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Birgit Lijmbach


  • Lecturer in Dutch for non-native speakers

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Birgit Lijmbach

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I studied Dutch, specializing in sociolinguistics. Now, many years later, I come across more and more of the things I learned during my degree programme: what language means to groups and individuals and how people define themselves through language and their use of language.

I have worked as a lecturer of Dutch for Non-Native Speakers at the Language Centre since 1989. But I not only teach language, I am also involved in language education on another level; writing teaching material together with my colleagues. My writing activities have enabled me to develop in my field, in both practical and visionary senses.

In 1995 and 1996, I was seconded as a teacher of Language Acquisition to the department of Dutch in the Elte University in Budapest (Hungary). It was a period in which I learned a lot about the differences between acquiring a foreign language and acquiring a second language (differences that were then more pointed than now), and the impact this has on education. In addition to the obvious work experience I gained there, I learned two more important lessons: what it is like to find your way around another country, and how it feels to learn a completely new language. I still use the insight I gained there in my day-to-day teaching: yes, I know how difficult it can be if you have to buy something and don’t know which shop to go to, and yes, I do know that learning vocabulary is very useful, but very, very boring…

One of the reasons I see language as an interesting study object is its ability to move through its own universe with its own logic and patterns, while all we can do is watch and describe what we see. Having said this, language is a very prominent and important factor in almost every society, so it is up to us to find ways of dealing with that unpredictable universe. This is my task as a language lecturer: helping people to use a new language. I try to relate my basic knowledge of language, language acquisition and cultural change to my teaching, so that my students know that I understand their feelings of desperation and frustration one minute, followed by fulfilment and pride the next.

But ultimately I want to make sure that my students get the kind of attention that will help them learn: practical, focused and at the right pace.

Last modified:07 July 2020 11.55 a.m.
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