[lg policy] Shakespeare in trouble: Dutch fret about English on campus

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jun 4 10:18:53 EDT 2018

 Shakespeare in trouble: Dutch fret about English on campus
Charlotte Van Ouwerkerk
<https://www.dawn.com/authors/7805/charlotte-van-ouwerkerk>June 04, 2018
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THE HAGUE: The growing popularity of English as a medium of instruction at
Dutch universities is ringing alarm bells among local lecturers and
students, with some now even calling for government intervention.

As Shakespeare’s mother tongue spreads in lecture halls across the county’s
14 universities, the Dutch education department is finalising a proposal to
deal with the matter.

Britain’s exit from the European Union next year has only accelerated the
phenomenon, with international students flocking to the Netherlands which
provides an ideal base for those wishing to study in English within the EU.

Some 90 per cent of the Dutch population speaks English, to the envy of
many of its less Anglo-competent neighbours.

To add to the attraction, many local universities are much cheaper than
their British or US-based counterparts.

English usage is particularly dominant at Master’s degree level.

Some “65 per cent of bachelor’s degrees are in Dutch while 15 per cent of
master’s degrees are in Dutch”, education ministry spokesman Michiel
Hendrikx said.

That some 85 per cent of all master’s degrees are presented in English
riles the largest teachers’ association, whose acronym BON stands for
“Better Education Netherlands” in Dutch.

“The Dutch language is gradually disappearing from campuses,” lamented
BON’s chairman Ad Verbrugge, stressing the “seriousness” of an
“unprecedented situation in Europe.”


Pressed by heated debate from campus to parliament, the Dutch Education
Ministry will soon publish a letter “with the minister’s position on the
subject”, Hendrikx said.

This follows a report in February by the Royal Dutch Academy for Arts and
Sciences (KNAW), which blasted the Netherlands for “failing to properly
protect and uphold the quality of Dutch as a language and over-estimating
the importance of English”.

“Universities are forced to offer courses in English to remain in the race”
for international students in Europe, said Verbrugge, a philosophy
professor at the University of Amsterdam.

“We are witnessing a ‘languicide’,” he said.

“We always advocate diversity but here we’re killing a minority language.
We must preserve all European languages and cultures ... Dutch students no
longer master their native tongue,” he added.


Verbrugge and BON have now launched a lawsuit against two Dutch
universities they accuse of killing the Dutch language through the
‘Anglicisation’ of courses.

The eastern Twente University and the southern University of Maastricht
offer two master’s degree courses in psychology exclusively in English.

BON called it an “impoverishment of the teaching quality and a dangerous
abandonment in the learning of the Dutch language”. “We must call the
universities to order because they’re violating the law,” which states that
all lesson and exams must be in Dutch, the union said.

An exemption can only be made when the subject matter was directly related
to a different language such as English, for instance in international
business management studies.

BON says the effects of such a language policy can even be seen in the
labour market.

Young expatriates graduating in English at Dutch universities are often
tempted to remain in the Netherlands which has a flourishing economy and
pleasant living environment, thus taking jobs from local graduates, it

Verbrugge said BON was unsure whether the lawsuits would be successful “but
at least we’ve raised the issue for discussion”.

Many Dutch students agree, saying they did not understand the value of
“pretending to be English in front of a lecturer who is just as equally

*Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2018*
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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