Reinier Vuylsteke - Tailor-made intensive Spanish language course

Reinier Vuylsteke in heen restaurant in Latijns-Amerika
People always hugely appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language
Reinier Vuylsteke
Current role
Working in the sales department of the Hoogwegt Group

Not speaking a word of Spanish and being tasked with business contacts in Latin America at a new employer? It happened to Reinier Vuylsteke. He asked Radboud in’to Languages for a recommendation for a tailor-made intensive language course.

Reinier Vuylsteke (32) moved to the sales department of Hoogwegt Group, an Arnhem-based food company. He did not speak a word Spanish at that point and, to sell products like powdered milk in Latin America, he had to follow a language training course. His colleagues at Hoogwegt had preceded him at Radboud in’to Languages, where they had taken part in intensive training courses in Italian and French. “You can do an awful lot in Latin America speaking English, but Spanish is a language that touches people’s hearts. This personal connection is indispensable in our field.”

Bi-weekly training at your own level

Reinier had trained bi-weekly sessions with a personal coach, in two-hour sessions each time, for four months. “It was fantastic to do this one on one, because you’re dependent on the average level and pace when you take courses as a group. This course is tailor-made, so sometimes I could skip chapters from the book without it becoming too big of a deal. It was not done frivolously either: the course was handled very seriously.”

Plenty of attention to culture

In addition to Spanish, he was pleased to see that plenty of attention was paid to specific linguistic and cultural qualities in Latin America, as there are sometimes significant differences between countries. “You can make one introduction that is really well received in Peru, but the same approach might be taken as an insult in Colombia. One country is informal, the other is much more formal; one country has verb forms that are quite rare elsewhere. Of course you’ll make mistakes,” says Reinier, “but your efforts will be rewarded regardless. “People always hugely appreciate it when you make an effort to speak their language.”

Spanish is a language you use to touch people’s hearts. This personal connection is indispensable in our field.

First customer conversation: "I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Italian, unfortunately”

Immersion requires contact; Reinier reflects on his online course, where immersion was followed by in-company training, in pairs. He was able to speak to the first Latin American contacts by phone in Spanish; in-person visits will follow as soon as the borders open. Reinier prepared for his first client meeting meticulously: he practised introductory phrases, looked up a few new words and looked for a quiet space on the premises before finally making the call. Reinier will not forget the conversation he had with Juan from Argentina any time soon. “After I finished my first introductory sentences, there was a moment of silence on the other end of the line. Then Juan said: ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Italian, unfortunately.’” Reinier looks back fondly on this now. Contact with Juan is going well, with their first in-person meeting hopefully taking place in August. “I’ll then be able to take the next step in learning, to really experience that a new language also means embarking on a new adventure.”

This article was previously published in Radboud Magazine (issue #68, June 2021).