Seducing the Frisians: larger budget and new goals for Frisian language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Sep 1 15:43:53 UTC 2007

Seducing the Frisians: larger budget and new goals for Frisian language policy

Ljouwert, Friday, 31 August 2007 by Onno P. Falkena

The new Frisian Minister of Culture, Mrs Jannewietske de Vries, wants
to "seduce" the Frisians into using their language more, anywhere, and
using any device ranging from mobile phones to computers. In order to
implement Frisian language policy the newly elected Frisian executive
has decided to increase the annual budget for language policy from
120,000 to 400,000 euros.

The increased budget comes on top of the regular finance for Frisian
media and Frisian education. "We want to give our language policy a
new impetus", says Mrs de Vries. "Frisians and Frisian organisations
with ideas for projects to strengthen the position of Frisian are most
welcome to come forward with their proposals. The language belongs to
the people. We have to use the ideas from our society to help our
language policy take root." For the coming three years Mrs. de Vries
aims to make Frisian more visible on the street. According to the new
language policy document, 'From right to practice, language among the
people', by 2015 Frisian should be just as visible on Frisian streets
as Euskara is in the Basque Country, Cymraeg in Wales or Swedish in

However, the memorandum does not reveal how the Frisian executive
intends to realise this goal. In daily life Frisian is very present in
the smaller villages, but hardly visible in some of the larger towns.
In order to change this banks, supermarkets and restaurants will be
asked to use Frisian signs and menus. There is also money to
strengthen the position of Frisian in ICT, and discussions are under
way with Microsoft about the launch of a Frisian language version of
Microsoft Office. There are also plans for a Frisian predictive
texting for mobile phones.

"We should try to make it as easy as possible for Frisians to use
Frisian. What we really want to do is to seduce them to use Frisian",
said Jannewietske de Vries. Other priorities are informing parents of
young children about the benefits of multilingualism and stimulating
the use of Frisian in health care and the private sector. According to
the Frisian executive it is time that Frisian hospitals started using
bilingual signs instead of Dutch signs only. Within a few years the
majority of Frisian hospitals should have Frisian signs.

The main objectives of Frisian language policy is to reverse the
language shift from slow, but steady language loss, to language
growth. The goals of the Frisian executive state that in the year 2020
95 % of the population should be able to understand the language (now
94 %), 75 % should be able to speak the language (now 74 %), 75 % of
the youth should be able to speak Frisian well (now 71 %), and at
least one out of every three Frisians should be able to write Frisian
(now only 26 %). Another important goal for the coming years is to
establish a place for Frisian in the Dutch constitution where it has
equality with the Dutch language. (Eurolang 2007)

Websites with more information:
website of the province Fryslân, with the new Frisian language policy
in Dutch and Frisian£_Kultuer_41818.aspx;
website of Omrop Fryslân, carrying a story and a radio interview with
Jannewietske de Vries

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