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

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 10:42:37 EDT 2018

 Shakespeare in trouble: Dutch fret about English on campus
*Published *Jun 4, 2018, 11:17 am IST
*Updated *Jun 4, 2018, 11:17 am IST
Some 90 percent of the Dutch population speaks English, to the envy of many
of its less anglo-competent neighbours.
[image: Shakespeare in trouble: Dutch fret about English on campus. (Photo:
 Shakespeare in trouble: Dutch fret about English on campus. (Photo:

*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 (EU)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 percent 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

Some "65 percent of bachelor's degrees are in Dutch while 15 percent of
master's degrees are in Dutch," education ministry spokesman Michiel
Hendrikx told AFP. That some 85 percent 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

* 'Languicide'*

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 told AFP. "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

"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
said. 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 Dutch."


 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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