Flirting with languages from the Orient

For everybody who is interested in learning a new language or getting some insights in another culture, the Language Center organized the Cultural Afternoon yesterday. It gave an overview of the courses the center offers. Some teachers tried to explain why you should sing in Portuguese, and why the Dutch decorate their windows.People come to the Cultural Afternoon in Academia building for many different kinds of reasons. They fell in love with a country, want to understand more of a country’s culture, or just entertain the thought of learning a new language. Considering the workshops that most people applied for, students and employees at Tilburg University are most interested in the countries that lie East of us. Or in the languages that are spoken there, at least. The workshops ‘Russian’, ‘Arabic’ and ‘Japanese’ are fully booked. The Cyrillic alphabet, the Arabic alphabet and Japanese characters are studied with great interest, and the attendees try to soak in as much of it as they can in 45 minutes.

Others are more interested in languages closer to home. In a small room upstairs, Paula Roncaglia-Denissen is promoting Portuguese with infectious enthusiasm. She gives a list of reasons to study the language. For example, if you speak Portuguese, you can make yourself understood in a lot of countries around the world, and Portuguese is a very good language for music. It is not a tonal language, so the tone does not influence the meaning, and it has a rich range of vowel sounds. Roncaglia-Denissen stands in front of the classroom while she plays the music, almost dancing. “It is impossible to stay still,” she says. She tells the group about the language, but also about the country and the economy in Portugal, as well as in Brazil. “I will talk about 2013, because 2014 sucked and 2015 is horrible, and I want to help you come to Portuguese,” she jokes.

As an Englishman in Tilburg, he is fascinated by the way the Dutch decorate their windows

Another workshop visitors could choose from is ‘Dutch culture’, led by Andrew Cartwright. As an Englishman in Tilburg, he is fascinated by the way the Dutch decorate their windows. And he is not the only one. A student from Korea remarks that the first time he was in Amsterdam, he wondered if people had any privacy in our country. Cartwright shows photos from Dutch windows, with symmetrical vases, biscuit tins and ornamental stones. “It became an obsession,” he says. “At a certain point, I did not think I could take any more symmetry”. He has gotten more used to it now. “A window is a game. I have some hypotheses about them. It can, for example, be that the Dutch want to show they have nothing to hide. Or they just want to display their prosperity.” The other reason why the Dutch are known for windows (the women behind it) does not remain undiscussed either.

Afterwards, people can meet for a drink downstairs, during the Language Cafe. This takes place every month, there will be a Christmas edition on 17 December. People get stickers to show what languages they speak and which languages they want to practice. Tjits Roselaar, head of the Language Center, says that the visitors of the Language Cafe are mostly international. “It has been growing a lot, so we are very happy. It would be nice if more Dutch people come as well though. The Language Cafe is a good international experience for everybody”.


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