17 April 2003
Leiden University Weekly Newspaper - ENGLISH PAGES
‘High fees needed to fill the gaps‘
"Money the university makes from foreign student tuition fees cannot be used for internationalisation yet. It‘s needed to fill the gaps in the university budget," says Vice-Chairman of the university board, Van Bergen, in answer to a question posed by Peter Geluk, a student member of the university council. Geluk is of the opinion that the high foreign student tuition fees – approximately 10,000 euros – should be spent on grants for Leiden or foreign students. "We want the university to not only attract overseas students to Leiden, but also to give Leiden students the opportunity to study abroad as well," Geluk explains. Van Bergen disagrees. ‘It‘s our goal to generate money with these courses. You have to understand that, until recently, the university had great financial problems. And we still really need that money." Van Bergen‘s answer did not satisfy Geluk. "The university itself suggests that the money is used for foreign students," he says, referring to a memo in which the fees for foreign students are discussed. "The university makes a profit of 7,500 euros per foreign student. Of course the university can benefit from that money, but it should not be used to improve its general trading results." He points out that facilities for foreign students, such as housing, need to be improved, even though internationalisation is high on the university‘s priority list. Ultimately, the university hopes to attract thousands of foreign students to Leiden each year.
Students demand red-light zone in Leiden
Last week, members of the student society Augustinus collected 600 signatures in support of their plan to turn the Vrouwenkerkhof into a red-light prostitution zone. Seven students, wearing sandwich boards, collected signatures in the Haarlemmerstraat. At first glance, their message, which was written in ink on their big white sandwich boards, was ambiguous. But reading it closely, the thin pen lines revealed their true intentions: the students want a red-light zone on the Vrouwenkerkhof. A jolly student prank, any random passer-by might think. But the students‘ petition-drive seemed to be in earnest. At least, that‘s what medical student Alexander Greeven, who initiated the petition, said. "Since the summer last year, Augustinus members have been complaining about it." According to Greeven, there‘s been a spate of sexual crimes of late in Leiden, and he says the northern section of the Haarlemmerstraat is particularly unsafe. "Gentleman society members must always escort girls home at night. I was kicked off my bike once myself. When I heard more and more students say that they avoided that area at night, I put two and two together." The idea is that the number of sexual offences will be reduced if prostitution is available in a designated area. Greeven says the demand for a red-light zone has been "exaggerated on purpose to trigger discussion." The main purpose is for the students to ‘give a clear signal‘ to the city authorities. But, a week later, the secret is out: the petition-drive was simply a fraternity ragging joke.
Baking pancakes or bananas
Foreigners follow Dutch II course at Leiden University‘s Language Centre in hope of getting better jobs
The Language Centre‘s Gemma van Leeuwen teaches Dutch for beginners. With devotion and an enormous amount of patience she guides foreigners along the rough paths and slippery slopes of the Dutch language. This Monday evening the fourteen students in her class are treated to all sorts of language exercises—among them, they practise irregular verbs, word order and conversational skills. Her students, who come from all over the world, including countries like Rwanda, Russia, Iran, Iraq and Peru, are not absolute beginners. They‘ve all successfully completed the first language course, Dutch I, which is given in English.
Tonight‘s class is taught in Dutch and that takes a little getting use to. Some have difficulties following the teacher‘s instructions, but in general they understand the drift of what she is saying. If not, Van Leeuwen is always willing to repeat her question, correct pronunciation errors and help her students in their search for the right words. Every one of them is asked to read a few sentences from their textbook aloud. The Iraqi Nibras Alziedi trips over the Dutch word ‘pannenkoeken‘, i.e. pancakes. It comes out as ‘bananen bakken‘, baking bananas. In the middle of the sentence Alziedi stops. She looks puzzled. Strange cooking habits the Dutch have, she reckons, and then continues. Van Leeuwen quickly explains the mix up and the class falls about laughing.
Aviv Cohen (27) from Israel is determined to learn to speak Dutch properly. He hopes a sufficient mastery of the language will ultimately improve his job prospects. “I‘ve been in Holland for little over a year now,” he says. “I used to work as chief security for the Israeli Embassy and was stationed here. My wife came along with me. She‘s getting her Master‘s degree in psychology at the moment and speaks Dutch fluently.” Dutch II is an intensive course, Aviv explains. “Classes take six hours a week and that‘s without counting the time you have to spend on your homework.” He finds creating a correct Dutch sentence the hardest part of the course. “I can understand what the Dutch are talking about, at least most of the time. Speaking, on the other hand, is still rather difficult. Especially when I want to use the past tense or the present perfect.”
The Brit Suzanne van Leeuwen (30) sits next to Aviv. She lives with Peter, her Dutch husband. “We had lived in England for a while but decided to move to Holland five months ago. I‘m studying Dutch so I can speak to my mother-in-law. She‘s very old and does not understand English very well.” Suzanne also hopes to find another job once she has reached a near-native level. “Right now I have a very boring temporary job,” she complains. Besides career prospects, she‘s studying Dutch in order to learn about Dutch culture. “Some people warned me that I might see Peter differently if I got to know more about Dutch conduct.” So far, she‘s not impressed: “I have noticed the Dutch don‘t pay much attention to table manners. They just lick their knifes and talk with their mouths full.” Aviv feels more at home. “The Dutch are the Israeli‘s of Europe”, he explains. “They tell you straight out what they think of you. I really like that!”
The Language Centre is part of the Faculty of Arts. It offers practical language courses: Dutch for Foreigners, English, Italian, French and Spanish.The courses Dutch 1, 2 and 3 are open for students, university staff and others. For prospective Leiden University students the Language Centre offers an intensive course programme called, Dutch for Foreigners. For more information check out www.leidenuniv.nl.
Ministries of Silly Names
I have always felt that one of the tests for seeing whether someone is a native speaker of a language is by asking them which personal names they find amusing sounding in their own language. It took an Italian friend, for example, to point out that my school headmaster‘s name was actually somewhat quirky given his job, when I would honestly never have noticed. The headmaster‘s name was Giles Slaughter, and I have never been able to think about him the same way since. Nor do you hear many Germans sniggering at the name Schwarzkopf
, although when translated it does sound amusing. One of the most powerful families in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is the Dixit
clan. They have links to the royal family, and are some of the most respected intellectuals of the country. Until recently, their surname was spelt Dikshit
. The inclusion of the ‘x‘ may save them a great deal of embarrassment.
When I ask Dutch friends to tell me which names they find amusing in Dutch, I usually draw a blank. On occasion, when someone does find one that tickles them, it is usually a Friesian name. To me, as an occasional outsider, there are a great many Dutch names which warrant a smile, and we doesn‘t have to look into dusty history books to find them. In fact, we need look no further than to some of the ex-ministers of the Dutch parliament. John Cleese would no doubt invent a Ministry of Silly Names skit just to get mileage from them. To an English-speaker‘s sensibilities, it sounds a little odd to be called Mr. Salmon
(Zalm), but thankfully his portfolio was Finance and not Fisheries. Then of course there is Dr. Breast
(Borst), the former Vice Premier and minister of Health (amongst other titles). A perfect job for a woman of her name, wouldn‘t you agree? If she opts for early retirement, is there any chance that she may be replaced by a Mr. Heart or Ms. Lung? We shouldn‘t forget Mr. Short-Neck
(Korthals), minister for Justice, who may be related to the English cricketer Gladstone Small, another man severely challenged in the neck department. Top of the pile, both politically and in terms of nomenclature, and not to be outdone by his funny-named colleagues, was the Minister-president, the wonderfully named Mr. Cock
, sorry, Kok. I wonder if it ever raises eyebrows at international meetings, particularly since his first name seems somewhat reminiscent of a household cleaning powder. Hats off to the man, I say, for having managed to do so well and go so far with such a name. And may there be many more body parts in the Dutch parliament.