Learning the local lingo

Opportunities for international students to take Dutch language classes are rather limited. Five experienced language
teachers are however aiming to rectify this situation with customised Dutch classed taught in small groups.

The ability to speak and understand Dutch, and to write and email in Dutch. Extra training in specific areas, like spelling and grammar. Support in preparing for the national Dutch language exams. The demand for such Dutch language support among international students is great, Eline Carpentier and Bernadette Lengkeek confirm. They – together with three other experienced teachers – are now striving to satisfy this demand. All five teachers have years of experience and specialisations in teaching Dutch naturalisation classes for higher educated people and various other levels of adult education.

Until recently the ROC (Regional Education Centre) Mondriaan had a municipal grant for teaching NT2: a language course for people whose native language is not Dutch. At ROC, TU Delft students and other internationals could prepare for the comprehensive NT2 national Dutch-language exam. “These courses were comprised of three classes per week,” says Lengkeek. “But that proved to be too heavy of a workload, so we started offering one class per week. Now that the NT2 municipal grant has ended, we see that there is a big void in this area.”

One alternative is the courses that TU Delft offers. “But these are mainly intensive, block courses of 40 hours per week, including homework,” Carpentier says. “These courses are taught according to the ‘Delftse method’, whereby people learn Dutch quickly, although they don’t necessarily learn how to speak Dutch, since these courses were originally developed to allow foreign students to follow lectures. Nowadays however university lectures are primarily given in English. We aim to offer a supplement to the TU Delft courses. We’ve observed that among international students there is still a great demand for one or two classes per week in a conversational format. These international students want to be able to understand what their Dutch teammates are talking about after a sports match, for

instance, to be able to join in discussions in bars and cafes. In the conversation classes, the students learn to pose arguments, make arrangements and enumerate. Lengkeek: “One must be able to communicate with people at various agencies, but one must also be able to interact in social situations.”

The teachers give individual lessons, but they also work together. Carpentier: “We make use of each other’s expertise and experience, in terms of the teaching methods as well as running the business. We present ourselves as a single entity, with a joint brochure, and we’re currently working hard to develop a website.” The 40 euros per hour for a private lesson could prove an obstacle for the average student, Carpentier realises: “We therefore look for one or two other students who have the same level. Group lessons cost 30 euros per person and last for 90 minutes. We keep the groups small, because ideally we aim to provide customised lessons. First we determine what a person’s educational needs are, and then we devise a program based on this.”

Native Dutch speakers can also appeal to the five teachers for help. Carpentier: “A TU Delft lecturer once told me that the writing skills of Dutch students are often quite poor, so such students can also come to us for writing courses or proofreading.” 

For more information about enrolling in Dutch courses, email:

Prior to the award ceremony, Dr Akke Suiker could not imagine that he would actually be chosen as TU Delft’s ‘Best Teacher”. “You’re aware of course that your colleagues have also earned their stripes,” he remarked following the award ceremony. “Needless to say, I’m absolutely delighted. Such great happiness is actually a bit unreal. It’s wonderful to have been chosen by the students as best teacher of the faculty, but then to be chosen as the best teacher of all TU Delft really is the ultimate one can achieve as a teacher.”

Dr Suiker teaches statics, vibrations and dynamics & stability at the faculty of Aerospace Engineering. The jury noted that students find Dr Suiker extremely approachable and that he is always happy to answer their questions. “He has a great lecturing style, involving humour and showing good examples, and he really knows how to inspire his students,” said jury member, Caroline Streng, who is also head of the student council. In winning this award, Dr Suiker receives a 7,000 euro cash prize, of which 5,000 euro is intended to be used for improving education. His competitors – and also the best teachers from their respective faculties – were: Emiel van Elderen of the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science (EEMCS), Hans Welleman of Civil Engineering & Geosciences (CEG), Yu Song of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE), Miriam Blaauboer of Applied Sciences (AS), Robert Babuska of Mechanical, Maritime & Materials Engineering (3mE) and Pieter Bots of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM).

Best graduate
Industrial design engineer Maarten Kamphuis won the UfD-Mecanoo Award given to TU Delft’s ‘Best Graduate’ for the 2009-10 academic year. He won the award for his innovative design of a safe, steel training sword replete with rubber bumpers. In winning the award, Kamphuis also received 2,000 euros and a computer. Kamphuis’ research included an historical analysis of swords dating from the Middles Ages, as well as field research, high-speed videos, radiographs, tensile tests conducted on pigs’ feet, computer calculations and built prototypes.

Following the award ceremony, Kamphuis, who graduated in April and is a fanatic practitioner of European sword fighting, remarked that he is still often asked what there is new to design on a sword: “Well, a lot. Safety and realism seem to exclude each other when it comes to swords.” Unlike other training swords, his is largely made of steel, which gives the sword a more authentic feel. “You’re almost always struck with the inner 40 centimetres of the sword blade,” he explains. “A rubber tip makes the sword safer. I also made it so the blade can retract 10 centimetres into the handle when it strikes, which is safer.”

Kamphuis also recently won the National Sport Innovation Award for his design, and has started his own company, M_blades, to produce the swords. The runners-up for the ‘Best Graduate of TU Delft’ were: Shirin Jaffri (Architecture), Tim van Oijen (3mE), Harmen van der Laan (CEG), Bart de Keijzer (EEMCS), Anneleen Oyen (AE), and Hadi Asghari (TPM). 

Editor Redactie

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