A Language Café: Building Spaces for Collective Reflection

By Ine van Emmerik

Ine van Emmerik

Ine van Emmerik

I am leading a language café in Utrecht, The Netherlands; where a small group of women from different parts of the world (Afghanistan, Tunisia, Syria, Kenya) meet for open conversations in Dutch. They are following regular courses in Dutch and taking the required exams. This language café is an extra activity to practice speaking the language.  We read all sorts of Dutch texts, stories, newspapers and literature.

This time we read a poem by Ceciel Boudewijn, titled ‘Provisional house’

She builds
Builds herself a house
Of paper
She befits letters to stichworts
Roof and doors
To inhabit it
With her words
To live there with language.

‘That is me’, says Asefa. She recognizes the living experience of every migrant woman. She experienced the huge transition of moving from Afghanistan to the Netherlands. She did not only have to find herself a physical place to live, she is also rebuilding her identity, in a new house of language and images.

Mastering the language of your new community is also rebuilding your own inner house, reframing your identity to a new setting, building on the foundations of what’s already developed through your life. In the process of learning a language, you have to visualize your inner spaces, the different rooms of your house. You develop knowledge of yourself and the world you are living in.
During this educational process you become more rooted in society by building relations with teachers, other students, coaches, peers. This process works twofold: you explore both the inner house of the other and that of your own. In the process you develop your understanding of different cultural realities. By enlarging your own inner world, both ‘student’ and ‘teacher’ enhance their social and entrepreneurial skills.

Ine van Emmerik is a professional (teacher, lawyer, psychologist and researcher) with a demonstrated broad history of work. Through years of study and work, she developed a strong personal vision on the learning and developing of people and organizations. This forms the basis for the consultancy she delivers in her own company, Extravaleren.

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