Regina Coeli: ‘better communication benefits relationships with others’

WATT is always on the lookout for unusual entrepreneurs, concepts and ideas that deserve a bigger stage. This time we’re meeting with Cindy van Herk from Language Institute Regina Coeli. Also known as the Nuns of Vught.

Who is Cindy van Herk?
I think people would describe me as a busy bee who truly thrives when helping ease the burden people feel and who rarely loses sight of a client’s interests. I’m married to Jurgen, am the mother of two teenagers, and have been working at Regina Coeli as Client Relations Manager for nearly 20 years. I also run a catering company and cooking studio together with Jurgen in our hometown of Oisterwijk, which caters to higher end customers. So I don’t have much chance to get bored. In other words, my biggest challenge is the ‘time’ factor.

What does the Language Institute Regina Coeli do?
We teach people to communicate better in a foreign language and culture, so they can become more effective and successful in that target language. We teach people that they can convey their message in an authentic way, which can often benefit their relationships with others.

Who is Regina Coeli actually?
Regina Coeli is our official name and that is ecclesiastical Latin for ‘Queen of Heaven’. We are more popularly known as ‘The Nuns of Vught’. In fact, our institute was founded by the Canonesses of Saint Augustine in Vught. They were part of an international education congregation. A large share of our profits still go to this foundation, which spends the funds on girls’ education in developing countries.

Learn a language at ‘The Nuns in Vught’. Are they still better than NTis and other providers of this world?
You just can’t compare a training from Regina Coeli with a ready-made course from other training providers. With us, the focus is on the student, not the course material. We put together a training course for each student based on their starting level and goals. So with us, you don’t learn from books. Each participant is assigned language trainers – all native speakers – who provide the training. From morning to evening at our institute. And yes, you really do learn the language a lot faster and better than if you have to try to pick it up from a book or online.

What makes the Regina Coeli method special?
Besides our unique method, which I just explained a bit more about, our location in Vught is also unique. Our institute is a place where peace, cleanliness and order prevail. So that’s something we also reflect in our training sessions.

Has learning languages become even more important nowadays and especially in the Brainport region with so many cultures?
We notice that on the one hand, globalisation is blurring borders, but it is precisely because of the sheer amount of cultures that it’s often a huge challenge to keep understanding each other. We are seeing an increase in the need to learn Dutch in the Brainport region. In addition to our courses in Vught where you can learn Dutch intensively, we have also developed a supplementary offer at the High Tech Campus that allows you to learn the language in small steps. This makes learning the language more accessible.

Learning a language gives people confidence, it connects them and gets them moving. Explain it to us.
You can often communicate powerfully in your native language. That’s also what you want to be able to do in a foreign language. Self-confidence is crucial for that. We impart that by teaching trainees how best to communicate in another language and culture and that it’s okay to make mistakes. When you understand each other’s language and culture better, you build a bond with people. This is how language and culture create connections. There’s one more connection that makes me happy: food! Having a nice time over food and drinks makes you feel more connected to each other. I very much enjoy seeing those satisfied faces at the table!

Since 2021, sign language has been an official language in the Netherlands. Is sign language universal and can you learn it in another language?
Every country has its own sign language. At Regina Coeli, course participants can become acquainted with Dutch Sign Language through our ‘gebaaristas’. Those are people with hearing impairments who gladly provide us with a delicious cappuccino, flat white or other drink. In a short video at the bar, the student learns what the correct gesture is and can communicate directly with the gebaarista. We enjoy being able to do something to raise awareness of sign language in this way.

What else is on the bucket list for Language Institute Regina Coeli?
Dutch celebrities often come to Regina Coeli to learn a language. I still have a bucket list of people I’d like to host in Vught, but of course we’ll keep that a secret 😉.

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