"Speaking Dutch makes me feel at home"
"Hottentottententententoonstelling" is his favorite Dutch word and says a lot about his passion to learn the language. Ranbir Sinha (29) is now attending his fifth training course at STE Languages. He has also attended an integration course for expats. Here he explains his objectives: "I encourage myself to speak Dutch everywhere."
You were born and raised in India. How did you end up in the Netherlands?
"I used to work at Philips at their Bengaluru location. I then switched from Philips to ASML in Veldhoven, where I now work as a Design Engineer. I have been living in Eindhoven since May 2018 and I like it!"
Why is it important for you to learn Dutch?
"You run the risk of miscommunication when using a foreign language because you don't always understand the other person well and vice versa. Conversations are smoother if you can speak the same language. Speaking Dutch makes me feel at home. The support of my colleagues helps with this and stimulates me to keep learning… and if I make a mistake, they immediately help or correct me."
Many expats choose not to attend integration courses. Why did you?
"When I was learning the language, I thought it was a good idea to also take an integration exam which was actually a spontaneous decision. I looked at the [inburgeren.nl, ed.] website and took a few tests. That went well, so I decided to go for it. Civic integration helps if you want to stay here permanently and that is also my goal: I want to build my life here."
What is it like to settle in the Netherlands from India?
"I have moved several times. First from the north of India to the centre and then to the south. Each time it felt like moving to a different country because in India every state has its own culture and language. Then I went to the United States before finally ending up in the Netherlands. When you move, you usually need time to get used to it, but I didn't have that at all here. I felt welcome in Eindhoven and that made the transition a lot easier."
What do you like about Eindhoven?
"I enjoy my work and enjoy the culture and the people. Eindhoven has a good balance. I live in a quiet area but there is plenty to do in the city. Before the pandemic, there were many fun events such as carnival for example, that I had never experienced! I also like the fact that I can just cycle to work. That wasn’t the case India."
How did you encounter STE Languages?
"I was referred to STE by ASML but I also knew the company from the Expat Fair in Eindhoven. STE is an established name as a language institute, with many trainers with experience and that is reflected in the lessons."
Can you give an example of that?
"If my grammar isn't good, they don't just explain what I'm doing wrong. They understand what you want to achieve, what is important to you and what is needed for that. They implement that input into the course and because group sizes are not too large, trainers have enough time for each student. It is important to practice your speaking skills outside of the course as well."
In this time of the pandemic, working from home is now the norm and a curfew is currently in place. How do you keep learning outside of your course?
"I regularly participate in online conversation cafes. Sometimes via my work, sometimes through Meetup.com. I consciously make time for that, in addition to the homework I do for STE. Conversation cafes are a good way of getting extra practice for your speaking skills."
When did you first benefit from your Dutch language skills?
"From the moment I reached the A2 language level, I gained self-confidence. I noticed that I understood what was being said and written, more and more. All my colleagues are Dutch and at one point during a meeting they asked me if it was ok to speak Dutch? I thought that was fine and it went well. After that, I even gave a presentation in Dutch and that gave me a lot of confidence too."
Do you have any tips for new students?
"If you are going to take a civic integration exam, make sure that you pay extra attention to speaking skills. The other skills are also important of course but speaking can often go wrong. Personally, I think that's the hardest part of the exam."
What is your favourite Dutch word or phrase?
"Hottentott tent exhibition. I saw that in a book. A real tongue twister."
Interview by STE Languages