Consultation: project with volunteers for non-native speakers
Under the motto ?? Speak better Dutch ?? There is a language project called Samenspraak in many places in the Netherlands. The project is organized and executed by volunteers. Every week they help non-native speakers who do not yet have sufficient command of the Dutch language. It is a so-called one-on-one living room project in which language improvement is worked on in a relaxed atmosphere (for example at the kitchen table). When choosing subjects, the Dutch culture and the culture of the non-native speaker are often also discussed. This makes the project interesting for both the non-native speaker and the volunteer.
Speaking the Dutch language is important
One of the biggest problems for migrants is learning the Dutch language. If they want to participate in society, speaking that language is necessary. But they often visit each other here and then speak their native language. That is not the way to learn Dutch. Also, not many Dutch people have contact with non-native speakers, but that can be done differently, namely with the Samenspraak project.
Many non-native speakers already follow a language course, for example at a ROC (Regional Training Center), but have too few contacts with Dutch people to put what they have learned into practice. The Samenspraak project was therefore already set up in 2001 by Gilde Nederland and is being implemented in approximately fifty cities in 2018. Hundreds of volunteers work every week to help non-native speakers learn the Dutch language.
Intake and method
The registration and working method for the Samenspraak language project is as follows:
One or two coordinators of the local project will first hold an intake interview with the foreign speaker. Among other things, it is assessed whether the language level is already sufficient to start working with a volunteer. Participants must be able to have a simple conversation (with some help).
If the speaking skills are sufficient, a volunteer is sought and initial contact is arranged.
The volunteer will then visit the foreign speaker every week or have him or her come home to talk for an hour. Those who prefer not to work at home can look for another accommodation such as a library or community center. Sometimes the organization itself has a space with possibilities.
Subjects and culture
Numerous topics in the field of interest of both can be discussed. For many, cultural exchange is of paramount importance because it is not only interesting but also educational.
Speaking skills and vocabulary
The purpose of the weekly interviews is mainly to increase the speaking skills and vocabulary of the non-native speakers. Moreover, the Samenspraak project creates more social contacts between the non-native speakers and the Dutch.
No language lessons or integration
However, the Samenspraak project does not involve real language lessons and no integration courses are given.
Although many carry out the project at the kitchen table, there are of course also numerous opportunities to get out and practice the language such as:
- Museum visit
- Go for a coffee
- Take a walk
- Go to the market
- Library visit
- Cycling or other activity
Different names for volunteers but the same purpose
Various Samenspraak organizations have different names for the volunteers, such as: language coach, language help, language buddy or in terms of Gilde Nederland ‘provider’, but they all have the same goal of improving the language of the ‘applicant’.
Someone who wants to commit to the project should contact a coordinator of the local Samenspraak project and be invited for an introductory meeting. The volunteer is not expected to be a language teacher or to be or have otherwise been involved in education. Speaking of AN (General Dutch) as it happens to anyone at the kitchen table is sufficient. In practice, someone soon learns a personal approach that is best aimed at the language problems of the non-native speaker.
Duration of project
A volunteer works with a foreign speaker during the period of one year, because then it is someone else’s turn. Volunteers who have been working for more than ten years are no exception because the work can also be very rewarding. Often contacts also continue after the year.
Statements of non-native speakers and volunteers
Some statements by non-native speakers who participate or have participated in Samenspraak (quotes Samenspraak Oss):
- Dialogue is very important to me because I have little contact with other Dutch people.
- It’s easier for me to go to the store because I can now make myself more understood.
Statements of supervisors:
- It’s nice to learn about a different culture while helping someone learn our language better.
- I once helped a woman who proudly shared that she only went to the doctor and told her story. That’s what it’s about, that people gain that self-confidence.
Sometimes drastic stories
Partly depending on the relationship that has been built up during the conversations, the subjects sometimes go into depth. It is of course not the intention for the volunteer to act as a kind of behavioral therapist. It can, however, talk about, for example, how the non-native speaker came to the Netherlands as a refugee from their home country to have a relaxing effect on him or her. In this way, very drastic stories can arise about what has happened and a listening ear can do a lot.