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First days at Inburgering school

NT2 is 'Nederlands als Tweede Taal' or 'Dutch as a second language. 'Inburgering' is 'integration'. Many people who settle in the Netherlands have to do the 'inburgeringsexamen' or 'Staatsexamen NT2'. In this subforum, you can ask questions about this exam. If you have already done the exam, you are warmly invited to share your experience with us!

First days at Inburgering school

Postby sesen » February 24th, 2010, 1:46 pm

Hoi allemaal

This is probably more a venting of frustrations than an actual question but I would like to hear from anyone who has been in a similar situation. I feel a right fish out of water.

The much awaited day for my first day at school (inburgering) was this last Monday. 4 large folders with the course material was given to me but no explanation of how the course will work or any sort of orientation as to how things are done. It becomes clear to me that all my classmates are far more advanced in the course and the language than I, and that I’m the only newby in the class. I ask the teacher if I should begin with the first folder or just start where everyone else is. He says it doesn’t really matter as the course is divided up as separate modules and are ‘stand alone’ lessons. As the lessons use a lot of interaction with your classmates there’s no point me being the sole person starting at the beginning, it makes sense for me the just tack on to the group.
But therein lays the heart of my problem. The course lessons themselves are spoken and written in quite complicated Dutch hence its necessary to have quite a bit of previous knowledge of the language – far more so than what was indicated in the initial assessment test I had done earlier, and far more than me as a ‘true beginner’ has. Explanations of terms are given in Dutch, making their meaning to me as clear as mud. Its like me teaching someone to read hieroglyphs by writing the meaning in hieroglyphs.
Once back home I spent the next 4 hours with google translations and online dictionaries to try and get the gist of what I was supposed to be nodding at knowledgably during the lesson. Which isn’t altogether a waste of time as I’m still learning something at least, but not really getting much out of the lesson at the time.

The next day was a right screw up. I arrive at school early ready for another go but nobody is there. A different class is in session and I’m told that I might need to go to the Gemeente as they maybe there. Long story short, after 4 hours of being sent all over the city searching for my group I’m eventually sent back to the school by my case officer. Feeling more than a little frustrated I sit in on the other class and when they’re done I go home. Honestly could nobody have mentioned to me the day before that the class will be somewhere else – it was after all my first day.

I had been so excited to be doing this course and finally making some headway in learning Dutch but now I wonder if this course is way out of the league of someone who really can only manage a few simple sentences of the language; or is this just normal difficulties that will come good? I guess I just worry because I had been looking at the portfolio papers and it feels that the chances of someone at my level doing 30 practical spoken ‘tests’ in 6 months seem as hopeful as a snowballs' chance in hell.

I hate being a moaner and I don’t mean to, I guess it just helps to write things down and let it out a bit. But I would love to hear of anyone else’s feelings and experiences of their first days at inburgering school.
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First days at Inburgering school

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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby sesen » June 24th, 2010, 9:55 am

Just had a chuckle reading through this last post of mine :) Seems a long time ago now but as I approach my central exam the fact that I feel less panicked is due a long way to this forum and the information here. So I didn't like to leave this first post in a negative way.
After a lot of extra work during the first month of my course everything did in fact come good and I began to understand what was being taught, could practise with my classmates and essentially really have had a wonderful and most rewarding time. There are people in my class from such a wide range of countries, all so friendly and fun. I went from a fish out of water to feeling like a kid in a candy store with so many different people to learn from and speak with. More so than learning just about Dutch life, I learnt from people about life from all corners of the world. I learnt appreciation of what I have, where I've come from and to cherish the things that are the most important - people.
Some folks complain about 'having' to do this type of course but really it can be alot of fun too.
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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby Anna Banana » August 8th, 2010, 3:50 pm

My first day in inburgering school going to be in the middle of september, and when i read the first post i was a bit of disappointed, but great that there was second one after all. I do not think there is bad sistem of teaching in that sort of schools.
Knowledge is often mistaken for intelligence. This is like mistaking a cup of milk for a cow.
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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby adappel » August 9th, 2010, 8:01 am

The problem is not 'the school'. There are good schools where you can learn a lot.
But the problem is the system: the gemeente-employees in Den Haag really do not know what they are doing.
Well-educated persons should not do any inburgeringscourse. They should learn Dutch language instead. They should prepare for Staatsexamen NT2. The gemeente Den Haag however sends EVERYBODY to a inburgeringscursus. In this way there are many immigrants who loose their time.

Anna, I wish that you will be lucky!
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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby sesen » September 23rd, 2010, 12:45 pm

I also wish you all the best Anna - you must have started school recently :-D

Last month I recieved my diploma and after a couple of minutes, a hand shake and a cherry well done my inburgering is over and done with.
I just have to say to you others like me, starting out as real beginners, to stop worrying right now about the inburgering exams. Never before have I come across a more absurd collection of questions so grandly termed an exam. If I had known this at first I would have forcused more on learning language and much less on the course content - which barely featured in my questions. The taal level is very low - even for me - easy to follow and for many of the questions the answer is clearly given in the accompanying text. The better you can read and listen, the easier you will find it since if you can do neither then the simplest question will be difficult to answer. I had time enough over to do the whole exam 3 times over thinking I must have done something terribly wrong and there had to be more - but there wasn't, that was it.

Adappel is so very right. There needs to be more focus on language and less on what to do if you see 2 gay guys or your neighbour has a statue of Mary you don't approve of. I'm wondering how happy taxpayers would be to know their hard earned money was being used somewhat inefficiently?
These exams are for people with little education. Furthermore mine was targeted directly at Muslem's and the manner in which they would react to certain situations. Came very close to being downright insulting to them.

Beste wensen en succes allemaal :-D
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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby Estemy » May 6th, 2011, 2:32 pm

After having some similar problems in the start of the course I decided to share my experiences and some suggestions on how the whole system could be improved upon.

Apparently the information about possibility of an inburgerings or staatsexamen course is not really advertised to the foreign people at all (specially if you aren't obligated to follow one. However, why a Turk should learn to speak dutch here and an Italian, for example, not is beyond my comprehension). I come from the EU and if I had known that I can take free courses to learn Dutch my life would have been a lot different (I would probably have a much higher level of Dutch by now). So I moved to the Netherlands for personal reasons 2 years ago, speaking perhaps 2 words of the language. Soon-after I started my university studies (in English). I registered in my gemeente, but since I knew I would be staying in NL for a while I started looking for options to learn the language. Since in my country you could never get language courses for free I, naturally, assumed it was my own responsibility to pay for them here as well. So I rolled, with many of my fellow students, in 2 university language courses which should have taken me from A0 to A1 and A2 respectively. Now, you might think that this is a nice option since I pay the university tuition fee anyways, but for me it was not. In the university you are allowed to take 2 language courses for free and, thereafter, you will also have to pay for them. It became clear to me only the next year (by then I had mastered the basics of the language and could understand the gemeente website that is ONLY in Dutch) that a more sensible option would have been going to the gemeente with A0, asking for a 1,5 year or 1year Staatsexamen traject and I would have been able to go from A0 to B1 (the maximum level geementes here pay for) for FREE. After that I could have taken a course at the university from B1 to B2 also for FREE!
Now, however, I can only go until B1 for free through the gemeente, after which, I am again alone and have to pay myself or study myself to reach B2 or go even further on (and I NEED to go further, because without C1 I could never get a well paid job in my field as I am now with a msc degree).
Suggestion 1: make materials and info also available in English and French. Make all employees able to speak english and or other languages. Make information more broadly available to everyone upon regestering in gemeente for example Even during the first meeting in the gemeente noone was willing to speak English with me. I could, by then, speak some Dutch, however, I saw many very confused people in city hall, in the meetings with case managers, desperately trying to translate informative texts from Dutch etc. Even the presentation during the language Information Day was only in dutch.

Then I finally got to my first day in the language school. I was very excited, I had a letter in my pocket with the date and the time of my first class and I could not wait for it. So I step into the school and, luckily there is someone at the door so I could ask where I had to go (no class number in the letter). So I got directed to my classroom and I immediately started making acquaintances with all the people there (just 3-4 people as it was a new class for this course). I immediately noticed that my Dutch was beyond everyone else in the room and that they were studying from a book (Code 1 where the maximum level you can reach is A2), that I had already completed in my university language course. Suddenly, the teacher storms in and starts the lesson without any introductions or explanations on how this course is going to work out for me. We were in hoofstuk 4, I think, and, of course, it was way too simple for me. Since in my culture it is very impolite to disturb the lesson (and I think I even said that I had already completed Code 1 to the teacher but it got no reaction out of him whatsoever. Could have also been that with only A2 I was not equipped enough to explain what was wrong) I suffered through the next 2 hours answering, of course, perfectly whenever something was asked of me. During the first brake I finally managed to make my situation clear to the teacher. It also came out everyone in that class was there for a year traject while I had to follow a 6 months traject. Clearly, I was in the wrong room.
After this I got moved to another, more advanced class. It was so packed full of people that I could only get a chair in the corner of the room. Where the first class was far below me, the second class was far beyond me. The teacher was busy explaining single words to us the whole lesson. I didnt understand where they came from but I assumed that perhaps they had read a text earlier on. Everyone was asked to try to explain one word. I was very scared I had to do it too. For one, I had no clue where I would get a word of my own and for two, they were very difficult and some of them I failed to comprehend even after the teacher gave an explanation (by now I know one of the hard words was "narrow" and found out they all came from hoofdstuk 26 in Code 2 dealing with health issues). However, I considered my general understanding of the lesson to have been about 80% which I concluded as good enough result for my first lesson. When the lesson ended everyone rushed home. I asked teacher about the homework since I was still very confused as to how the course functioned, what I had to do at home, where and when my next lesson would be, where I would get my book and so on. I was given a practice book and I had to do the exercises of that hoofdstuk at home. He also said everyone else was in the course for a long time already and thats why we dont start in the beginning of the book. My job was just to catch up as best as I could.
Back at home I struggled with my first hoofstuk. Since I didnt have the book but only practice book all the excercises seemed out of the context and I didnt know the rules behind them. After a few hours of googling the foreign words (which there were many) I was done. Suddenly, I received a phone call from my language school. A voice asked why I hadnt been in the class today. With a suprised voice I answered that I had been in the class the whole day. apparently I had, once again, been in the WRONG class. This made me a bit sad because I had liked the 2nd class and I had also liked that it was hard (because I am a very fast learner and I was sure I could catch up).
The next week I sat down in the third classroom. It was a medium sized group and the teacher was kind enough to introduce everyone. There was, once again, not much info on how the course works, but I got a book and they were in the start of Code 2 where my level was.
Suggestion 2: write class numbers + the name of teachers when you first send them to a course. Give also information on what is difference between inburgering and staatsexamen before someone gets assigned for a course (do it on paper) and what are the exams like. I met many people who were in a wrong course because no1 explained differences to them beforehand.

So then I finally really was in the correct Staatsexamen class (apparently more educated people end up in staatsexamen and less educated in inburgering. Sometimes, however, something goes very wrong in system and people end up in the wrong class. In my class, for example, which was a more advanced class where everyone should have had A2+, were some people who could speak only about 3 words of Dutch (but they did have high education) and some people who could speak good level of Dutch, but could never go much further than what they had (because they had only basic education and just were not intelligent enough to move further on with the language). Both of these groups constantly frustrated me because they held the entire class back from progress and everything had to be explained (even basics like how boom becomes bomen if you make multiple out of it and not boomen) or explained million times over again (mijn huis vs het huis is van mij - I think I heard explains on why this is so about 10 times even though it is something everyone should know before they reach A2 because the rule about it is given in code 1 and I bet its same in every language that the form of the person changes in context). New people were constantly joining the course. Even 4 months into the course we had a newcomer. This resulted in almost everyone being frustrated because we couldn't do exam practice (some people had too low level for it) and we couldn't study more advanced topics (the new people didn't even know the basics). What I did like was the people. I made very many friends and even though I liked our teacher as well as a person, I disliked the Dutch teaching methods. When I discussed this with my group they all agreed that you need a lot of structure when learning the language. You need to know what is expected of you since day 1, what is the homework, what can you do to learn more, what can you learn if you missed a class, where and when are the pauzes etc. This is a group of adults, together for only 1 reason: to learn the language, but the dutch seemed to like to do lessons without any structure. Apparently, as students, we somewhat had to make the lesson ourselves and provide topics we wanted instruction upon (which is sometimes nice, but every now and then I wanted to scream at the people for letting us do their jobs).
Suggestion 3: share course info on paper before the start of the course (should be done by the teacher). Im sure writing a 5 page document is faster that giving the information 100 times to everyone and missing important things.
Make the groups and keep the groups, do not introduce new people after the first month.
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Re: First days at Inburgering school

Postby adappel » May 6th, 2011, 8:35 pm

Hi

Sorry to read all this.
I have been writing about your problems many times here in this site and elsewhere.
In Dutch however. I realize that it did not help you...
But your experiences are very similar to many other students ...
I wish that you can complete your course now in a good way ...

Succes.
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