22 November, 2010

Useful Link!!

Although I've yet to try all the associated links from this page, there is a lot of useful information posted on NT2 Weblinker.

You can find links to practice exams and information about Elektronisch Praktijkexamen, Toets Gesproken Nederlands and Kennis Nederlandse Samenleving.  There are some links that appear to be broken (not all of the Staatsexamen stuff works properly), but the site seems to be maintained regularly, so the information should be quite current.

If you're looking for a comprehensive site to give you all the info you need, this appears to be it.  Go on, what are you waiting for?

15 November, 2010

Portfolio Interview Preparation

Now that I'm done with gathering proof and putting together my portfolio (it's been sent to Amsterdam for assessment, I should hear sometime soon when the related exam is), I have a further document to study, which will prepare me for the exam.  As a bit of preparation for your own exam, here are the basics that we will need to know when we go into the interview room:

  • The examiner will ask what was easiest, most difficult, the best and worst.
  • How each (or selected segments from the portfolio) went.  For example they will ask about your chat with the neighbour - where it was, what you spoke about, what did the person look like etc.
  • Why did you choose each written situation (they will select a situation to discuss) and how long did it take you to complete.
Possible questions taken from each section (this is in Dutch, run it through google translate if you need.  I would translate it for you, but google will probablly be more accurate!).  Forgive my spelling:

Algemeen vragen:

  1. Hoe lang bent u bezig geweest met het verzamelen van de bewijzen?
  2. Hoe vond u het om dit portfolio te maken? (obviously honesty with a positive spin is needed here!)
  3. Welk gesprek vond u het moelijkst en waarom?
  4. Welk gesprek vond u het makkelijkst en waarom?
  5. Welk gesprek vond u het leukst en waarom?
  6. Welk gesprek vond u het belangrijkst en waarom?
  7. Hoe bent u begonnen met her verzamelen van de bewijen?  Heeft iemand u geholpen met het Portfolio?  Hoe?

Vragen over bewijzen van gesprekken:

The examiner will chose a situation from the portfolio and ask you about it and say something like...  "I see you have spoken with Mr/Mrs Jones...." Then will go on to ask the following sorts of questions:

  1. Hoe ging dat gesprek?
  2. Waar was het gesprek?
  3. Waar hebben jullie over gepraat?
  4. Wat wilde u weten?  Of:  Wat hebt u gevraagd?
  5. Vond u het een goed gesprek?  Waarom wel/waarom niet?
  6. Wat vond u moelijk aan het gesprek?
  7. Wat vond u makkelijk aan het gesprek?
  8. Hoe hebt u zich op het gesprek voobereid?
Then, the examiner will choose another situation from the portfolio and ask different questions, still beginning with an opener as above ("I see you have spoken with Mr/Mrs Jones..")

  1. Wat junt u vertellen over dat gesprek?  Vertel eens iets over dat gesprek?
  2. Wat wilde die meneer/mevrouw weten?
  3. Welke vragen stelde hij/zij aan u?
  4. Waar was het gesprek?
  5. Hoe zag het gebouw eruit?  Seriously?  What did the building look like??)
  6. Wat moet je doen als je daar binnenkomt bij het stadhuis? Of bij de politie?

Vragen over bewijzen van schrijven

Much the same as above, the examiner will take a situation from the portfolio and ask questions about it, for example "I see that you have written a note or filled in a form..."
  1. Wat hebt u op dit formulier ingevuld/in dit briefje geschreven?
  2. Waarvoor kunt u dit formulier/briefje gebruiken?
  3. Hoe lang bent u bezig geweest met het invullen van het formulier/schrijven van het briefje?
  4. Vond u het moielijk of makkelijk om did briefje te schrijven/formulier in te vullen?
  5. Waarom was het makkelijk/moielijk?
  6. Welke andere formulieren/briefjes heeft u verzameld in uw portfolio?
  7. Welk formulier of briefje vond u het moielijkst?
  8. Waarom vond u did moielijk?
  9. Welk formulier of briefje vond u het belangrijkst?
  10. Waarom vond u did belangrijk?
So, this interview portion is supposed to take 15 minutes in total.  It's also important to note that you DO NOT need to know the contents of the portfolio by heart, but obviously you do need to know what you have in it!  It's probably more useful to study the exam preparation document that I've outlined above so you are not thrown by any questions that the examiner might ask (what does your local city council or police station look like??!!).  Oh, and most importantly, you're allowed to take your photocopy of the portfolio with you into the exam.

To accompany the spoken interview, there is a written section.  This is also supposed to be 15 minutes.  I can't answer whether the exam is limited to 30 minutes in total and if it's not completed in that time too bad, or if you can run over time.  Perhaps someone who has completed the exam can enlighten?

The questions that you need to be able to answer in writing (full sentences, no one or two word answers allowed) could be as follows:

  1. Hoe lang heeft u an uw portfolio gewerkt?
  2. Hoeveel bewijzen van schrijven hebt u verzameld?
  3. Welk schrijfproduct vond u moeilijk?  Noem een schrijproduct
  4. Waarom vond u dit schrijfproduct moielijk?
  5. Hoeveel bewijzen hebt u verzameld?
  6. Welk gesprekbewijs vond u moeilijk om te halen?
And finally, you need to write a short letter to a friend/family member about your portfolio.  Basically outlining the same points as above (like how long it took, how easy or difficult it was, which was the most important to learn etc).  I would say, between 50 and 100 words or 4 or 5 sentences.

It all sounds very daunting to me, but as we know, I'm a panicker.  I have a practice interview this Wednesday at school to help me prepare.  I'm also spending most of the each night awake thinking about what I need to be able to answer. Hopefully it will see me well prepared!

I'd love to hear about your own experiences with the portfolio exam, the more information the better as far as I'm concerned!!

11 November, 2010

Ik ben KLAAR met Portfolio!

Excited much?!

As I've finally finished the portfolio and am going to hand it in at school tonight to be sent off for assessment, I thought it was time to share with you exactly what I did and which portions I found easiest and most difficult.  I have described the basics of what is expected in the portfolio here, so if you want a refresher, go and have a look.

Are you ready?  Let's go.

So, my portfolio was based on the Werk (work) traject, which unless you already have a job is quite difficult (as some of my friends have experienced first hand).  I'm not sure how the Gemeente comes up with the idea that a stay at home mum would find it easier to deal with the work traject than one of the others available, but hey.  Only the Gemeente understands its own logic...  I must also clarify, I opted to complete the 20 part portfolio.  You can also opt for half portfolio, half assessment, but the 20 part portfolio has less stress attached than the exam-type situation of the assessments.  Plus, I think you should have a strong level of Dutch to be confident in the assessments.

So, I needed to complete three sections:  Burgerschap (citizenship), Werk Zoeken (looking for work) and Werk Hebben (at work).  One by one I'll go through each situation.  Try to stay awake, it will be helpful.  I promise.

Situatie:  Ik meld bij de Gemeente dat ik ga trouwen (I inform the City Council that I am married)
Basically Maarten and I had to register our recent marriage at the Gemeente and I'd been putting off the Gemeente tasks for oh, eight months or so, so I bit the bullet and also asked the lady about completing my portfolio form which she was happy to do.  It wasn't that difficult to be honest.  As is also true in the experience of others, they just want to rubber stamp you and get on with the next task.  It was also easier because Maarten was there for a bit of support.  My advice:  Take a friend.  Get yourself an 'inburgering buddy' and do it together.  Half the work with twice the result.

Situatie:  Ik maak kennis met de buren (get to know the neighbour)
I won't lie to you.  For me this was the most difficult task.  Not because it was actually difficult, but I'm chronically afraid of approaching random people (i.e. neighbours) and talking to them.  You know those survey takers you always try to avoid in in the city centre, well that job is what hell would be for me.  So, it's no surprise that it was the absolute last task on the list that I did.  This shouldn't be a chore, but for me it was.  And there's nothing wrong with my neighbours, by the way!

Situatie:  Ik pin geld bij de bank (I withdraw money from an ATM)
I kid you not, this is an actual task.  And the proof?  An ATM receipt.  This doesn't need any further discussion.  Aside from the fact that it was the first task I completed!

Situatie:  Ik doe een cursus of opleiding (I undertake a study course or training)
This is the second easiest task.  You're already doing a course (Welkom in Nederland), and an extract from the course book is sufficient proof.  Get yourself to a photocopier NOW!

Situatie  Ik vul een verhuisbericht in (I complete a change of address form)
Again, very easy.  Go to the Gemeente and ask for a new address form and take it with you.  Fill it in at home and you're done.

Situatie:  Ik reageer op familieberichten (responding to family news)
This isn't really obvious from the title, but basically it is a greeting card.  Write a card to your neighbour for their birthday/christmas/graduation and that's your proof.  My sainted teacher's advice was that this shouldn't be a family member, even though the situation specifically mentions that it is...

Situatie:   Ik begrijp de jaarafrekening (I understand the yearly energy bill)
This is one of those situations where you don't actually have to do anything except dig through your old bills.  Find your energy bill (remember it doesn't have to be from 2010, it can be any yearly bill after 2006) and make sure you understand it and you're done.

Situatie:  Ik begrijp het ophaalrooster for afval (I understand the rubbish collection roster)
I confused myself with this one.  I at first understood that this could include the old paper roster that we have, but found out that it is not good proof.  So, as the Gemeente hasn't delivered any sort of roster to us for the rubbish collection (at least not this year and not to our address), I went to the Almere Gemeente website and printed the page.  Try it here for Almere.  I should point out that even though Maarten helped me find the page 6 months ago, I could understand enough to navigate through the 'texty' site that is almere.nl.  You really have to be able to understand Dutch to find what you're looking for.  Good luck!

Now, that's eight Burgerschap situations.  As a failsafe, I have two extras (for each section) in case one is not acceptable or one reason or another.  They were:

Situatie:  Ik betaal een rekening (I pay a bill)
This is another situation similar to the energy bill situation.  Find an old bill with an acceptgiro attached, fill it out and it's good proof.  Just remember, must be newer than 2006.  If you don't know what an acceptgiro looks like, see below:

Situatie:  Ik nodig de buren uit (I invite the neighbour out/over)
When you get to know the neighbour as per the above situation, also take the time to extend an invitation to them, for coffee or an imaginary birthday party etc.  Then they can complete both forms at once.  I just love killing two birds with one stone (but not real birds, obviously!).

Werk Zoeken
Situatie:  Ik vraag informatie over vacatures (I ask for information about a job vacancy)
For this task I went to visit an Uitzendbureau (job agency).  I chose Tempo Team.  Mostly because Maarten used to work there and I knew the staff so I was quite comfortable going there.  I imagine if I had to walk into a random uitzendbureau I would have really struggled to find the courage.  We chatted about a call centre job for about 15 minutes.  Not difficult.

Situatie:  Ik zoek vacatures op internet (I search the internet for vacancies)
Go to Monsterboard and search for a job you think you can do (in Dutch).  Print it out.  Done.

Situatie:  Ik vul een solicitatieformulier in (I fill out a job application form)
Basically, you need to go into a shop/MacDonalds/supermarket and ask for an application form.  Fill it out and there's your proof.

Situatie:  Ik heb een telefonisch solicitatie gesprek (I have a telephone interview)
So, in this situation you should be having a telephone interview about a job.  This can also be simulated by asking your actual boss to have a 'pretend' interview if you didn't have a telephone interview for your job.  However if you did actually have a phone interview, use that as your example!  Think back to the actual date (provided it wasn't too long ago) and think about what was discussed.  As it is a telephone interview, the person you 'spoke' with doesn't have to complete the form...

And now for the extras two:

Situatie:  Ik zoek werk.  Ik schrijf mijzelf in als werkzoekende.  (I'm looking for work.  I register as a jobseeker)
Now, this is the one situation I have some concerns about.  What I did was register myself on monsterboard and took a screenshot of my profile and printed it out.  I'm not sure if this is acceptable or not, and my teacher isn't sure either.  We'll have to wait and see what the assessors have to say.  I am using it as an extra though, so it shouldn't matter too much!

Situatie:  Ik bereid het sollicitatie gesprek voor (I prepare for an interview)
Write a quick few sentences that are key points to be discussed in an interview; your motivation and experience.  Basically why you want the job (offers a challenge, has a good salary and opportunity for growth etc) and what your experience is.  Simple.

Werk Hebben
Situatie:  Ik schrijf op een formulier wat ik allemaal gedaan heb en hoe ik dat gedaan heb (I fill in a form with what I have done and how I did it.)
Some jobs require that you fill in this sort of form each day, especially if another employee shares your job, or you need to account for what you have done for the day (like a timesheet or logbook).  In my office, the cleaning staff have to complete this sort of form, so if you don't have to do one yourself, perhaps ask your cleaner if they have such a form and photocopy it.  Fill out a couple of points and you're done.

Situatie:  Ik lees teksten over gezond, hygienisch end veilig werken (read a sheet with good work and hygiene practice at your place of work)
Every work place should have such information on display (perhaps in the bathrooms for hand washing etc).  Photocopy this sheet and that's your proof.

Situatie:  Ik praat met collega's over persoonlijke dingen (chat with colleagues about personal things, i.e. what you did at the weekend)
This was one of those situations that I discussed with my colleagues for months about doing.  At my office we talk mostly in English.  The company is international and the official communication language is in English.  So I don't really need Dutch to work here.  I finally had the motivation to do this when my teacher gave me a deadline.  Very easy, quick chat over something that you did in your own time.  Your colleague fills out the form, and that is that.

Situatie:  Mijn wek is klaar.  Ik schrijf kort op wat er nu nog moet gebeuren (I'm finished.  Now write a short note for colleagues as to what needs to be done)
Very simple, write a quick note to your colleague saying "Mijn werk is klaar," and ask them to complete one or two extra tasks (eg. call a customer or send an email or order more paper).  The more you write, the more opportunities for error.  Use the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle on this one.

Situatie:  Ik vertel over het wek dat if heb gedaan (I tell a colleague what work I have done)
Again, you can do this at the same time you have the other chat with your colleague (bird and stones).  Tell them what you have done that morning/yesterday, i.e. called a customer, cleaned the toilets, whatever.  Very quick.

Situatie:  Ik bel mijn baas om te zeggen dat ik beter ben (I call my boss and tell them that I am feeling better)
This can be simulated.  Make a 'phonecall' to your boss to tell them that you are now feeling better and will be able to come back to work tomorrow/next week.

Situatie:  Ik praat met collega's over de wek verdeling (I discuss the distribution of work with my colleagues)
Very quick, chat with your colleague about who will answer the phone/clean the toilet etc for that day.  Get them to complete the form.

Situatie:  Ik schrijf een verslag tijdens en werkoverleg (take notes at a department meeting)
Write some notes from a meeting that you have had.  I would say that this can also be simulated.  Note who from your office/team was at a meeting and who was not there, then a few points that were discussed; i.e. upcoming holidays, any changes within the office etc.  Again apply the KISS principle to this one and write only a few points.

And the extras...

Situatie:  Ik bereid een functioneringsgesprek voor (I prepare for a performance review meeting)
Make a few notes (KISS principle) about what you would say in a performance review meeting.  Items like:  How you find the job, if your boss is happy with you, if you want more training etc.

Situatie:  Ik bereid een gesprek voor over arbeidsvoorwaarden (I prepare questions to ask about a new job)
Write a few short notes re questions you would typically ask a new employer, i.e. how many holiday days, what your work times will be, will there be over time etc.

And, you're done!  Lengthy, but not difficult.  It all depends on your personality as to how hard the portfolio will be.  Like I noted earlier, get yourself an inburgering buddy.  A problem shared is a problem halved and all that.

I must say, I was very lucky.  My teacher has been nothing but helpful in this process.  I know that other students have quite the opposite experience with their teachers, so I'm most grateful for the help and occasional kick in the butt to get this done!

Now we will send the portfolio to the assessors and wait for news as to whether or not I am through to the interview stage of the process, and if I pass both, I'm free of the portfolio forever!  It really has been like a black cloud hanging over me and I can't wait to feel the satisfaction of completion.  I'll keep you posted.

09 November, 2010

Back and straight into it!

So, we're back from our "Trip of a Lifetime."  We had the most wonderful four weeks in Australia!  The wedding was fabulous, we had the best time and it was all over in a flash - thank goodness for photos to help me remember it all!

As I've mentioned, we went to Western Australia for our honeymoon, spending 10 days basking in the sun.  Well, it wasn't exactly like that, we did drive 4000 km, snorkel with sharks, saw all sorts of amazing wildlife and marine life (hammerhead shark, humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs, turtles, tropical fish, and of course kangaroos!), had a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, got a sunburned butt, all while sleeping 9+ hours a night!  Absolute bliss.

So, why are you still reading and not booking a WA holiday??

Well, I'm having mixed feelings about being back 'home' now.  Returning home really gave me a lot to think about for the long term.  The biggest being: how long do we stay in the Netherlands?  It's not an easy decision, and not one that can be made quickly.  We have too many commitments to up and go, plus Maarten's parents (mum especially) would freak out if we did!

In all honesty, Australia is just so much easier than the Netherlands.  Bureacracy is not such a fight.  It was a relatively simple process to change my name (I'm now a Muijs) - I just had to apply to get a legal copy of my marriage certificate.  From there I could go to Transport SA and change my drivers license (I didn't even need a new photo, they could use the one on file!) and then the bank with the same certificate.  I also have the paperwork to change my passport, which is free to change within the first 12 months of getting married, and can be done via post/Australian Embassy.

However, to make our marriage legal in the Netherlands I needed to get the marriage certificate apostilled ($60 thankyouverymuch) and to register the marriage internationally at Den Haag I needed my birth certificate apostilled (for the second time as they won't accept an apostille older than 6 months and I already had to supply it to the Gemeente 2.5 years ago).  That was a cool $80 as they needed to attach a second sheet to my birth certificate as they can't apostille the same page twice...  But, it's done now and I've been to the Gemeente to register the marriage.  And, I could use the registration process for my portfolio!!

On that note, big news.  I'm scheduled to have the exams on the 1st of December.  1st of December!  That's less than a month away!  I'll be doing all three tests on the same day.  If I pass, Ik ben geslaagd!  But if I fail one of the tests, I can redo that test only.  I don't need to redo all three.  I'm a bit concerned about the toets gesproken nederland exam, but I've been doing the two main practice exams, the Elektronisch Praktijkexamen and the Kennis Nederlands Samenleving from the inburgeren.nl site that I've already shared with you.  I have cracked the 90% mark for both tests, so I'm not terrified any more.

My portfolio is also almost done!  I had hoped to be able to post that I was klaar, but I still have two portions to complete (hopefully before tomorrow).  It's been a real thorn in my side.  I started collecting situations way back in March, and it's taken me until now to get a handle on it.  It's something that you must be motivated to do.  If I had done what I said I would do way back in my earlier posts, this would have been out of the way months ago!

If I pass, and get the portfolio and it's panel interview out of the way in the next few weeks, I can enrol in the Staatsexamen level course so I can then go on to study at university level (if I choose to).  I'll especially jump on this ship in case all the rules change next year and the price goes through the roof.  I've missed all of the drama with the new government and what the planned integration policies are, so if anyone has a clue and would like to enlighten me, please feel free!

What we are talking about

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