Tears as she spoke the word – ‘coat’.

Welkom in Utrecht and WelnU have organised a language cafe especially for mothers, every Friday morning since the end of 2019 . Women, for instance from the asylum centre, can come here to improve their Dutch language skills. The best part is that they can bring their children as well. A volunteer from Welkom in Utrecht who used to work at a children’s daycare centre in Iran can connect easily to all the children who come in with their mothers. As a result, the mothers can enjoy the Dutch classes with a volunteer of WelnU without being disturbed. It’s not only informative, it’s a lot of fun.

Women of all ages and nationalities are scattered around the cosy attic working intently on their Dutch. For participants Shantie from the Netherlands and Dewa from Afghanistan, it has become a regular activity. With a warm cup of tea, they discuss difficult Dutch grammar questions. The two women have really found each other. Not only because of their teacher–student relationship, which is working out well for them, but they also share an interest in work. Shantie works as a midwife and Dewa is keen on working as a nurse in the Netherlands. So, although the two women do discuss Dutch grammar, most of the time the topic of conversation slowly
diverts to non-study related chatter. Questions such as “So where is a good place to become a nurse?” or “Do you know the registration deadline?” can be heard across the attic. A perfect coincidence.

At another table Juul, who is also a volunteer, is helping Roza from Eritrea to learn Dutch. Roza has been coming to the class for a few weeks and is getting acquainted with the alphabet. She’s struggling with it. Roza is very motivated, but because she cannot read and write her own language, the idea of learning a new language is something completely new to her. Juul is mostly working with cards of the letters of the alphabet to create words together as a way to make the language a little less abstract. Today they have a breakthrough. Up to this day Juul has always had to put the letters in the right order, but today as she says ‘coat’ to Roza and gestures towards the letters, Roza understands for the first time. She takes the right letters, puts them in the right order and points at her own coat while saying ‘coat’. Juul is tearing up. It means a lot to her how Roza can try so hard to learn Dutch, doesn’t let herself get down and comes to the language classes every week in good spirits – to finally understand the word ‘coat’.