ALCS Dutch Summer School 2023

Rebs Nelsey is in their final year of the BA Modern Languages and Cultures (Spanish, Dutch, Italian). This summer they attended a Dutch Summer School: "The confidence boost that I got from the ALCS Summer School cannot be overstated."

The author of the text on a bicycle with a red helmet just emerging from a tunnel, with some more cyclists in the backround
Rebs Nelsey leading the pack during the ALCS Summer School in Edinburgh

"Hoi! My name is Rebs. In late June of this year, I attended the ALCS Zomercursus 2023 at the University of Edinburgh. I arrived in Scotland straight from my Dutch Year Abroad in the Netherlands. My semester in Utrecht had helped me a lot in terms of picking up more of the language, but my confidence had suffered from only having native speakers around to compare my Dutch to. The confidence boost that I got from the ALCS Summer School cannot be overstated: after a week of making friends and spending time with other Dutch learners that were equally keen to practice, I felt so much more capable!

A wide range of learners attended the Zomercursus, with people of all ages, levels, and language learning backgrounds. Throughout the week we engaged in a host of activities which all linked in some way to the theme of ‘Steden van de toekomst’ (Cities of the Future). This included guest speakers who talked to us in a mix of English and Dutch on various topics, from ‘20-minute cities’ and air pollution to sci-fi novels.

Students on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. Standing quite informally in front of one of the colourful buildings

The language classes and ‘spinsessies’ were focused on actively working on our Dutch and covered grammar, vocabulary, and idioms, as well as some cultural input. I was placed in the advanced group, and we spent lots of time discussing and debating in Dutch which really encouraged us to push our Dutch as far as we could and make use of all the new vocabulary and grammatical structures we had learned.

After a week of making friends and spending time with other Dutch learners that were equally keen to practice, I felt so much more capable!

Rebs Nelsey

On the Dutch Summer School 2023

Two students at a table carefully weighing black powder
Making a glaze of city dirt during the Smogware workshop

One of my favourite activities was a ceramics workshop with the Dutch Design Activists from Smogware/SerVies. We went out into the city to ‘harvest’ pollution dust from the streets and turned that into a ceramic glaze. Then, with the guidance of a local professional ceramicist, we used our glazes to decorate our own tiles.

4 student holding up a small tile to the camera.
Smogware tiles

I also really enjoyed the karaoke night, but my favourite activity was a bike ride down to Portobello beach and back: I’d really fallen in love with cycling in the Netherlands and it was great to be back on two wheels again. I also went for a little swim in the sea when we got there but nobody else seemed keen to join me – their loss!

The week finished up with a translation workshop which I found really inspiring. I had a bit of prior experience with Spanish-English translation, but I’d never really considered Dutch-English translation – I guess I’d assumed my Dutch wouldn’t be good enough to do it. After the session, though, I began seriously thinking about it and had far more of an idea of how to get into translation. After the workshop we all gave a final presentation to the whole group as well as representatives from the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union) which we’d been working on in mixed-level groups throughout the week. They were great fun (and often very silly in a good way).

Group of 8 people of various ages looking at the camera smiling

Finally, I can honestly say that every single one of the teachers on the summer school was incredible. They really helped us to engage, feel confident, and overall improve. I couldn’t speak highly enough of the experience that they worked so hard to put together for us. I'd seriously recommend the ALCS Zomercursus to anyone learning or interested in Dutch in any capacity!"

Rebs Nelsey

The Summer School is organised under the auspices of the Association for Low Countries Studies (ALCS) with generous support of the Dutch and Flemish government through the Nederlandse Taalunie (TU). The ALCS supports research and teaching activities in Dutch Studies in the UK and Ireland. 

We are also grateful for the continued support of the Netherlands Embassy and the Representation of the Flemish Government in the UK. The ALCS Summer School is a co-production of the Universities of Edinburgh, Sheffield, and UCL.

The next edition is scheduled to take place in Sheffield in June/July 2024 and will be open to students and members of the public. 

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