to be dealt with in such great depth.”
Each course member builds up his/her own specific vocabulary
By activating the brain in this way at the beginning of each day, the course member is actually steering the direction of the language training course. Elles: “Everyone’s vocabulary is different according to their social and/or work situations. The vocabulary one chooses depends very much on background, interests and context. So we give our course members the opportunity to build up their own specific vocabulary in the form of a word web which they use as a kind of mind map.
A personal record of the Dutch language
They absorb the language extremely quickly because every day they are busy putting together words associated with a particular theme and thinking about how the words relate to one another. It is very interesting to see the different ways in which course members present their word webs: one might divide the vocabulary into advantage and disadvantage words; another might put all the verbs or nouns together; a third might set down whole sentences. Each is a very personal record of the Dutch language.”
Expats learn Dutch to be able to participate in social life
There is plenty of diversity in the course members Elles teaches. The majority who come to Regina Coeli for a Dutch course are expats from all corners of the globe. “They are often young and have come to the Netherlands to work here for a number of years. We’ve noticed that they are keen to learn the language in order to be able to participate fully in the social life here. Having to use specific professional language can also be an important factor in their decision to come to us. Think of a doctor who has to be able to communicate effectively with Dutch patients. The fact that such a professional can give form and context to their own training course enables us to offer exactly what he or she requires.”
Structure and intensity create momentum
Structure helps the learning process. A beginner’s course in Dutch offers just that. Each day consists of private lessons in conversation, grammar and vocabulary interspersed with multimedia sessions in the language laboratory. “By following this programme consistently for five consecutive days, course members get into the flow of the language. Every day there is a different theme. The great thing is that, at the end of the very first day, a course member is already able to have a conversation with the trainer,” Elles explains. “For advanced learners, of course, we always put together a tailor-made programme.”
Elles Gratama works for Language Institute Regina Coeli and is a language trainer. She did European Studies at the University of Amsterdam after which she worked in the travel sector, organising adventure holidays in South America, amongst other things. She lived for a while as an expat in the United States of America.