Speaking with the right accent in the Port of Rotterdam
Expats and immigrants don’t always feel the need to learn Dutch. That wasn’t the case for Ahmed Kansouh. He realised that he would have to speak Dutch—and speak it well—as soon as he came to the Netherlands in order to reach his goals.
“I emigrated from Egypt to the Netherlands to be with my wife about twenty years ago. That was a huge step for me. I had been a practising lawyer at a large law firm in Egypt. I quickly learned that my legal studies were worthless in the Netherlands. I had to start completely anew! It’s bit odd, actually, because the legal systems in Egypt and the Netherlands are very similar. The main difference is that Islamic law is also applied when it comes to family law.”
Communicating well in Dutch
Ahmed didn’t get depressed and resign himself to fate when he learned that his law degree was not valid in the Netherlands. “Staying in the Netherlands was not an option for me if I couldn’t work at the level I was accustomed to. I either had to learn to communicate well in Dutch, or return to Egypt. I chose the former and within three years, I had completed my Dutch law degree.”
Because of his background, Ahmed was able to work while he attended law school. He worked in welfare services and later became a legal advisor. He’s now Deputy Director of Customs of the Port of Rotterdam. Mission accomplished!
A focus on Dutch pronunciation
“I am always thinking about my Dutch,” he explains. Learning a foreign language is something you keep doing your entire life. “I thought that in my position, I needed to speak better Dutch. That’s why I came to Regina Coeli. They designed a programme for me with a strong focus on pronunciation and word stress. The impact was enormous! During the course I had my boss on the line and he said: ‘It’s like I’m talking with your brother who’s been in the country five years longer than you.’ That was when it was clear that I was on the right track. I spoke Dutch well before, but you had to work harder to understand the gist of my message. My style is much clearer now.”