07 April, 2010

Nieuwe Buren - the Language Course

I thought it would be useful to give a bit of an overview of the course books I'm using in the Inburgering Curses. That way, you will at least know what course books will be studied and what level they are at. Each week we have two separate course book, Nieuwe Buren and Welkom in Nederland. Today I'll talk a bit about my Nieuwe Buren (NB).

Now, first of all, I must note that the NB book that I'm using is aimed at A2 level learning, so is book 1.2. I cannot comment on any of the other books and the different levels, but I'm guessing that the same course with different levels are used from beginners through to NT2 and possibly beyond.

Depending on when you join the class it is all very random as to where you are in the course work. I was very lucky in that I wasn't alone starting my classes, so my teacher started the book from the beginning. This means that some of the older class members are now repeating sections of the course, which does not seem to be particularly beneficial for them. It also means that latecomers will start the course half way through the book. I don't believe that the language is any more advanced the further you go through the book, only the vocabulary is extended. Meaning, you can start at chapter 9, complete the book and start again without it being too challenging or simple. If I were in charge (this is one of my great fantasies), I would set the courses up more like a traditional school with separate intakes so the students are all at one level, but alas I'm just a student and have no influence on such things.

We are just completing the first chapter of the of the book, called Naar de Bank. The chapter covers topics like making a telephone appointment to have a household item repaired, reading the Gouden Gids (yellow pages), reacting to an invitation, offering help to a friend or colleague, making an appointment with the bank, using the ATM, writing a greeting card, and filling in an official form.

Each of the above sub topics is covered in one lesson, but sometimes there are more than one topics covered. As a rule, the teacher will dictate the key words from the topic and we will check our spelling, then we will take turns reading out loud and answering questions as a group. There is also some writing, where we will have to fill a correct word in a sentence. For example, Ik ______ je veel plezier, becomes Ik wens je veel plezier. We also have to choose a situation where a particular sentence may be used. For example: Van harte gefeliciteerd can be used to wish someone happy birthday, but not if they are sick, or as a condolence. One type situation that I found most strange was that it is appropriate to use Tot ziens as a form of condolence (when writing a card or offering your condolences in person). I discussed this with Maarten who was horrified and strongly disagrees that one should ever use that term in such a situation. Strange indeed.

We don't always stick 100 percent to the course book either. For example, last week we were learning how to write greeting cards, and were given four examples to complete - a get well soon card, a happy new year card, a condolence card, and a new baby card. We had to use appropriate language and tone as well as create a sentence with the correct grammar. Writing is by far my biggest challenge. Not the spelling, I have a good grasp on the spelling rules there, but the verbs are a bit difficult, and my vocabulary level is still very low (in comparison to others in the class). My verb creation is getting much better very quickly I must say, I just have to work on the vocabulary. What I'm also finding is that my English grammar is becoming worse. For such a stickler to the rules, I found myself making not one but TWO there/their/they're mistakes in the last week! It's one of my pet hates, and I didn't notice it until after I'd hit submit.

As I go further through the course book I'll post regular updates. So far the course has been great for my language level, although the tone of it does tend to lean towards the "You must have lived in a cave before coming here" end of the spectrum. it seems to assume that common sense is non-existent in the students following the course. Having said that, it's no where near as preachy as the Welkom in Nederland book, which I'll get to in coming days.

What course are you following? Are you finding it beneficial? Would love to hear your thoughts on the coursework we have to follow to become integrated into Dutch society.

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