What would motivate a group of students to gather in an intensely lit classroom on a depressing dark night to voluntarily study and do homework? Apparently, Italians, French, Indonesians, Latvians and many others, lead by the patience of Monique Pietermaat, are starting to discover the Dutch language.

On Tuesday nights, learning a language, which to many sounds like a bunch of tongue-tied people fighting all the time, can seem a daunting task. Yet, a bit shy and dazed at first, the students start off their meeting and delve right into grammar. Limited to only the present tense, students patiently pronounce their g’s and ei’s, in the most Dutch way possible, while the demanding teacher limits in-class speaking to the language being taught. “Feel free and everything else will come with speaking”, she exclaims and joyfully introduces a role-play speaking exercise to the sleepy class.

Humoristic talents shine through as students order fictional drinks at a bar and introduce themselves to each other, all while laughing at their own sentences, almost as if they had forgotten how their own voices sound like. A few lively girls really get into their roles and even manage to invite the waiter to drink with them and get his address and phone. Now that’s some essential Dutch skills! With only three lessons under their belt, the students spill out sentences and are able to keep up an entire conversation with remarkable ease and linguistic splendour, the plethora of accents aside.

Then followed a CD listening exercise with its cheeky dialogues about romantic trips to Venice and making spaghetti, which were met by giggles in the room, for such a situation’s high likeliness in practise. Feeling like they’ve gone back to grade school whilst repeating after a CD, students produce such a mumble of broken Dutch that it is truly time for a coffee break.

In the coming months, as the Dutch winter becomes even more severe, these students will continue meeting on gloomy Tuesday nights to lesrn Dutch. Almost as fast as the winds that threaten to blow everyone off their bikes, these internationals will breeze right through their textbook and make their teacher proud. MD

Goed gedaan!