Summer School, Utrecht, 15th to 19th July 2019 – Develop your intercultural competences to perform more effectively across cultures

Develop your intercultural competences to perform more effectively across cultures
15th to 19th of July 2019 in Utrecht with facilitators – Nicole Kienhuis and Jackie van der Kroft will be the facilitators.
Wharf level night view of Oudegracht canal in the old city centre of Utrecht, Netherlands

 The old city centre, Utrecht, Netherlands

This summer the Utrecht University offers you a challenging course to develop your intercultural competences. These competences are becoming more and more crucial nowadays.

As we all know, performing well in one’s own familiar context or culture doesn’t automatically equal studying or working effectively in an international context and/or in a diverse team. Even though we live and work in an increasingly globalized world, in which we seem to look, sound and think more and more alike, we are faced with deep layers of cultural differences. Navigating these differences and being able to cross bridges requires developing these four intercultural competences: intercultural sensitivity, intercultural communication, building commitment and managing uncertainty.

Power Talking Webinar, 9th April 2019, hosted by Gary Thomas

Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 10:00 AM Berlin Time – One Hour
Registration deadline: Saturday, 6th April 2019 Berlin Time.
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George Walther – Power Talk

In this webinar SIETAR Germany’s Gary Thomas will take a look at power talking and how it can impact and influence ourselves, those we lead, our peers, our partners and our environment.

Power Talking is a system of using common words to create uncommonly positive outcomes, developed in the USA by George Walther. The phrase he uses to define this concept is ‘What you say is what you get’.




Are you one of many parents out there bringing up kids bi- or trilingually? Are you sick of parents of monolingual kids telling you “Wow, your kids are so lucky” whilst you trawl through Maths in another language when you actually never really got it in your mother tongue? You barely understand the order of operations BODMA rule in English let alone its German KLAPUSTRI equivalent?

Oh I get you! I seriously do. All very time consuming when you are working and homework sessions seem to go on forever. Bringing up children bilingually takes a lot of commitment and consistency. I know it as I’ve been there, done it and yes, have two wonderful bicultural and bilingual children that move in and out of languages and cultures with the flexibility of an American Express platinum card.

But the early days were tough. As a British mother bringing two kids up in Austria, a lot of my friends and colleagues were constantly telling me how lucky I was that my kids were bilingual. I knew in my heart of hearts that this would be great long-term and their future employers would profit from their linguistic assets, but at home I was listening to the dreadful sounds of Denglish, and there was a time when every sentence my kids uttered was painful to my ears. These ranged from word order issues such as “Mummy, I want to the toilet go” (German sentence structure), to verb confusion “French did entfallen today” (was cancelled) and general noun usage errors like “Mum, can you make me a Wurstbrot” (open sandwich with luncheon meat) for words that didn’t really exist in English.

The only book I read on the topic was a bit dry (there were unfortunately no blogs back then) but the message I extracted from it was “keep it consistent” and this has definitely paid off.

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Let’s break it down into bitesize pieces and see how raising kids bilingually can be done as effectively as possible. Here are five ways of ensuring that bilingualism works:

  1. Be consistent. If you are the parent responsible for a particular language, stick to your mother tongue. Even if your child answers you back in the local language and you speak that language fluently or with your partner. Just don’t budge!
  2. Correct your child in a genteel fashion – the best way to do this is to repeat the incorrect sentence correctly, without pointing it out to the child. This is a bit tedious at the beginning as you may feel that every short exchange turns into a mammoth dialogue, but it really helps.
  3. Expose your child to as much of the less present language as possible, this may be in terms of TV, films and books from the lesser predominant culture. Find ways of making the language attractive – watching films together, cooking, inviting friends over and speaking the language. Their friends will often find having a bilingual friend rather exciting. Talking to them is really important!
  4. Keep family ties going with trips to their “other” culture(s) in the holidays and with Facetime & co, it’s easy to stay in contact with grandma and grandad or other relatives across the seas. This should be encouraged at a young age as teenagers sometimes want to travel less for FOMO as they get more integrated into their local life.
  5. Maybe your child can gain recognised qualifications in a language in the country you are residing in. In the UK it is possible to do a GCSE in most languages and although the school can’t provide all the teaching, they are usually more than happy for pupils go gain qualifications in their mother tongue.


Many parents feel guilty about bringing up kids in different cultures as there are transitional periods when kids suffer from the change. Trilingualism (e.g. parents with two different mother tongues living in a third country) may take a bit more effort and it often depends on the child as to how they cope with it.

Thankfully, it will all unfold with time. My children have been penalised somewhat in school systems – in Austria their lack of knowledge of English grammar such as when to use the present progressive meant they didn’t always get top marks in English despite their fluency.

In the UK they were able to do their German exams (GCSEs and A-Levels) early but they found doing scientific subjects difficult in English because of lack of knowledge and language. In exam scenarios they have to think long and hard about the differences between “examine”, “explain” and “analyse” in questions, partly because this approach is very British but also because their vocabulary is smaller in both languages. And yet they were never considered by the system in the UK to need extra time as they didn’t sound “foreign” enough.

three person doing hand gestures


Being a multilinguist is a great skill for future employers and companies love ‘em! The neuroplasticity of bilingual brains is extensive. Do they think out of the box? Quite frankly NO! Because they don’t have any boxes to think out of! They are flexible, open-minded, empathetic, inclusive and very useful team members as they see value in and create synergy from different ideas and approaches.

Gone are the days when bilingualism was frowned upon – the tut-tutting of immigrants using their language on public transport or when immigrants were told by kindergartens and schools to speak the local language at home.

It’s something to be proud of and companies definitely do not undervalue linguistic assets. These days being ahead globally means having both knowledge of foreign markets and speaking foreign languages. So being bilingual gives you a step ahead – and it’s okay if your kids are not perfectly balanced bilinguals.  The effort and hard work you put in in their younger years is definitely worth it in the long run.

friends friendship fun girlfriend

Email Vanessa now at to start a conversation on bringing up children multilingually.

And please share if you know anyone who may benefit from reading this.

About the author:

Vanessa has been training intercultural communication in various locations for around 14 years and is passionate about helping people relocate and reach their maximum potential from their time abroad.

Congratulations on International Women’s Day – A piece of inspiration by Seyda Buurman – Kutsal

The Achievements of Women

Today I am celebrating the former and future achievements of women worldwide in their battle for equality and respect, and against bias.

Is this just for woman? Of course not. In the contrary, there is an important role in this for men.

If you ever attended one of my trainings you will remember: a battle for the rights of a minority is more likely to have a positive outcome when the majority fights for it. And yes, men are actually still a minority in the Netherlands, by numbers. (in 2018 the Netherlands counted 8,527610 men and 8,654043 women according to CBS, worldwide there are actually more men than women according to Human Development Report of United Nations). So you can’t lean back and relax. International women’s day is your business too, or of your partner or your son or your male leader’s.

One of the positive examples that I know is Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. Another example is the company Gillette with their advertisement campaign for razors where they chose to make a clear statement about the attitude and position that is taught to and about boys. Yes, it is an advertisement by a company and still, they did not have to make a critical social statement but they chose to. Just like the company Nike with their new add about crazy dreams of women. Have a look at the Gillette ad here and the Nike ad here

I would like to hear from you about your good examples!

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day in the Netherlands is “heroine”

Prominent, invisible, dead and alive, great and small. We all know them because in each town and in every village there are and were heroines. Heroines who have been fighting for equal rights for women and their fellow human beings in a special way.

You can remember, honour, congratulate, salute, encourage them or give them a voice.

One of my heroines is Jane Elliott, the founder of the workshop Brown Eyed Blue Eyed. During our conversation last week, she told me that she is nowhere near being ready with her fight against discrimination.

She received the honorary doctorate from the University of Northern Iowa in December last year for a lifetime of determination to make a change in people’s ideology. She finds it disturbing. According to her, it is not a great achievement for a University to give another white, privileged person an honorary doctorate. How seldom does this happen? She sees greater importance in honouring the efforts of so many people of colour for their achievements and efforts. For this reason, she is now thinking about refusing the next doctorate which is going to be offered later this year from another University.

My other heroine is my mother. She taught me to take myself seriously as a woman and to believe in my power. As a single mother she raised two children in a warm and safe home. This was in surroundings that were neither friendly for migrants or for a divorced woman either. She offered one of the first intercultural sewing and cooking classes for mixed groups of women. It was a way to provide dialogue between them and to get to know each other’s culture and language. She did this on top of her fulltime job in a factory. Even today she is my rock, making my work possible by being there with my family while I am out here, working with you.

Who is your heroine? I would be excited to hear about her!

And which heroines do you share and tell others about? I found a book with some great examples to read to (grand)kids, to to use in class, give as a gift to nephews and nieces, or, just to read for yourself:

2017, Elena Favilli, Particular Books

Women in leadership

There is something about women in leadership positions. I have been asked repeatedly if I have a programme for this issue. In the last couple of months I have been working for a couple of clients who kept landing on the same question over and over again: how can we learn from female leadership instead of teaching women to adjust. The outcomes were special and very successful. I am converting them in to a new training course right now. I’ll keep you updated about it in my next mail. And no, the training is not ‘women only’!

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Author – Şeydâ Buurman-Kutsal

Supervising | Training | Advisor

Contant – Mobile phone; +31-6 27 40 66 61