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  • Writer's pictureHLE Network

45 organizations celebrate anniversary of HLE Networking Night

September 26, 2023

Today is the European Day of Languages, a day to celebrate and promote linguistic diversity in Europe. It is the perfect day to report about our successful networking event that took place on Thursday, September 21, at café "M" in Eindhoven: the 5th Annual HLE Networking Night. At the event we were thrilled to welcome 66 guests from 45 organizations!

Read coverage of this event in Dutch, by Brainport:


A full program

The event was opened by some words from Alderman Samir Toub, who expressed appreciation for the volunteer groups in Brainport/Eindhoven who work to support multilingual children through heritage language and culture educational courses. This was followed by a message from HLE Network's Managing Director, who explained why there will always be a need for heritage language advocacy work. The main activity of the evening was a 3-round quiz about linguistic diversity, run by "Number 42," during which 10 teams competed for first and second place. All guests were awarded a tote bag with slogan "Laat alle talen stralen." During the event guests also had the chance to show support for possible ideas for the future, through "star-voting." Every language group went home with a half-meter of colored markers as a token of appreciation for their hard work supporting multilingual children in our community.

Thank you!

Many thanks to all of our sponsors! This event was made possible by Brainport Development and Holland Expat Center South. The gifts and tote bags at this event were sponsored by Eindhoven Library, SWP Publishing / Marinella Orioni, Ririro, LAPPA Books International, and Wingzzz. We also extend a warm thank you to all of our guests, who came from near and far, including heritage language professionals, staff from local schools, libraries, government, the consultatiebureau, universities, and more!

Click here to view the list of organizations/initiatives that registered/attended



Positive feedback from attendees

Very well organized! Appreciate the effort from the organization team! Well done!

I think what was really beautiful about the evening was the combination of emotion and “heart” for multilingualism, and the presence of research-based ideas and interventions. We often see one or the other, but this combination is what we need in order to truly discover how to best support children’s brain and personal development in sustainable, evidence-based, and practical ways.

I really enjoyed this event. The quiz was fun and it was great to meet some new people in the world of HLE. I was happy to hear the alderman's enthusiasm for multilingualism. Count me in next year!


Photo Gallery


Speech from HLE Network's Managing Director

Wow, look around. How incredible that we are all standing in the same room. In June 2019, we got all of the HL programs together in one room at the Reigerlaan Basisschool for our first symposium, and that felt like a great accomplishment. But today, to have all of the HL programs together in the same room as so many other important organizations – this really feels like we are making progress.

Since I have all of your attention, I am going to take the chance to share an important message. But I don’t have much time, so I have to use it wisely. Many of you know that I am always bursting with information. It is not possible to boil down all of our accomplishments over the last 4 years and our plans for the future into 10 minutes.

So, let’s keep it simple:

What you need to know is: HERITAGE LANGUAGE PROGRAMS ARE HERE, IN YOUR COMMUNITY. If you pay attention to them, you will see how much they shine.

Heritage language education is here because it is everywhere that there is human migration.

Why is heritage language education everywhere, why is it so important? I could stand here and quote different UN declarations about human rights, linguistic rights, children’s rights. I could tell you about how HL activities are in line with several UN Sustainability Goals, or I could tell you about how it has to do with what is called “intangible cultural heritage”. But instead I invite you to ask someone here tonight who spends time running or teaching at a HL program why it is important to them. I doubt they will mention the UN.

Most of the people involved in HL education here are volunteers who get little to no compensation. People sacrifice their time and energy to make sure that children from their language community can learn to read and write in the home language, to make sure that they have books to read in the home language. By the way, it is a wonderful development that local businesses, libraries, and schools have started to support multiligual children by giving them greater access to books in the home language -- but if the children are expected to pick up these books and actually read them independently – you see that it is volunteer groups who ensure that children develop these skills. The volunteers also want to see the children understand who they are and where they come from. The volunteers want the children to communicate with extended family, even if they only see that family a few times per year. Volunteers want children to gain a skill that can prepare them for today’s multilingual job market.

That is why heritage language programs are here. It is a real service that they provide to the multilingual children in the community.

There are over 40 children in the French program, over 70 in the Korean program, over 400 in the Chinese program -- the list goes on. We usually estimate the number of students in HL programs in the region at about 1500.

Of course, learning Dutch is very important. No one here would argue that Dutch is not important. But keep in mind that 75% of the students in HL programs in our network were born in the Netherlands and will stay long term in the Netherlands, and a quarter of them have a native-Dutch speaking parent -- so the language that is at risk in most cases is actually the heritage language.

And in fact, that is why heritage language programs are here!

We know that the Dutch government recognizes that HL education is important the moment a Dutch-speaking family steps outside of the Netherlands. Stichting NOB supports Dutch language and culture courses across the world. If the Ministry of Education helps finance Stichting NOB, then they actually already know that HL education is important.

We were very happy to see that there are signs that the Dutch national government appreciates the hard work of language and culture organizations: see this quote from former Education Minister Dennis Wiersma from May this year.

Even education outside our regular education system affects the way children interact with each other, their environment and the rest of the world. Many informal educational institutions make a valuable contribution to our society. They help children develop social skills, self-awareness and identity, for example, by teaching them about their parents' or grandparents' language and culture. In this way they contribute to children gaining confidence in themselves and finding their place in Dutch society.

-Dennis Wiersma, May 24, 2023, Kamerbrief over de voortgang van de beleidsagenda informeel onderwijs

As you can see, he recognizes that heritage language education is valuable and that it is here.

As I said, this form of education is everywhere. And because of that, we know the answers to a lot of questions, like, “How can we support HL education?” because we’ve talked to people all over the world who have already figured it out [click here to read these interviews, be sure to scroll down to see the list]. And there is of course academic research in this field. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What we have learned is that even when there are policies in favor of heritage language education, when it is a right that is mandated by federal law, when it is incorporated into the mainstream education system -- this type of education still struggles! HL teachers in those seemingly ideal situations still suffer from a lower status and often lack sufficient training opportunities. This interview I did with a Portuguese teacher in Austria really demonstrates this:

It's great that we have this beautiful law, but it takes a whole community to make sure that the law is implemented. You need to have a language community that is raising awareness, doing a lot of persuading.

So even if a country is lucky enough to have a law protecting the right to HL education, language communities have to be mobilized to make sure that the law is actually implemented, adequately funded, and lobbied for. So the point is that no matter how HL education is organized, there will always be a need for HL advocacy work.

So, one last time: HL programs are here, and they are organizing fantastic opportunities for the multilingual children in this region.

If you pay attention to them, you will see how much they shine!

I will close by saying something to all of the language groups: it has been a sincere pleasure for me to get to personally know all of you, to celebrate your triumphs, and to lend an ear when you face struggles. Our team hopes that all of the activities that we are organizing at the network level are having a positive impact on your programs.

Speech in het Nederlands



Results from star-voting

Each attendee was given 4 stars, and there were 180 stars counted on the boards, which indicates that 45 attendees voted. In the images below, you can see the ideas for the future that our attendees liked the most.

The most popular ideas were:

  • HLE Network should make sure that at least one page about HL education included is in the city guides about after school activities (Kies je Sport en Kunst)

  • HLE Network and its Affiliates should lobby the local government to improve the situation for arranging stable lesson locations for HL programs

  • HLE Network should prepare a flyer in Dutch (or other languages) about heritage language education for mainstream schools and libraries to give to parents of multilingual children

The ideas that received few votes are not necessarily bad ideas or undesirable, but they simply were not among people's top four favorite when they were put under pressure to choose within a few minutes!


Quiz results

During the quiz, there were ten teams competing, with approximately six people per team. The quiz was custom-made by "Number 42" to inform people about issues surrounding heritage language education and linguistic diversity. The first-place prize was the book Hoeveel Talen Spreek Jij? by Marinella Orioni. Congratulations to the two winning teams!


Social media posts

Check out our LinkedIn post about the event, plus other social media coverage:


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