Brug over een rivier en kerk in Keulen, Duitsland

Working with Germany: get to know each other's language and culture!

Nature conservation, security, and healthcare are topics that are not limited to one's own municipality or region, but rather call for a joint approach across borders. In this context, employees of government and semi-government institutions in the border area with Germany often work together with colleagues from the neighbouring country. But how do you make sure that linguistic and cultural differences don’t hinder this process? A training course in which employees from both sides learn about each other's language and culture turns out to be extremely useful. In this blog post, participants talk about their experiences.

German (and Dutch) training course for government employees

On behalf of the Rhine-Waal Euregio, In'to Languages regularly organises a three-day training course in which mayors, alderpersons and other municipality and administration officials can learn the neighbouring language together. In addition to general language skills and a focus on professional language, participants also gain insight into the official structures of the neighbouring country and the business differences between the two countries.

Expressing yourself more easily

Martin Riesmeijer, Councillor for D66 in Wageningen, says: “As a Euregio councillor, every year, I attend several meetings and events, which are usually organised in both languages. I already had a solid foundation in German, because I grew up close to the border. But I wanted to be just a little more comfortable and confident expressing myself in German.”

The language training course also helps him to better articulate what he means: “I used to say ‘ganz gut’ whenever I wanted to express enthusiasm. I don't anymore, because I know it means ‘fine’. So now I say ‘sehr gut’. My German conversation partners no longer have to guess my intentions from my facial expressions, but understand that I’m enthusiastic about what is being said.”

False friends

German participants are also enthusiastic about the training course. Ulrich Francken, Euregio ambassador and former Mayor of Weeze: “I learned once more how to address people in Dutch, and also to watch out for false friends.” These are words that look similar but don’t mean the same thing, like ‘slim’ and ‘schlimm’. Francken continues: “The reminder was useful for my conversations in daily life and in contacts with Dutch partners. In this respect, I’ve already achieved one of my goals: to have everyday conversations.”

Trust relationship

Participants experience the training course as intensive and informative. They are also very enthusiastic about the knowledge exchange with German and Dutch colleagues. Lieselotte Bürgi, one of the teachers: “Knowledge of the neighbouring language and culture allows people to understand the nuances, creating smoother communication and building a relationship of trust. Participants also use the training course to network and develop ideas for collaboration.”

In conclusion, although people often roughly understand each other in the neighbouring language, and English comes in handy as a lingua franca, mastering the neighbouring language and understanding the other culture clearly has added value. It is the cornerstone of successful collaboration.

Are you interested in our tailor-made course German for government employees, for yourself or your team? If so, please contact our tailor-made courses department at maatwerk [at] (maatwerk[at]into[dot]ru[dot]nl) or call 024 361 61 66 .

Written by
J. Arns (Judith)
J. Arns (Judith)
Judith Arns is Head of Tailor made courses at Radboud in'to Languages and Head Wageningen in'to Languages.