From English teachers to entrepreneurs
After years of teaching English, Ad de Beer took a new turn in the late ’80s. He had himself sworn in at the courthouse and, alongside his job, ventured into interpreting and translating for the Accent translation agency. In due course, he and his wife Nanda took over the translation agency together. The pace was relentless. Ad often found himself translating into the wee hours of the night or dictating translations to Nanda. This was all happening on an Olivetti typewriter, a marvel of technology from that era.
In addition to the translation work, Ad crafted persuasive texts for advertising agencies. It was a delightful yet bustling period, a time when the clatter of keys on the Olivetti and the flow of creative words blended into the symphony of a life embracing both passion and profession.
The Alquin telephone service
Nanda’s father ran a one-man business, and whenever he had to step out, he relied on the services of an “answering service.” They would handle his phone calls, and his telex messages would arrive at this agency. Ad and Nanda saw room for improvement. Alquin Telefoonservice came into existence. In this pre-digital era, they harnessed the latest technologies in telephone answering machines, telex, and fax. They were among the pioneers in the Netherlands to own a fax machine. You would call each other to announce the impending arrival of a fax and then switch on the fax machine. The telephone and fax were usually connected to the same phone line. Often, in the dead of night, the telex would suddenly start humming with a message from afar, audible all the way to the bedroom. It was a time when every ring, every hum, held the promise of a new adventure in the evolving landscape of communication.
The creation of the publishing house
The available English teaching materials from that time were often amateurish in design and covered dull topics. Ad and Nanda believed they could do better. With Ad’s marketing expertise and their combined knowledge of English and education, they developed Alquin Magazine. They understood the students, their levels, and what it took to engage young minds in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Each time a new issue emerged, it would be delivered by the truckload at their doorstep and pushed into the garage on pallets. On the dining table, an assembly line was set up to count and distribute everything. They still worked with cassette tapes containing the audio files. Their daughter, Adriënne, took charge of labeling and sliding the tapes into the holders. Boys from the neighbourhood earned some extra cash by counting materials and packing them into boxes.
The expansion of the Alquin products
The idea behind Alquin Magazine was to offer students and teachers texts with topics that are topical, inviting, and provoking. Texts you wouldn’t find in a standard textbook designed to last for several years. It was a bullseye. Ad and Nanda reveled in the stories from teachers who shared that, when they distributed the new Alquin Magazines, students immediately immersed themselves in reading. Along the way, other products were developed—exam training, a grammar method, and a series of literature booklets. Always with the mindset that the existing materials didn’t provide the right quality and weren’t developed sufficiently from the perspective of the student. It was a journey driven by the belief that education should constantly evolve to meet the dynamic needs of the learners.
A new generation at the helm
After more than 30 years, Alquin Magazine has become a cornerstone in the Dutch and Flemish educational landscape. Following Ad’s passing in 2020, daughter Adriënne and son Robert took the reins of the family business. Infusing it with fresh passion and energy, they are dedicated to the original vision that remains as relevant as ever. Developing current educational materials that stimulate and connect, they aim to resonate with the experiences of today’s youth and initiate meaningful dialogues. Always thinking of those students eagerly diving into the pages as the new Alquin Magazines are handed to them. The legacy continues, a story of continuity and commitment to fostering engaging education.