Mayor of Winterswijk learned professional German at Regina Coeli

7 February 2018
door Regina Coeli

The municipality of Winterswijk shares 60% of its border with Germany and, as a result, has intensive border traffic on a daily basis. No wonder speaking German is seen as important there. That’s why, from an early age, children there become acquainted with German through the Buurtaal (‘Neighbours’ Language’) project in school, and young adults in vocational education receive German lessons using a specially-developed method. And there is a thriving entrepreneurs’ association, Grenzhoppers (‘Border Hoppers’), with members from the Achterhoek and Kreis Borken regions.

To Vught for German

As mayor of such a bustling, international municipality, it is, of course, important to stay on top of things. Joris Bengevoord, who, for six months after his appointment, could boast of being the youngest mayor in the Netherlands, went to Vught for a week to brush up on his German.

German colleagues enthusiastic

“I already spoke quite a lot of German because I grew up in this region, but I noticed that I came up short when communicating with my German colleagues," said Bengevoord. He spends about one and a half working days a week in Germany, not only on behalf of the municipality of Winterswijk, but also as a representative of the Achterhoek Euroregion. “We’ve agreed that everyone gets to speak their own language in this group, but I notice that we don’t always entirely understand one another. It’s about the little things. My German colleagues are very enthusiastic about my initiative to work on my German and are thinking about learning Dutch if my course goes well.”

Relaxed when speaking German

Bengevoord’s main focus was on speaking the language during his German course at Regina Coeli. “My goal is to be more relaxed when speaking German, without being afraid of saying crazy things. In the lessons, I’m mainly working on giving presentations that I’ll use in the future. I’m also specifically focusing on expanding my vocabulary. I’m not getting standard word lists. I’m creating my own mind maps with the words I actually need.”

Cultural differences between the Dutch and Germans

Companies wishing to do business in Germany are always advised to bear in mind the cultural differences between the Dutch and Germans. Bengevoord has not really noticed them. “The world doesn’t end at Winterswijk, and that world isn’t suddenly completely different to what we’re used to. The mutual cooperation is going very well.”

Putting German knowledge into practice

Bengevoord could put his new knowledge into practice immediately once he had finished his German course. “This afternoon, appointment with the chief administrative officer of Kreis Borken #grensregio" he wrote on Twitter on the first working day after his training. After hours of German speaking and being corrected by his Regina Coeli language trainers, he must have surprised his German colleagues. For now, we will wait and see whether they come for a Dutch course. They would be most welcome at Regina Coeli!

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