Koninginnegracht, Netherlands Antilles (PressExposure) April 19, 2012 -- There are many courses for foreigners here in Holland but Kickstart's StarterPack is uniquely practical. It is based on the principle that when you first arrive, you don't need to learn the conjugations of verbs, but want to develop a simple but functional vocabulary that you can use in every day situations.
Josien Deknatel-Brandt, the founder and director of Kickstart School explains. 'I've been an expat myself and have travelled to many countries where I don't speak the language and I know you can feel like a 5-year old. We designed the StarterPack based on our direct experience of what a newcomer needs.'
Her enthusiasm for her growing business is apparent from the moment she begins to talk about her programme.
'We use colloquial Dutch and lots of role play to create a fun and safe learning environment. It has to be fun; and it has to be really practical. We've tested our approach on expats and know that the programme gives people useful information which helps them from day 1. They learn about the language as well as the culture and customs and therefore quickly feel more comfortable in their daily lives.'
The StarterPack is a programme which is given once or twice a week in two hour sessions for a total of 24 hours. It is an excellent orientation course which helps you gain a basis of the language to be able to get around in shops and make contact with the locals. It also demystifies the bewildering number of Dutch-only forms you come across and the irritating telephone answering services which are only in Dutch.
For those who want to learn more Dutch after the beginners programme, Kickstart also offers an intermediate course called SteppingStone. Each of the three levels of the follow-up course is made up of 12 two-hour sessions. Each course has a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 participants.
'There is an advantage to both the participants and the teachers in keeping the classes small; it makes it fun and more personalised,' Josien explains.
Josien started her Kickstart School in 2001 after returning from a three-year posting in Nigeria. 'I'm now at the phase where I'm concentrating on professionalising the programme. We have 4 teachers who have the same philosophy about teaching as I do - it has to be personalised, practical and fun. And we've invested a lot of time in designing the materials we provide.'
The course materials for the StarterPack are indeed professional and practical.
'One of the things that's unique to this programme is the toolkit we give each participant. It is a small version of the material they learn in class, but is a practical little booklet they can take with them to help navigate through conversations and, for instance, when buying food for dinner.'
Josien has recently moved to a 'grachtenpand' on the Koninginnegracht, an elegant 1880s house in central Den Haag, complete with old ceiling decorations and fantastic views of the canal. The large and sunny rooms make for classy and comfortable classrooms.
'Moving to a new country and getting used to a different culture and language is not an easy process. I know because I've been there. Kickstart is my profession, but the StarterPack is my contribution to those people who want to settle in to Holland.'