Delft MaMa wishes you all a Happy New Year 2019! As we close the old year, it’s always good to look back and reflect, to be able to continue to build on past successes and work on our weaknesses. For the first post of 2019, we asked DMM Chairwoman Marie Kummerlowe to give a year in review of Delft MaMa in 2018 and what we hope to expect going forward in 2019. It’s a long post, so grab your favorite beverage and get yourselves comfortable. Happy reading! Read more
Every year, Delft MaMa organizes a summer potluck event for local families together with food, fun, and friendship.
The 2017 edition was even more special, as it marked the first in a series of celebrations of Delft MaMa’s ten year anniversary. More than 50 adults and even more children joined us for last Sunday for this event.
Over a dozen nationalities were represented from Argentina to Australia and back again. The resulting cuisine was much more impressive than your usual picnic fare.
There was a tasty rice salad from Italy prepared by Delft MaMa Luisa prepared an Italian rice salad with boiled rice, cheese cubes, tuna fish, boiled eggs, grilled courgette and other mixed grilled veggies, and olive oil for dressing.
Delft PaPa Eelco provided a Dutch touch with his herring salad. To recreate this dish at home, you need smoked herring, pickled onions, small pickled cucumbers, peas, roasted paprika and dressing (mayonnaise, kwark, orange juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, sambal).
Delft MaMa Zsofia and Delft PaPa Anish made a Middle Eastern couscous salad of bulgur, fresh herbs, chopped vegetables and buttery chickpeas. You can find the full recipe here.
Delft MaMa Zsofia added, “every year we enjoy taking part in DelftMaMa’s summer event. It is a great opportunity to catch up with Delft MaMa families we know and even meet new ones. From a culinary point of view, we do learn and get to taste lovely dishes of different cultures.”
In addition to the delicious fare, the picnic included fun activities for the entire family. The children took advantage of the sunny weather at the Bomenwijk playground. There were also games and the opportunity to contribute to the ten year mosaic project.
Delft MaMa Nan hosted a special edition of the mosaic workshop! Participants worked on small tree designs and Delft blue detail pieces that will add a bit of sparkle to the final product. As Delft MaMa Shadi shows in the following photos, making a mosaic is an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
According to Nan, “the workshops for the mosaics have been mainly attended by Delft MaMas, so the picnic was a chance for the children to participate. They made small sections of mosaic for the arching base of the bridge in blue and white. Delft blue shards are definitely a MUST this mural since it features very Dutch scenery. The children were enthusiastic about leaving a beautiful mark on Delft!”
Hosting such a successful picnic was only possible thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers.
Delft MaMa Hellen headed the project, and her hard work and leadership skills were much appreciated. She was supported by Delft MaMas Shadi, Luisa and Tatjana. Delft MaMa heartily thanks these ladies and all our volunteers for their time and efforts.
For Delft MaMa Hellen, “it was really nice to share a wonderful day with some of the Delft MaMa’s members, especially the one I’d never met before. Despite our different cultural backgrounds, we just blended in and enjoyed the lovely atmosphere. Both parents and children seem to have a good time. I’m also very happy to have been given an opportunity to organise the event. I’m looking forward to attending more events in the future.”
We look forward to welcoming everyone to the 2018 picnic, but, in the meantime, be on the lookout for upcoming events that will bring together the Delft MaMa community. As always, the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday playgroups will welcome the youngest members of our community and their parents.
On September 12th, Delft MaMa Nareen will host the next edition of our monthly Mom’s Night Out. September 17th will be the second annual Delft MaMa Walk at Delftse Hout. All members of our community are welcomed to walk together to keep keep Delft MaMa running.
There will also be mosaic making sessions regularly throughout the month of September on the following days:
Tuesdays 19:30 – 5, 12, 19, 26
Thursdays 19:30 – 7, 14, 21, 28
Saturdays 10:00 – 9, 16, 23, 30
We will start with the installation of the mosaic at the Achtertuin Playgroup towards the end of September. More updates will be announced soon on the Delft MaMa blog. Depending on the weather, the unveiling ceremony will take place on October 21st or 28th. Please mark your calendars for this momentous (all pun intended) occasion.
Delft MaMa also hosts an annual Halloween Party, but are actively looking for one or two volunteers for this event on October 29. If you are interesting in helping to make this event possible, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
And then it will be on to our fall and winter events. If you are an early planner, you can even put a reminder on your calendar for the 2018 summer picnic, who knows what weekend will bring the sun and fun needed for the picnic.
The day I met Tatjana was full of rain, clouds and gray – a typically glum Dutch scene. As I walked to our meeting, the clouds abated, and rays of sunlight shimmered on the rainy surfaces to make Delft’s canals even more picturesque. Tatjana’s warm smile welcomed me for a cup of coffee and the day seemed to take on a new light. At risk of sounding trite, I could easily compare Tatjana to the lovely sunshine on that August evening. She is an open, warm and optimistic person, who brings out the best in her surroundings and attracts people to spend more time in her radiant glow.
Tatjana’s sunny personality, though, is not the result of a golden childhood or easy lot in life. Indeed, our Delft Mama of the week has weathered many storms over the years. Born in Yugoslavia, Tatjana’s first years were spent under a communist regime. As the Cold War ended, Yugoslavia imploded. In the war that ensued, Tatjana’s family had to flee the Serbian army that invaded their hometown in Croatia. As Tatjana recounts, “ when I was 11 years old, my home town, Petrinja, was destroyed. We lost our home, and my father only managed to save two photo albums before we fled. We were refugees for four years.”
Life as a refugee entailed not only this initial loss but also the strain of constant moving. According to Tatjana, “I moved almost every year to a new place and would have to change schools. As a kid you are trying to look at everything in a positive way. You start going to a new school and meet new friends, which is nice, but when you are constantly forced to move and start all over again, you feel that enough is enough.”
The family also suffered financial difficulties, as her father, a Croat, was often the sole breadwinner. Tatjana’s mom is Serb, and her mother was not trusted and often discriminated against in finding work in Croatia. Tatjana told me, though, that “once people actually interact with my mother, their views change. At one hospital where she worked, as a Serb, she was initially an undesired employee. However, her colleagues cried over her leaving several years later.”
Despite these early experiences of the ugly side of human nature, or perhaps showing wisdom beyond her years in confronting these difficulties, Tatjana became a strong, positive, and, curious young lady. She studied political science in Zagreb and worked all sorts of jobs before and after graduating. Eventually she became a journalist working for some of the most significant media in her country.
After an early life already full of more than enough moves, Tatjana faced a challenging situation when a long-distance relationship with her now-husband, Eelco, become more serious. “When I first started dating him, the idea of moving from Croatia was not too appealing. After we decided that we really wanted to be together, though, it was logical that I come to the Netherlands.”
Moving to Delft almost perfectly corresponded with another big change in Tatjana’s life: she left her challenging and hectic life as journalist to become a stay at home mother. Tatjana and her husband welcomed a baby girl, Hannah, three months after her arrival in Delft. They see the experience as an adventure, and Tatjana seems refreshingly calm and relaxed about motherhood, relying on intuition rather than books or forums. She even recounted to me how on her most recent trip to Croatia, her friends voted her the least changed among the group since motherhood. She has kept her glow, but like most mothers looks forward to the days when she will have more free time to pursue her varied interests and talents including making clothing, photographing, going to concerts, exhibitions, theatre, reading, sports…
Tatjana is clearly enjoying her life in the Netherlands; “I am so happy that I actually came to live in Delft because I think it’s a perfect location. It is very close to the coast, and I take every opportunity I can to go to the beach. I also love being close to Rotterdam, which is my favorite Dutch city because it’s different from all the others; it’s really modern and a harbor city with an international feel.”
Tatjana had some local friends and acquaintances when she arrived in the Netherlands, and she was initially suspicious of what Delft MaMa could offer her. “I had heard about these international mamas meeting, but I thought it was a weird idea to become friends with people if the only thing we have in common is that we all have babies. I had joined the Delft MaMa Facebook group, though, and saw that a lot of interesting things were going on. This January, I thought maybe I should try to do something, and I started taking my daughter to playgroup.”
Tatjana has since become an active volunteer for Delft MaMa, heading the King’s Day Sale in April and frequently opening the playgroup. She has also met many new and interesting international moms, who she is building friendships with based upon shared interests. Now that she has received her official authorization to work, she is also on the lookout for new opportunities and new ways to contribute. She wants find a position that is “something very meaningful and will hopefully help people. I am now at this turning point, and I still have to decide which new path to take and which career is best for me.” I am absolutely certain that the path ahead will be bright and that the community will be enriched with Tatjana’s contribution.
Our Delft mama of the week, Elizabeth, has worked as a political consultant, a NASA tour guide, and a lawyer, volunteered for the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Ghana, traveled to 30 countries and 45/50 US states, and even been inside the Space Shuttle. Now she is a travel writer and full-time mom living in the Netherlands.
In 2015, Elizabeth’s husband, Jeff, was offered the exciting opportunity to complete his PhD at TU Delft, and Elizabeth and her two older sons eagerly joined him. They saw Delft as a charming town in its own right and an ideal base to travel around Europe. A third son joined the family and their travels in 2016.
Elizabeth is clearly enamored of the Netherlands and of Delft in particular. She describes it as “a real town with the advantage for expats that everybody speaks English and that you can find friends. There are a million little restaurants in every price bracket, and there are parks hiddeneverywhere. You can go climb the windmill, go to the farm and buy eggs, or see sheep at the petting zoo. These are just so many opportunities in this special town.”
A half year before arriving in Delft, she found the Delft MaMa Facebook group and connected with fellow Coloridan Caroline. When she first arrived in town, Caroline helped connect her to Delft MaMa friends and resources, giving her an invaluable piece of advice: “surround yourself with expats who are excited to be here in Netherlands, as your local friends will largely determine your mood.” Elizabeth has put this advice to good use, not only finding supportive friends, but also making herself a valued member of the Delft MaMa community. She co-coordinates the weekly Delft MaMa newsletter with Karen, and in the coming months, you may have the chance to read an original post or two of hers on the Delft MaMa blog.
Elizabeth believes that “Delft MaMa is a wonderful resource that provides something for every personality type. If you are a one-on-one person, there are many events. Ifyou need mom friends, you can go to a Mom’s Night Out. If you need friends for your children, there are playgroups. If you are just are looking for advice, you can ask on the Facebook, and the newsletter details what’s going on locally in the coming months. When I travel, I usually look for something like Delft MaMa, but a lot of places either do not have an equivalent or the local international family group is not on the same level as a support group.”
Elizabeth is thriving in Europe, but the decision to move to the Netherlands was not so straightforward from a professional perspective, as her visa status precludes her from working locally. Elizabeth’s optimistic and driven personality, though, have helped her to embrace this difficulty and turn it into many opportunities – that to spend more time with her children, blog actively, and pursue other endeavors close to her heart, particularly traveling.
Elizabeth’s blog, Dutch Dutch Goose, started as a way to share her European travel experiences with family and friends and as an outlet for her creative and professional talents. Dutch Dutch Goose soon became a popular resource for families around the world. Her post on traveling from the US to Europe on the Queen Mary 2 with children was a particular hit, given the lack of information available on this topic online. Thanks to the success of her own blog Elizabeth was also asked to become editor-in-chief of BebeVoyage, a global community of parents providing local, practical advice on traveling with kids.
Elizabeth and her husband traveled widely before having children and have decided to use travel as an educational tool with their children. They firmly believe that “the places we see and people we meet during our different travel experiences help make our children better human beings. Exposing our kids to so many different tastes, modes of transportation, ways of living, and cultures is the most wonderful gift we can give them.”
Elizabeth is also always challenging herself and looking for ways to grow and learn through travel. For example, this careful planner took a trip this year without having organized any specific destinations or itineraries. You can find more about how the family managed this adventure in spontaneity here.
Through her blog, Elizabeth also shows families around the world that travel with children may be challenging but that it is both a feasible and a rewarding experience. For Elizabeth, there is no need to travel for many weeks or to a distant location to make a trip great, as visiting a nearbyfarm or museum can be just as valuable.
There is also no need to force your children to immerse completely in every aspect of a trip. Instead, do your best to ensure your children are comfortable and enjoying their time traveling, even if this means allowing them to look at the iPad on some museum visits or play at a local playground for some hours rather than visiting a site. Elizabeth notes, “I find that the kids absorb so much of the little stuff while traveling, like going to playgrounds and to kids cafes, as opposed to all the big tourist sites. At these places, they get a better picture of the local culture, differences in parenting, and differences in interactions between the kids.”
Furthermore, “the best trip for me is one where each member of the family has something that peaked their interest, and we have all gotten along and enjoyed ourselves as a family.” During our interview, Elizabeth described how a trip to Brussels’ train hostel that was requested and largely planned by her eldest son fits the bill.
To summarize some of her expert advice, Elizabeth encourages parents to know their kids and make them comfortable, know that disasters happen and don’t let them ruin trips, plan the right balance of activities parents are interested in and child-friendly activities in an itinerary, and allow children to absorb the little details during trips that show cultural differences.
One word that kept popping up during our conversation was “gift,” with travel as a gift, living in Delft as a gift, and even her local un-employability as a gift in disguise. Elizabeth also described her time interacting and talking to her kids while biking as a daily gift and one of the highlights of her life in the Netherlands. I hope all Delft mamas can also recognize and take advantage of the multitude of gifts in their lives and embrace challenges with as strong a positive attitude as Elizabeth. Indeed, it is this zeal for life and focus on uplifting values like joy, discovery, and gratitude that make Elizabeth so charming and her blog posts so delightful to read.
There are so many authors and readers in our Delft MaMa community that I felt inspired today to write about women writers. Books have always been one of my passions. At one stage growing up, I would finish my homework and then devour a book a night. These days, I do not have the luxury of finishing a book a day, but I generally manage to carve out some time from my busy schedule to read. Believing in the power of literature and being enamored of a wide range of authors, I, however, find it jarring to see how much the literary world still reflects biases in our society. Female authors are reviewed less often reviewed than their male counterparts, and fiction written by men or about men is more likely to receive literary awards. Furthermore, a large swath of popular novels by women are deemed less worthy of praise than more “serious” literature, generally written by men, as shown in this exchange.
With so many exciting and excellent female writers to choose from and with the summer holidays around the corner, I decided to make a short list of some of my favorite works of fiction from the last fifty years by female authors. Over the upcoming holiday, perhaps you can spend some of your well deserved rest and relaxation time discovering one of these gems. The list idea is inspired by the Guardian’s weekly Top Ten book series, which I also highly recommend.
I will start my list with a Arundhati Roy, an Indian author and activist, whose first work of fiction in twenty years will be published next week. Before you dive into her new book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, I would recommend taking the time to read her spellbinding The God of Small Things. Set in Southern India, this novel shows how a series of prejudices linked to class, gender, and religion combine to produce a tragic outcome. Its evocative, lyrical prose is made all the more vivid by the fact that the story is told through the eyes of two children, fraternal twins Esthappen and Rahel. This evocative book was the first Indian novel to win the Man Booker Prize, and I am sure it will linger in your mind long after you reach the last page.
Elena Ferrante’s engrossing Neapolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child) follow Elena (Lenù) and Raffaella (Lila) from girlhood in a tough Neapolitan neighborhood through many twists and turns to arrive at old age. Ferrante masterfully paints a portrait of a friendship that is both a source of strength and anguish and examines the inner lives of her characters with lucid intelligence. Ferrante has never revealed her identity, considering her biography irrelevant to her fiction. Unfortunately, a journalist recently reported to have unmasked the “real” Elena Ferrante, an endeavor that many describe as sexist.
Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories offers a refreshing perspective on traditional European fairy tales and their underlying themes. Carter’s heroines are not helpless damsels in distress but strong, independent characters that define their own destinies. Her depictions bring to light the sensual dimensions underlying most of these traditional tales and her gorgeous, gothic prose is a joy to read.
Another collection of short stories that I would strongly recommend is Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America. These excellently crafted stories delve into the everyday of lives of people, most often women, to find deeper meaning. The prose is subtle and minimalist, especially if compared to that of Carter, but the stories manage to pack a true emotional punch. For example, the poignant “People Like That Are The Only People Here” brings the reader inside the painful reality of life for parents of a child diagnosed with cancer.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale become a bestseller again. Atwood’s dystopian vision documents the life of Offred in Gilead, a theocratic military dictatorship that subjugates women. The story is a page-turner and a frightening prediction of where the dogma of limiting women’s rights and wilfully destroying the environment could lead. If you are interested to find out more about this prolific Canadian author, the New Yorker recently published an intriguing profile of Atwood.
Another page turner, but one based in the past rather than an imagined future, is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Mantel plunges the reader into the intrigues of King Henry VIII’s Court and brilliantly portrays the ambitious Thomas Cromwell. Her prose is vivid, and the tale is thrilling enough that the reader never feels overwhelmed by the large cast of historical characters. Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up The Bodies both won the Man Booker prize. The third and final part of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, has yet to be released.
Penelope Fitzgerald only published her first book at the age of 58, but her late blossoming career left us with a remarkable body of work. One case in point is The Blue Flower, a short but elegant novel that immerses the reader in moments of the life of the 18th century German poet Novalis. Fitzgerald shares a multiplicity of sensations and meanings through a series of vignettes, but the tale retains an aura of mystery that will keep you searching for what the blue flower truly represents long after you have put the book down.
On the fence between journalism and fiction writing is the work of Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Fiction Winner. In Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, Alexievich weaves together interview segments to show how the collapse of the Soviet Union impacted everyday citizens. Many qualify Alexievich’s work as oral history, but she prefers to call her literary technique, “a novel in voices.” No matter how you classify the book, it offers a remarkable and compassionate portrait of post-Soviet society.
I have read all of the extremely talented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works, and my favorite is her powerful account of the Nigerian Civil War, Half of a Yellow Sun. Rather than focus on battles or glory, Adichie offers a devastating assessment of the disappointment and violence wrought by this conflict. You may also be familiar with Adichie from her TED talk on why we should all be feminists.
The list would not be complete without a work by the brilliant 1993 Nobel Prize laureate, Toni Morrison. Beloved, a virtuosic novel in every sense, tells the tale of former slave Sethe and her process of “rememory.” It is even more tragic to note that the book is based on an actual case from the 1850s. For those interested in the topic of the value of work or how work relates identity, I also encourage you to read a short piece by Morrison from this week’s New Yorker.
Additional resources :
For the very ambitious, the New York City Library created a list of 365 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate International Women’s Day All Year.
Danielle Dutton recommends her top ten Top 10 Books About Wild Women.
Marta Baussels lists 10 Inspiring Female Authors that You Need to Read.
Raising children in a foreign culture is always a challenge, and this week’s DelftMaMa Xiaolin is actively working to help Chinese children in the Netherlands have a strong and positive relationship with their cultural background.
I first met Xiaolin at the library last year, as she was showing some Chinese moms around, and I felt from the start that she was an astute leader and organizer. The more I have had the chance to speak with her and see her in action, the more this impression rings true. In the past two years alone, she has created a vibrant social media chat group for Chinese mothers in the Netherlands, organized many activities including a Lantern Festival celebration for over twenty families, coordinated a monthly children event on different topics (art / story / technology) and also coordinated weekly yoga class for mamas. Now, she and other like-minded moms is on the way to creat Chinese Mama’s in Nederland (CMN) association.
Xiaolin, originally from the city of Datong in Northern China, first came to Delft ten years ago as a student of chemical engineering at TU Delft. On her first day in Delft, she was paired in a group with Junju. He is now her husband, and they are parents to Yojan (2.5 years) and Minghe (11 months). Xiaolin has experiences in bringing together the best of different cultures not only as a Chinese native living in the West but also in her own marriage as Junju is from Taiwan, which is culturally similar to mainland China but does have many unique traditions.
The couple have lived all over the Netherlands, but are now happy to call Delft home once again. “After I graduated, I moved to many places including Leiden, Apedldoorn, Arnhem, and Rotterdam. But when we decided to settle down, we chose Delft, as it is an attractive city that contains both youth and old, modern and traditional. Therefore we made Delft our new hometown.”
She manages to feel very comfortable living in the Netherlands, although it is bittersweet to be separated from the rich cultural tradition of her homeland and the caring hands of her folks. She finds, “the Netherlands is a country that is not only attractive, it is also a country with values that resonate such as openness, honesty, and a balance between work of life that make us want to stay. ”
Friends describe Xiaolin as smart, dedicated, helpful, and cooperative. I would add that she is highly curious person, while she describes herself as a decisive person, “I am quite strict thinking-wise. If I think something is right, I will do it immediately. I do not think very deeply into the pros and cons of an issue. Once I have decided something, I go for it.” All of these traits surely helped Xiaolin in bringing together Chinese moms in the Netherlands.
Once Xiaolin became pregnant she decided that she needed to find a new group of friends who were either already moms or moms to be “I managed to meet many Chinese moms and decided to create the Chinese mamas moms in the Netherlands WeChat group. At that moment, I never imagined there were so many Chinese moms locally.” After only two years of existence, the Chinese Moms WeChat Group is already a large and active community with over 160 members. For those unfamiliar with the technology, WeChat is a social media application that is extremely popular and widely used in China and by Chinese speaking communities.
The moms wanted to go further, though, than simply chatting online and started to meet and discuss how they could channel their talents, interests, and shared goals into something larger.
As Xiaolin explains, “First-generation immigrants generally have a clear identity; we know who we are, we know our hometown, and we know why we came to the Netherlands. Culture-wise, though, our children are second generation immigrants, and very often the second generation of immigrants country feel lost. From their appearance, our children are from China, but from their education and experience growing up abroad they are completely different from their parents. We Chinese moms thus want to help educate our children to be a bridge between Chinese and Western culture. We want to help our children to be confident, aware of their Chinese heritage, and be proud of this identity.”
In the coming days, CMN will start its institutionalization process by publishing its mission and vision statement on a WeChat-related blog. The mission is to: 1) provide events and activities for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 2) create a shared platform for Chinese families in the Netherlands; 3) create development opportunities for Chinese families in the Netherlands and encourage and help them in the immigration process; 4) welcome foreigners and share the Chinese culture with the broader community.
The group is already actively organizing events to help transmit the beauty and richness of the Chinese culture and equip children to successfully integrate their double identity. “We worry very much that our children may forget the Chinese language and culture. We have thus decided to give the children courses and opportunities to play together. This way one day when they have started to think about their own identity and philosophy, they have not only parents to consult with but also their own friends who have similar background. These children will grow up together and share the same experiences. Hopefully, they will then not feel as lonely in their experience as second-generation immigrants often do.”
In March, CMN hosted their first art class with approximately thirty participants and are now lining up more art, storytelling, and technology classes. The challenge is not so much finding volunteers but catching up with the demand from all all interested families. According to Xiaolin, “we have some very professional and talented moms. These amazing women are willing to share their talents and help create activities for the children, but every time we announce a new class on WeChat, it is full within a half hour.”
The organization is focused on growing step by step and following through with its mission, but “there are a lot of things we don’t know yet. It is the first time we are moms, and this organization is something we can grow up together with our children.”
Xiaolin, who is active on the DelftMaMa Facebook group and has attended DelftMaMa playgroups, sees opportunities for mutual learning and sharing. “I have learned a lot so far from DelftMaMa, even just on the Facebook Group. It is a mature organization, and there is a lot we can learn from DelftMaMa. There are a lot of professional moms involved in DelftMaMa, and I would hope that one day we can sit down together and share experiences and lessons learned. I would be very enthusiastic about that.”
Juggling her career, raising two children, and being very active in associational life is a challenge, but Xiaolin shared one very effective insight that has have helped her maintain time for herself and be so effective even with such a busy schedule. “A useful hack is to find what you want to do instead of letting life push you. In this way, you find yourself more a master of your life.”
Maybe you are new (or not so new) to the Netherlands, and you have gotten by very well with English so far. After all, almost everyone speaks English, and Google translate will render Dutch texts at least semi-comprehensible in your native language. The feeling may arise, though, that you are not fully integrated locally, or a certain unease may surface when you cannot understand the homework your child brings home. The deadline for passing the inburgeringsexamen might be approaching. Maybe it’s a good time to start learning some Dutch?
Or perhaps you have a Dutch-speaking partner, but this has been no help in improving your language skills. It is often more natural to stick to the language you have used throughout your relationship, and a native speaker does not naturally qualify as a language teacher. Indeed, the more times you ask him or her for an explanation of a grammar rule, the more often you receive such satisfying answers as “good question,” “I don’t know,” or the ever so useful “I cannot explain- just because.” Maybe it’s a good time to find some outside language resources?
I am no expert on this matter, as I started learning Dutch a month or so ago. A simple Google search will provide a multiplicity of answers on how and where to learn Dutch, but the idea of this blog post is to put together a concise Delft-specific resource list and provide some feedback from local moms. The idea is not to advertise for one specific course or method but to share some ideas and start a conversation.
Perhaps the most well known place to learn Dutch in Delft is at TU Delft via the Delftse Methode. This “natural” method involves immersion in Dutch sounds and is meant to imitate the learning process of your native language rather than provide structured grammatical or thematical lessons. It receives mixed reviews from our Delft MaMa members.
Mariana shares, “I have just finished intensive Derde Ronde course at TU, and I have also done the first two with them. I moved here in August 2016 with no Dutch at all, and I finished the course at level C1. I could not recommend it highly enough. In my opinion, Delftse methode works if one works. And if one does not work, there is no method that will actually help.”
América agrees, “ I have the same opinion as Mariana. I did the beginners intensive course and learned to speak and understand basic Dutch in 5 weeks (of hard work of course).
Ali is also enthusiastic, “I also found the Delftse methode fantastic! It’s intense and hard work but so worth it. I could understand and speak basic Dutch after just 6 weeks! The method is full immersion and is supposed to be what it is like for a child that is learning to talk. I am not naturally gifted in languages but fore this method was amazing!”
According to Sanna, though, “I did the Delftse methode as well but a decade ago. I personally found the course very frustrating because it didn’t suit my learning style. However, I think that it’s a good method to learn basic Dutch very quickly and probably good for someone who has time to invest on the course and who prefers to learn by speaking. I wouldn’t recommend the course for someone who prefers to learn grammar rules and/or use more traditional methods to learn a language.”
Katerina adds, “I also did not like the Delftse methode… I felt like a parrot just cramming in words and not really understanding the structure.”
- Language Schools in Delft
Delft also hosts various other language schools, lessons, and private tutors.
Volksuniversiteit Delft holds Dutch For Foreigners classes for levels one, two, and three. The classes last 24 weeks and meet once per week on Wednesday evenings. The cost is €208.
Taal Collectief Delft offers private lessons (€40 an hour) and small group lessons (€30 per person for 90 minute lessons for two persons and €20 for three or more persons), as well as company trainings.
The International Neighbors Group also hosts small Dutch classes for members, currently on Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. The courses are taught by volunteers and inexpensive.
There are a variety of private tutors, and many Delft MaMa members chose to learn via this method. Luisa, for example, shares that “it’s really hard to learn Dutch, mainly because people switches to English when they realize you’re not Dutch. Sometimes I had to pretend I didn’t speak English to force them speak Dutch to me! I am following now a course in Delft, run by a private teacher in a “buurthuis” and I like it, we talk a lot and that’s what in the end you need to learn a language!”
- Language Courses Sponsored by the Municipality
The Delft municipality sponsors a program “Taal op eigen kracht” to help encourage residents to learn Dutch. The classes are subsidized, so generally less expensive than private schools at either €120 or €160 for a 20-24 week course, plus €20 for a book. The courses are usually held in the evenings, twice a week with two hours per class. Each class is run by an organization, which finds qualified teachers and manages relations with students. Some of the active organizations include: Stichting SIS Steunpunt Integratie en Samenleving, OIZD (Nushaba Mirzazade), and Ardemia (Selma Polat).
Delft mama Helen shares, “The courses I’m taking are organized by SIS, which is part of Taal op eigen kracht project. So far I’m pretty happy with them. The teachers and the course book used are good. Moreover, the director of SIS is very eager on helping prospective students getting into the course. She also responds to inquiries quickly. I would recommend SIS to people seeking a Dutch course.”
Delft mama Philippa furthers “I am currently studying in one sponsored by government that was advertised on Delft MaMa. I am enjoying it but need to be made to speak more and need to apply more time in my spare time to learning words.”
I agree with this assessment given my first month of learning Dutch in one of these courses. They do offer a good introduction, but you must study and practice outside of class to see an improvement in your language skills.
Roc Mondriaan also offers discounted Dutch classes to residents of Delft, Rijswijk, Pijnacker-Nootdorp or Midden Delfland. Participants must have either passed the inburgeringsexam or not be obliged to sit this exam. Three-hour long classes, which run 20 or 30 weeks, are held twice a week, both during the day and in the evenings. The costs are €30 for one year and either €50 for the book €70 if you are a beginner.
Delft mama Maria adds, “I did the Roc courses, and I liked it mainly because I had a very nice and good teacher. Roc finds you also a taal coach for language exchange, if you want it. I had a wonderful experience with my taal coach, and I think that this is a nice way not only for learning and exercising Dutch but also for discovering the culture (and Delft).” Iowa concurs, “I did a course as well in ROC Mondriaan and I had the same experience, as I had a really good teacher.”
- Practice your Dutch in Delft
Practice makes perfect, and practicing Dutch during a language hour or via a language exchange may be beneficial, especially as the Dutch easily revert back to English in everyday conversation.
The Dare to Dutch conversation hour previously met on Tuesday mornings, but there have been no meetings so far in 2017.
- Learning Online
Another good solution, especially for those with limited time or a preference for learning at their own pace are online lessons or classes.
Future Learn and the University of Groningen host a basic Dutch language MOOC. The current session began on February 27 and lasts three weeks.
I personally use Memrise for Dutch and other languages and would highly recommend the courses I have taken. The learning method ensures that you review content and also allows you to earn points if you are competitively inclined.
DutchPod101 has a similar set-up, but I must warn you that they send a lot of emails. I signed up a few days ago when researching this post and already have received half a dozen messages. If you just want access to their podcasts, though, as well as a few others in Dutch, you can look on TuneIn Radio.
- Outside Resource Links
There are innumerable sites or blogs on learning the Dutch language. Below are a few that you may find useful.
This post is not at all inclusive, as there are various other books, courses, and resources available to help learn Dutch. Perhaps the most important resource, though, is your own attitude. A can-do attitude and active desire to learn Dutch will help you advance all the more quickly.
Finally, please feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section.