Still hundreds of refugees at Radboud for Dutch lessons

04-04-2017, 11:18

Hamada (L) and Hamoud. Photo: Annemarie Haverkamp

Hundreds of refugees still take language lessons at Radboud in'to Languages at the Erasmus building. This week, it's exam week. 'I think I made at least one mistake because of the nerves', Hamoud, from Syria, fears.

Leuk‘. That’s Syrian Hamada’s (26) favourite Dutch word. ‘It was also the first Dutch world I learned’, he says. Together with Hamoud (27), he smokes a cigarette in front of the Erasmus Building. They just took an exam: speaking and listening in Dutch.

‘Nijmegen is the best’

How it went? Good, they think. ‘But the stress, you know’, says Hamoud. ‘I think I made at least one mistake because of the nerves.’

State exam
The listening test was multiple choice. There were questions with photos like ‘why did you not come here by bike?’ (Answer: ‘because it is raining’) or ‘why are you late?’ (Answer: ‘because my car broke down’). The men have escaped Syria, and as a mandatory part of their integration they have to learn the language.

‘Nijmegen is the best’, Hamada thinks. He was advised not to learn Dutch in a class especially for refugees, but at Radboud University. In Syria, he studies French. He wants to keep on studying Dutch in Nijmegen, until he can take a state exam. He does this to increase his chances of getting a job.

High pace
Susan Mennen coordinates the education for refugees on behalf of In’to Languages. Emergency camp Heumensoord may be closed for a year now, the number of students did not decrease. Constantly, hundreds of mostly Syrian refugees take Dutch classes in the Erasmus building.

‘This week, it’s exam week’, she says. ‘We organise courses at every level, from beginner to advanced. But the inflow of students mostly consists of highly educated refugees.’ The vast majority comes from Syria.

Who eventually passes the state exam B2 – the level that Hamada wants to achieve – can take classes in Dutch, take exams and speak the language. It has to be manageable within one and a half years. ‘Our pace is high’, says Mennen.

Hamada and Hamoud started at the top, mid-January. This Wednesday, they have a writing and reading exam. In May, the next course will start, one level higher. ‘I am here three days a week’, says Hamada. He travels an hour by bus from Beneden-Leeuwen to university. He attends a two-hour class. At home, he has to do homework for another two hours.

Refugees who learn the language at In’to Languages, get a loan from DUO. When they pass, they get remittance.

Hamoud, who lives in Overasselt now, was car technician in Syria. He also has a favourite word: herhalen. He laughs. He gets bombarded with the word here at the university. But it does work.

Today is the second day of Vox on Tour: the mobile editorial office was at the Faculty of Arts yesterday and is at the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies today, on the 15th floor of the Erasmus building.

VOX on tour-01

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