Student - October 3, 2018

Learning language as reward for volunteering

Roelof Kleis

By combining language lessons and volunteer work, the new Taalclub Wageningen intends to close the gap between Wageningers and international students.

© Sven Menschel

The concept was initiated by student Anne Walther. She has noticed that the average international student and PhD candidate barely have any contact with the Wageningen population. ‘I think it’s a shame to see that people who study here several years leave without ever having spoken to a Wageninger.’

Students live in their own bubble, Walther says. ‘And international students live in a double bubble. There are students and there are citizens. That makes it sound like students aren’t citizens! Wageningen is a small and enthralling city. How can we build a community together?’ The idea came up while philosophising on this matter with Machteld Speets of the Vrijwilligers Centrum Wageningen (Volunteers’ Centre Wageningen).

An added advantage is that the language they learn can immediately be put to good use during their volunteering.
Anne Walther

Language is a significant barrier in the contact between internationals and Wageningers. But language courses are often expensive, says Walther. By linking free language lessons to volunteer work, you can kill two birds with one stone. ‘An added advantage is that the language they learn can immediately be put to good use during their volunteering.’ Walther will be providing the language lessons using Go Dutch!,a free online language module.

Luxury problem
Many people seem to be interested in this approach. Walther already received 80 registrations after an initial post on Wageningen Student Plaza. Among them are many international students, but also PhD candidates and refugees from the local refugee centre. The enthusiasm does create a luxury problem. ‘There is not that much suitable volunteer work’, Walther says. ‘For most of the volunteering help, some knowledge of Dutch is required.’ Some studying will therefore have to be done first. Walther hopes to start next week.

The approach is to work in small groups, with the group deciding upon the speed of learning. There will be a contact hour with Walther once a week. The lessons will be provided in the community centre De Pomhorst and in Eetcafé Vreemde Streken. Walther also has an idea for the lack of volunteer work. ‘Every person has their own talent. If someone can cook well, they could perhaps provide cooking lessons in community centres.’

De Taalclub Wageningen can be contacted through