08 March, 2010

The New Girl in School

This last week was the beginning of my Dutch lessons. Looking back on the process, I find it hard to believe how fast the process all was. In under a month I have gone from being summoned to the Gemeente to being in classes. If only the IND worked this fast! We'd all be integrated within months of arriving!

Way back when I was at school we lived on a farm and never moved towns, so I was never the new kid. I went to the same school from age 5 right through to the end of high school. With most of the same people. I graduated with about 10 people who I went to kindergarten with (of a 12 person graduating class), so starting at a 'new' school was a bit daunting, even at age 31!

According to my contract with the Ttif Company, I'm obliged to attend classes twice per week in the evening for about 1 year, with my official end date being sometime in August 2011. There is no problem if I can't make some classes, although the Ttif Company is required to inform the Gemeente of attendance (seeing as they are paying the 6000 Euros for me to complete the course and become assimilated, ahem integrated). We did have some concerns over what would happen in October when Maarten and I go to Australia for the wedding of the year as I will be out for the entire month and the Gemeente technically has the power to disallow that. Of course they can disallow all they like, but I plan to get married, in Australia, in October. That's just a personal struggle I have with the Gemeente acting as "Big Brother" and needing to know everything about me.

But, I digress. Wednesday evening I finished work and headed straight to class. Upon arrival there were about 30 others sitting in the waiting room, and I immediately spotted one person I knew from my introduction classes (another native English speaker, so within my comfort zone) so we had a bit of a chat like old friends even though we had only seen each other on a handful of occasions. There is just something about these types of situations that makes you cling to anyone you could call a friend I think. I also met my teacher, who is lovely. Everyone else drifted off into their respective classes, and we were left with only three. Slowly more people began to trickle into the classroom and by the end we were about 10 people. I was the only newbie, so I really was the new girl in school. Not only was I new, I was the only person who had never had any Dutch lessons. The group was made up with people of all different levels of spoken and written Dutch - some of the group have been living here for more than ten years.

We began with "OO" vs "O" and "EE" vs "E" etc, and spelling of words along with the correct verb construction. There was a lot of information to process in a short time frame, plus I was the weakest link in the class with the least amount of Dutch, but I left the class feeling positive and excited about the next one. Which was the very next day!

On Thursday evening I left straight from work again. I can see this business of staying at work until 18.00 then being at classes at 18.30 is going to be very bad for my weight loss campaign. It is already a hassle to arrange a decent evening meal in advance that can be healthy and that I can reheat at work and MacDonalds is right on my way to class! I'm hoping I can keep temptation at bay for as long as possible. Maybe you can offer me some dinner advice? Quick and easy recipe tips that can be carried to and from work in a laptop bag?

So, on arrival at Thursday's lesson I find that the class is not purely language, but to learn about the Netherlands specifically. We were all given a text called "Welkom in Nederland" and once we have completed this book (10 lessons in total), we will be able to take the exam re the portion about knowledge of Dutch culture and how everything works (bureaucracy and society). We focused quite heavily on geography, which I must say is my strongest point, always has been. I love learning about different places, so it was right up my alley. We went on to discuss the politics and how parliament works (only the very basics), and my lovely teacher tripped me up with "Wie is the president van Nederland?" (who is the Dutch president) I nearly launched myself out of my chair to shout ''Jan Peter Balkenende!" to discover it was a trick and there is no president! Of course I knew that, but I was so excited about knowing something that I hadn't paid attention properly. Maybe I should go back over my old school report cards to read how often the not paying close attention point was made (along with my inability to keep quiet in class).

The class ended on a happy note, and with homework! When I got home Maarten and I sat down together and went through the homework and re-read much of what we discussed during the lesson, which was really beneficial for my level of understanding. He told me about "Het Kofschip" and how with forming verbs, if the last letter of the verb is in Het Kofschip, the jij/hij/zij will end in a "T," and if the last letter is not in het Kofschip the verb will end with a "D."

All in all, I'm just hoping we (read: me) can maintain the enthusiasm. I'm sure Maarten will be able to, and I'll be happy to keep it up for a few weeks (maybe even months!). My big problem is that I'm not so good with open-ended goals (meaning I need to have a date to work towards). But more importantly, can I stay out of MacDonalds??

What about you? Do you have any tips on studying? What about quick and easy (healthy) recipes that I can use to make my dinner twice a week?


wilber said...

Congratulations on your first week!

I'd offer a suggestion on meals, except you had to throw that 'healthy' word in. Mac and cheese with tuna and peas?

Interesting that Ttif combines the cultural, geographic, political so soon.
I have been at ROC for 3 weeks and not really had any. Only, language and how to ride a train or tram.
And, heck! I just voted!

I enjoy your accounts. Keep it up, but not to the detriment of your studies.

Unknown said...

I should have really said that they threw me directly into the A2 level classes, because that's where my listening and reading level is. My speaking is probably A1, but that will improve dramatically in the coming weeks I think.

Which level are you studying at? Perhaps it's not challenging enough and they could move you into a higher class?

To be honest, at this point I have nothing but positive words for the Ttif Company. My teacher is always on hand to talk to and the classes are interesting and challenging. You should switch camps ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh Little One I am so sorry I didnt explain Het Kofschip to you while I was there... I just presumed everyone knew that. xxxxxxx RTrish

wilber said...


First off Google changed me for 'burkiwa' to 'wilber'. Just so you know this is a 'reply'.
Go figure. Too many interweb acc'ts, I guess.

I don't mean to slam ROC. I just believe it could be run a little better.
It is easy to criticize, to take what I say with a grain of salt.

As with you I have a contract with ROC and would not want the hassle of 'changing camps', unless it would get unbearable.

My contract runs to August of '11; At this point 4 days a week, 3 hours a day, as I was 'made redundant' in January. So, I have the time, at this point. I suspect I could change to hours, if and when I find new work.

I'm in A1 level, which is fine with me. And, with a year and a half I should be moving up (at least I hope!)

I don't want to hijack your blog with my story.


Unknown said...

No no! I absolutely want you to hijack my blog with your story! I really started it to share my experiences, in the hope that others would share theirs with me too!

You and I have much the same time frame it would seem. I'm also scheduled to finish in august 2011, but I think I'll have the portfolio well and truly done within 6 months. I want to get it out of the way!

wilber said...

Well, if you insist. :-)

To begin with, I went to ROC, on a recommendation from the Gemeente, when I arrived in 2004. ROC said I 'really' did not have to take the classes, however at the time, I wanted to try. Again, they would be paid for.

That turned out to be a mistake on my part, as my work schedule for travel increased and I missed many many classes. (out of the country 2-3 weeks a month) However, I was still required to take a test at the end. "So ROC could assess themselves.", I was told.
I did a little better than I expected, but not well in 'luisteren en spreken'.
I can not tell you how many times I answered, "Geen idee" or "Ik weet het niet"!

Anyway, as with others following here, I was hoping I would be lost in shuffle of the new requirements. But, my luck ran out...... Big Time.
Because, they 'found' me at nearly the same time as being fired (ok, 'made redundant) from a long-time job.

So, I am back at ROC, starting from scratch. Again, that's fine with me, as even though my partner is Dutch, we never really spoke Dutch at home, because both of us worked in ICT and English is 'the default language' and she spoke it most of the day at work, anyway.

So, back to ROC experience.....
Not alot has changed. The organization,itself, is as chaotic as when I was first there.
As I said, I go 4 days a week. But, I have 3 different teachers. And, every few days the classroom changes, for no apparent reason and without notice.

That said, the teachers seem involved, helpful and committed to our progress; which is probably the most important thing.
The classes are an hour and a half of classroom, 15 minute break and the rest in the computer lab. I often skip or leave the computer lab early, as I can just as well do that at home. And so far, I have been very good at doing my 'computer work'. (although, it took me until today to figure out how to transfer my results back and forth, because no one could explain how to 'really' do it correctly)

Today we spent alot of time on hearing and saying 'ou' and 'ui'. I was one of the ones singled out as having difficulty. However, the teacher admitted that 'ui' is not a sound that English speakers are accustumed to. Like to me, 'huis' sounds like 'hous' and I guess I pronounce it the second way.

I must say, I am not looking forward to having to do 'the portfolio'. I assume that is that thing where you must go to various establishments, etc and get your point across? I would be very interested in examples of what you must do for this.

I am taking all as I did when I had to take my NL drivers lessons. My instructor told me of his experience with other 'older drivers' who would not listen to his instructions, or argued that they had driven for 30-40 years and knew better. I told him, I trust you are training me to help me pass the test, so I will listen and follow to your instructions. If I decide to drive differently after I pass the exam, that is my decision/problem.

Fijn weekend,

Unknown said...

Wow! You've really been through the wringer! I plan to write something of an overview of the portfolio I have to complete for the werk traject, and to be honest, it's not as horrific as I first thought (for the work based portfolio anyway). It's not only going into random businesses and asking questions and being deemed good enough by the person you speak to. In a lot of cases you can use forms you've already filled out. For example, one task is to change your address at the Gemeente. You have the choice of supplying a signed declaration from the medewerker, or you can submit your completed change of address form as proof. Another example is an ATM receipt. I kid you not. I've also found out from my teacher that there is a new work portfolio with 20 items to complete, then a 30 minute discussion about the portfolio itself. Honestly, I was absolutely terrified before my teacher explained it. I was thinking I would have to randomly approach people met een vraagje, but it's all much easier! I'll put an overview together asap. Which traject are you doing, do you know?

wilber said...

Good to know!
So, the portfolio is not as daunting as, perhaps, I imagined.
It almost sounds as if, since I able to order stuff from Nederlands-only web-sites, I am almost there. Although, I usually ask for a review, when doing on-line banking stuff, just to make sure.
I await your write up.

I could easily complain until the cows come home, however I also realize that I've had it easier than many horror stories that I have read about.

Welke traject? Goede vraag!
We believe it is the werk traject. Which offers some minor humor, as I will be 2 years from retirement age, if and when I pass.

BTW, of possible interest....
When speaking to the woman from Social Services at Stadhuis Almere, I kind of joked that 'should I not pass, I'll get sent back'. She chuckled and said, 'No, not really. Although, you could be fined up to €1000 per year.' I did not pursue it, beyond that.

lil_suze said...

Haha Mac Donalds isn't that bad. They got some salads, so if you really can't resist go for that one ;-)
And recipes... Just make a dinner salad the day before and bring it with you... Just pack a fork and there you go. Works like a charm!

Ow and do you know that het Kofschip has some exceptions? :-P I hate d/t stuff, I suck at it badly lol. Would be nice if you could teach me one day hihi!

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