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25 maart 2016

Meeting the King of Sweden

A unique experience for Rob Bogaarts of Dutch housing assocation Woonbedrijf.


He did not learn to speak Swedish for this meeting, but Rob Bogaarts, who works for Dutch housing association Woonbedrijf, was very pleased that he had recently been taking English language lessons. Rob is responsible for the sustainability programme at Woonbedrijf, based on the ‘The Natural Step’. This concept originates from Sweden. He was invited to Stockholm to give a presentation about this method. And the Swedish King, Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden would attend. 

It really shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference of course, but if you

have to give a presentation with a king in the audience, you do want to make an extra effort of course. And presenting in English makes it just that little bit harder. A few weeks later Rob tells us: “Presenting is not something I find difficult. My colleagues know that in Dutch I can have a large audience eating out of the palm of my hand, as it were. But when it comes to English, it was completely different. I have always managed to get by with my secondary school English, but in my current job I realised that this was no longer good enough.”


No longer looking for words

“When I became responsible for The Natural Step at the Dutch housing association Woonbedrijf, I felt a strong urge to improve my English language skills.” What Rob did not want was being lost for words in English like a silly school boy. “I did an intake with a Scottish language trainer, Vianney Avella at STE. We decided to focus on Business English and Presentation Skills. At the beginning of 2015 I took a series of individual lessons. After the summer I did a follow-up course. It’s going rather well now. I have noticed that I have really improved my vocabulary.”


“I am able to use a much wider range of words at a higher level. Something that I couldn’t do before. We started by brushing up some grammar and now we are preparing my presentations together and making them even better. Or I bring along some articles that are relevant for my job and we discuss them. It’s really great! I have now reached a level of English that allows me to do this. When I was in Stockholm I was asked to give another presentation about The Natural Step in April. This time it will be in Vienna. So I am preparing my talk with Vianney. We are aiming for the perfect story!”


Is the English language course a good investment?

“It’s up to every individual to decide what he or she wants to learn. I enjoy improving my language skills. It is important to be motivated. If it’s compulsory; that just won’t work.  It takes a lot of time. I spent about 4 hours a week on homework. We have really made the classes relevant and useful. I contributed by bringing along lots of reading material. For example from the English website of The Natural Step and newspaper articles from The Guardian. Learning something new is great fun if it is closely related to your job or leisure interests. Just for a change, I gave a few presentations about football which is one of my passions. It meant that I got to use completely different words, which was great.”


And how did you get on with the king?


“There was so much security. The king was completely shielded by bodyguards. He was at a round conference table next to us, but I did not get the opportunity to talk to him personally. And you know, you don’t take a selfie with a king.” During the presentation and the debate afterwards, Rob was fluent. Not looking for words. “Because there was a king in the audience, I was really pleased that it went well. I would not have been able to do this without Vianney’s English classes. It was pretty nerve-racking, actually. And exhausting too. Having to speak English to all these hotshots for several days.”


Are you meeting a member of a royal family in a far-away country soon? Then why not make an appointment with STE to improve your language skills. Just ring +31 (0) 40 245 2860 or contact us at



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