Wil je Nederlands leren in Antwerpen?

Would you like to learn Dutch in Antwerp?

jonkemp
Jon Kemp

Hi, my name is Jon Kemp and I moved from UK to Antwerp in 2014 to work as a marine engineer for International Marine Dredging Consultancy (www.imdc.be). I had only intended to stay for one or two years but I really like the city and now it feels like home.

Although not necessary for my job, I felt it was important to learn Dutch to better integrate into my new home and I have always believed that it is good to be able to speak the language spoken in the place where you live.  So after six months of enjoying the Belgium beer, making new friends and enjoying the World Cup (although, not so much for the England performance in 2014…) I decided to enrol in a Dutch Language course and since then have tried many different courses. I felt it would be good to share my experience.

Essentially there are two main options, as explained below. These are the Linguapolis courses run by the University of Antwerp and the CVO courses (CVO Antwerpen, CVO Encora, CVO LBC & CVO Sopro), which are government subsidised courses, and so are cheaper (but not necessarily of a lesser quality).

chat-23713_640All have different options in terms of timing (day/night), number of classes per week, and locations where you can study.

Before comparing the differences in the courses, one of the main differentiators when learning Dutch is the teacher and your fellow classmates, and these can often have the biggest impact on your learning experience.

Atlas

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Image from Atlas

https://www.atlas-antwerpen.be/en

Atlas can help with integration and can find suitable courses (although they are unlikely to recommend the Linguapolis course). It should be noted that waiting times can sometimes be long or the place is busy, and if you are already working full time it can be difficult to get an appointment

 

Linguapolis

https://www.uantwerpen.be/…/taalople…/taalaanbod/nederlands/

Linguapolis runs the courses at the University of Antwerp and they state that you are supposed to have a university degree, and have learnt a second language, to enter but they don’t seem to check.

studylangGenerally their course notes are well-presented in a bound book for each of the 5 levels. These courses have a solid focus on correct grammar and generally provide excellent teaching and explanation of the grammar and the rules. The courses move quickly, and you will get quite a lot of homework, which you will need to do if you want to pass the exams and keep up with the lessons.

Their Level 1 course gets you to a Level A2 in 10 -15 weeks, which would typically take you longer if you followed the CVO courses. Although there is speaking in the class, correct speaking is a key focus (e.g. ensuring inversion is used) over general conversation and simply ‘getting by’. The method of marking exams is stringent and is called negative marking. For example, if you have 15 questions and 10 points, you get a minus point for every wrong answer, meaning you could have 5 correct answers but still score 0. The price is high compared to the CVO courses though.

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Chart showing language level equivalences. (source)

CVO Vitant

CVO stands for Centrum Voor Volwassenonderwijs, and is essentially the umbrella name for adult education. There are several CVO schools in Antwerp and all follow, more or less, the same language trajectory i.e. 1.1 to 4.2 (see image above).

Sopromaterial
course books

In Antwerp there are four institutions operating along this style: CVO Antwerpen, CVO Encora, CVO LBC & CVO Sopro and all have various schools located around Antwerp. CVO LBC and CVO Sopro have a nice bound book from which to work, while CVO Antwerpen and CVO Encora provide a folder and A4 handouts. Focus tends to be on using the language and learning by use with less in the way of detailed explanation of grammar and rules. The quality is mainly dictated by the teacher and the experience you have is also influenced by your fellow classmates.

Useful links

CVO Antwerpen: http://www.cvoantwerpen.be/v…/nederlands-voor-anderstaligen/ (can see directly the availability of the courses, is also in English)

CVO Encora: https://www.stedelijkonderwijs.be/…/nederlands-voor-anderst…

(also have something called open classes, which include some self-study, with some workshops)

CVO LBC http://antwerpen.lbconderwijs.be/content/nederlands

CVO Sopro http://www.sopro.be/

Summary

Each course has its own advantages and disadvantages. The Linguapolis exams are more difficult (e.g. I passed level 3.2 at a CVO school with 77%, but failed Linguapolis Level 4 afterwards – they are both supposed to be to a B2 level in the European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Anyway, I hope you find this brief overview of some of the available options for learning Dutch in Antwerp useful. In addition to these options, there are private teachers and a school called Berlitz. There are also Facebook and meet-up groups that organise social meet ups where you can practise your new Dutch skills. Happy learning!

 

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Need a helping hand getting used to Antwerp life? Meet Wwelcome!

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1) Please tell us about Wwelcome: when, how and why it came to be established.

Wwelcome was established one year ago on April 1st 2018. While working for an insurance company, the two founders discovered a great need for personal assistance with the various sorts of documentation required of newcomers to Belgium.

Even though some organisations (including governmental) already provide administrative assistance, newcomers sometimes had challenging or negative experiences when trying to get their paperwork in order .

Our organisation supports immigrants to Belgium with whichever issues they bring to the table. It’s our mission to make them feel at home here: hence, Wwelcome.

2) What services do you offer and how are these funded?

Over the past year, we have noticed a great variety in the types of support that people need. Therefore we mostly operate in a Q&A style. Our members bring us letters, bills and contracts to translate and explain, or various application forms to enter. Sometimes, they ask for advice about immigration, naturalisation, buying a house or getting a divorce.

Next to explaining and offering advice, we mediate on behalf of our members with the government, insurance and energy companies, realtors, banks, employers, schools and landlords. Though we are not lawyers or accountants, we are the link between our members and these specialists.

All of this we provide for a monthly subscription of €10 (our “All-You-Can-Eat” formula!). If people prefer, we can also service for €10 per hour.

In addition we can accompany people to the hospital, police, OCMW, or any place else in order to interpret. We offer discounts at our partner organisations and various stores such as IKEA, Carrefour and Kinepolis. The more members we have, the bigger the discounts we can offer.

For business owners, we offer the above and a number of additional services. We support them with taking the first steps in establishing their business, creating financial plans, understanding social and health requirements, applying for loans and by advertising them through our media platforms. Business owners pay a different membership fee, depending on the type and size of their business.

3) What are the most common challenges or difficulties experienced by newcomers to Antwerp?

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8 different languages are spoken by Wwelcome staff

The most common challenges that are brought to our attention are firstly,  communication and arranging matters with the government and aligned associations. Bureaucracies are not always open-minded or willing to communicate in English, and people often don’t know what they are expected to do next. Even for Dutch-speakers, it is often difficult to grasp what is meant by some of the letters newcomers receive. Secondly, problems with justifying bills: many people just pay the invoice as is, even though they could reduce a payment by giving the correct information and not have to pay the (entire) bill. This means they avoid paying for a service that they don’t receive or don’t want.

4) Many are concerned by the rise in populism across Europe at the moment, and the racism, anti-immigrant or xenophobic feelings which accompany this rise. Is this something that is a you notice here in your work, or in your personal experiences?

We don’t come across direct racism. However, many people experience discrimination at an institutional level (government or companies) due to the fact that they cannot advocate for themselves in Dutch.

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Helping clients and partners alike

We notice that sometimes organisations (also landlords, employers and even business partners) try to outsmart our members. However, when we make the call or write the mail, they are quick to respond with “sorry, yes, I understand…”.

There also happens to be a rule that for administrative *Artikel 60 work, Muslim women are required to take off their scarf. If they don’t, they are fired and lose their allowance.

5) In your line of work, what does success look like?

Everyday success for us is bringing peace of mind to our members, resolving their worries and offering an optimistic view of their future.

Long-term success would be a flourishing organisation throughout Europe where we can touch the lives of millions of immigrants; welcoming them with open arms and providing an antidote to the negative populist voices. When people feel welcome, they are keen to contribute positively to the communities that they have made their home.

Wwelcome is located at Bredabaan 371 in Merksem. If you’re coming by tram, then trams 2 & 3 stop almost outside our office at the stop called Burgemeester Nolf.

*Artikel 60 is an employment opportunity arranged by the OCMW for people on a government allowance or those who have no income at all. 
For more info see: https://www.mi-is.be/nl/artikel-60-ss-7

Useful Wwelcome links

Wwelcome website                      Facebook

 

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