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"It's a growing process"

24 january 2022

APG is the largest pension administration organization in the Netherlands. Miriam Crutzen is APG’s Head of Business & Performance Control. In that role she works with colleagues of different nationalities and English is the official language. To strengthen her language skills, she followed an individual English training course at STE.

What was your motivation for taking a language course?
“APG is active worldwide. We have offices in Hong Kong and New York. English is spoken there by default. English is also common among board members. Reading, listening, and writing in English was no problem because you have enough time to think. But with speaking, I didn't feel quite as confident in expressing my thoughts, hence the need to increase my language skills.”

How did you come into contact with STE Languages?
“APG has a number of preferred suppliers. STE is one of them, so contact was made quickly.”

Why did you choose individual training?
‘Individual training offers scope for customization. I worked out the programme together with the teacher: what exactly was the need, what was needed?”

You completed the course online. How was that?
"Due to COVID 19, training was indeed online. It is quite intensive to communicate via a screen. You do miss the non-verbal signs and the intonation in voice. Online you also have less small talk than in real life. I was able to follow one lesson on location at STE, face to face. That was much more pleasant. You have better and closer interaction with each other and then there is also time for a coffee chat.”

To what extent has the training add value to your work?
“I am naturally self-critical and want to do it right immediately. During the course I learned to rely on my existing knowledge. So just do it, even if it's not quite right. The fine tuning will come after that. Once I had that mindset, I noticed that I could speak much more freely. This gradually developed; it is a growth process.”

How was the guidance from STE?
“Despite the digital setting, I still had a good connection with the teacher. He gave me confidence and was himself broadly experienced in a variety of topics. Then, you also have authentic conversations with each other, that go far beyond simple questions and answers. In addition, he gave me the time and space to learn through positive-critical feedback.”

To what extent are you still working on strengthening your English language skills?
“I read and write English frequently but don't talk as much yet. I have to keep challenging myself to keep speaking English at work. So, getting out of my comfort zone. Outside work, I sometimes watch Netflix without subtitles, or with English subtitles. I regularly have small ‘chit chats’ with my husband in English. In this way we encourage each other to maintain our language skills.”

Do you have any tips for new students?
“Don't think too much, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Just do it. Getting better will come naturally.”

Finally, how do you look back on the language course?
“Very positively. I discussed many different social topics with my teacher. The content of the lessons contributed to my learning curve. I can recommend it to everyone.”