The INTERREG-project Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur has been founded by the Radboud University and the University of Duisburg-Essen. Both universities wanted to support secondary schools, especially Dutch and German schools, by means of exchanges. In this way Dutch and German pupils can learn from each others culture and language. These exchanges enable the pupils to develop a regional and an European identity, which is very important nowadays.
We, Rik, Marianne and Bente, are volunteering at this project since February. We are part of a dutch-german-team, this has helped us to acquire new skills.
This project shows that you are stronger together (with two nationalities) and that you can learn a lot from each other! In the following, we will write about our experiences and tasks as volunteers in the project Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur.
To start, I am going to explain something about the things I am working at. Generally, I have two main tasks. My first main task is to work on the public relations. This means that I am mainly responsible for the Facebook-page from Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur. For example, when an exchange between students has taken place and there are some pictures, I write a little article about this event and I also post some pictures on Facebook. In this way, other teachers and people who are interested in the project, can see how the exchanges between the students is going. I am planning to make an analysis of this Facebook page. The goal of this analysis is to make an overview about what is already solid and what has to be improved. I am really looking forward to make this analysis and I am curious about the outcome. My second main task is to organise the things ‘behind the scenes’. In practise, this means that I support teachers to organise some introductory games for the exchanges. In the context of this task I work for example also at some maps, in which all the routes the students have traveled are being made visible. Another task on which I am working a lot, is an instructional video for the teachers. A lot of teachers had some difficulties to fill in the forms which they need to declare the costs from the exchanges. In this instructional video, I hope to make clear which steps the teachers need to make, so in the future the teachers have no more difficulties with regard to the declaration forms.
I have also attended an exchange between a school from Nijmegen (the Netherlands) and a school from Vreden (Germany). I helped with the introductory games and supported the teachers with the organisation. In general, the students liked the activities and for me it was also a nice experience to be at an exchange. Another exchange was at the begin of June. I was at a school in Nijmegen to support the teachers. I am convinced that the students had a very nice day, and so did I! Furthermore, I have interviewed some colleagues from the project. I asked them questions about their work in the project and what they think about it. I was also interested in what they thought about what makes the project a success and how these colleagues see the future of Germany and the Netherlands working together. Last but
not least: at the end of June the ,,Tussenconferentie’’/,,Zwischenkonferenz’’ will take place. At this conference I will be responsible for a workshop with students. Yet, I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with them at this day, but I definitely will think about an useful and a suitable workshop. This is going to be a nice and helpful day for both the teachers and the students.
Most of the time, I help with the organisation of a conference, known as the ‘’Zwischenkonferenz’’. This conference will be very important for the Project Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur because at this conference the experiences and good practices from the dutch-german school exchanges of the past 1,5 years will be reflected. It is also a chance for teachers to meet, connect and learn from each other!
At the conference, there will be workshops with different themes (for example: excursions, sports, games etc) and there will be also a ‘market’’ with a.o. teaching materials. Making the flyers, making a program and inviting people (and stay in contact with them) are some activities I have to do for this conference. Currently, I am also working on creating (together with the teachers) presentations and other teaching materials for this day. I really like doing these tasks!
Other activities I have carried out are: helping with exchanges and helping with research to learn more about bilinguality. I especially like the Dutch-German exchanges, because I want to be a teacher myself. The exchanges from the project Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur are in that way a really good practice for me and I can already learn a lot about the educational field!
About the project in general: I think the project Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur is a really special project. The project brings Dutch and German pupils and teachers together. It is a way to combine Dutch and German education, but also a good possibility to learn from and with each other! There are a lot of similarities and differences between the Dutch and German culture, but it is interesting to be immersed in it myself. Working together with a team that includes Dutch as well as German people makes it even more interesting. It is really important to learn from each other in different countries. Especially, nowadays that’s even more special and important!
In the Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur project there is one school that is both German as well as Dutch. This secondary school is located in a relatively small town in Germany, close to the Dutch border and the Dutch city Nijmegen. The fact that it is also close to the Netherlands means that also a lot of Dutch people live in this area. To profit from this special situation where Dutch and German children grow up together, the school was founded as a Dutch- German bilingual school in Germany. The children have both Dutch and German teachers and get taught half of their subjects in Dutch and half in German, in order to learn both languages properly. They get the opportunity to learn about each others cultures as well, as some children are raised by German parents, some by Dutch parents or one Dutch and one German parent.
My main task in the project is providing assistance in the monitoring of this school. Recently, we have developed some instruments to test the language development of the bilingual
children. You can think of instruments to test their vocabulary, grammar or productiveness. We did the tests with the children in a playful way and fully anonymised. The tests were conducted in both languages and we are now on to the next stage: analyse the data and see where we can possibly further improve the tuition.
Besides the research tasks, I also assist with other things in the project. For example other school exchanges, but we also went to a “border-region” conference in Venlo, in the South of The Netherlands. There we had to represent the project with a stand and had the chance to network with other people that are also ‘active’ in the Dutch-German border region.
To conclude, all three of us are very happy that we have the opportunity to be volunteers in this Dutch-German exchange project and that we are able to pay a contribution to improve the relationship between the Netherlands and Germany in this region even further.