Case Study: Taaltaske (‘Language Pack’) – Early Language Learning in Friesland

Language Rich Europe promotes the sharing of good practice in the area of multilingualism. On our website, you can read and submit your own case studies.

In this post, we focus on one from the Dutch province of Friesland, which is actively promoting early language learning.

Many recommend learning languages as early as possible – improved literacy skills, increased confidence, more effective cognitive skills and a broader cultural understanding are just a few of the benefits often mentioned. New research even suggests that we can begin learning languages before we are born.

In Friesland, the bilingual province of the Netherlands, they take early language learning seriously – issuing a language pack (Taaltaske) to all parents when they register a birth. The pack contains information on raising a bilingual child, a Frisian children’s book and CD with children’s songs.  As the case study on the Language Rich Europe website explains

Young/future Frisian parents in the Province of Fryslân are often not aware of the possibilities of raising their child bilingually. The Taaltaske is a way to explain to them how they can go about raising their child bilingually.

This early introduction to Frisian is supported by formal education, with the language being a compulsory subject in primary schools and many using it as the language of instruction.

Submit your own case study now!

Language Rich Europe in the Netherlands – Multilingualism in Business and Education

lre- pin wheel logo300x267As part of the Language Rich Europe project, we are holding workshops across Europe to discuss the findings and plan the next steps. In this blog post, Lorcan Murray, an intern at British Council Netherlands, writes about the workshop held in Utrecht in November.

Much ado about Language

On an unseasonably warm and sunny day, Projects Team Netherlands made its way to the heart of the country, to the lovely city of Utrecht (which meant Lorcán, the intern, had a much shorter commute, so he was happier than usual!). Our purpose was to host a Language Rich Europe workshop with our partners Levende Talen and Mercator, at the wonderful location of Silverijn, on multilingualism in business and education.

We arrived nice and early to deal with last minute preparations (“put the banner over there. No, over there. Hmm, a bit more the left.”) and panics (“What do you mean, you don’t know where the name badges are?!”), and welcomed our seventy invitees to arrive in dibs and drabs. Some arrived too early; some arrived unfashionably late, but eventually we were all gathered for the introduction from Toon van der Ven, the Chairman of Levende Talen and moderator of the afternoon, which kicked-off the programme.

Mr van der Ven was followed by a panel consisting of Ms Sena Dora International Account Manager at ABN AMRO (about being multilingual at a bank), Ms Debbie Ceiler, director of secondary school Bernardinus College (about her school offering a wide language programme), Dr. Michel Wauthion, Education attaché at the French Embassy in The Hague (about the situation on foreign languages offered in secondary education in France) and Professor Guus Extra (about LRE results for Netherlands and other European countries). Each panel member ended the discussion with a thought provoking point of view. Unfortunately, Your Humble Author was unable to witness this panel discussion, as, well; someone had to welcome the late-comers!

Fortunately, Your Humble Author was able to take part in one of the four group workshops, with each group containing a panel member, and so off we all split to our designated rooms. (Your Humble Author was in Group 4. Group 4 was the best group.) In these groups we discussed the point of view put forward by our respective panel member. In the case of Your Humble Author, it was foreign languages offered in France and the interesting idea of entrelinguisme – where you learn several similar languages at the same time, in this case French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian – was debated.

After all too short a time, the lively and interesting discussion was drawn to a close and we all reconvened to relay our findings and recommendations to the other groups. The findings of group 4? That there needs to be a more national consistency in language teaching, rather than have every school have a different language policy. Since you cannot speak every language, the need to be selective in which languages we teach is paramount. How do we choose? Unfortunately, that question proved too big for the timeframe!

The programme came to a close with a nice lecture from Jacomine Nortier from Universiteit Utrecht about the advantages and prejudice of multilingualism, including a delightful video example of code switching: a child switching between English, French, and Filipino in the same sentence!

And so the day came to end with a borreltje in the gezellig basement of Silverijn, and an excellent chance to network. Proost!

Meartaligens is in pre op dyn CV

Last week, Idske Bangma, research assistant at the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, gave a presentation about multilingualism in children’s everyday life at the ‘Dag van het jonge kid’ (Day of the young child). This presentation was partly based on the results of the EC-funded MELT project (Multilingual Early Language Transmission).

Below you can read the abridged version of Idske Bangma’s presentation, in Frisian, which appeared in the newspaper the Friesch Dagblad on April 23.

Meartaligens is in pre op dyn CV

Wy kinne net mear om meartaligens hinne. Ek it ûnderwiis kriget dat hieltyd better yn ‘e gaten.

De taal is te fine yn ferskillende farianten om ús hinne. De winkelstrjitten fan ‘e grutte stêden binne hieltyd Ingelsktaliger en ‘sale’ hat ‘uitverkoop’ hast hielendal ferdrongen. Kommersjeel is der foar it Frysk of in oare streektaal gjin romte, mar op oare terreinen binne der in protte foarbylden fan de lytse taal of it dialekt, foaral yn it deistige libben en de kultuer. Tink oan muzyk, teater, kabaret en oare kultuerútings yn it Frysk, Bildts, Grunnegs, of Stellingwarfs. Yn ‘e kranten komme streektalen, dialekten en minderheidstalen werom yn berte- en rou-advertinsjes en is it Ingelsk noch fier te sykjen. Taal is dan gjin kommersjeeel kommunikaasjemiddel, mar is relatearre oan gefoel, identiteit. Wat is it moai datst dy yn dyn memmetaal úterje kinst en by dyn eigen gefoel bliuwe meist. En datsto frij bist om dyn eigen taal rûnom te brûken.

For the full article, click here.

The Chronicles @Crossing Border [Literature + Music Festival] – Unlimited

The story of The Chronicles is a story of literature coming down from the “Ivory Tower” of elitist outreach by bringing it “to the streets”. It happens during the Crossing Border Festival, the annual Literature and Music feast in The Hague (NL) and Antwerp (BE) in November with borders mingling in various dimensions (national, arts genre, origins, ages). During the Festival, young international authors are invited to share their impressions in own languages about the city of The Hague within the Festival context. The Chronicles also bring to our attention young translators who get a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight of the stage.

Prologue – About getting there

The Chronicles started with the idea of making literature more accessible to people, especially to a younger audience. While in the first year of the project contributing writers were Dutch, the international aspect came into place for the first time one year later, in 2007 – a natural direction taking into account the character of the Festival itself. [Worth noting, the first international partner to be involved was the British Council Netherlands with whom Crossing Border brought young British and Dutch writers from and to the UK].

The Chronicles were celebrating their fifth anniversary this year in the good company of the authors Ben Brooks (UK), Peter Zantingh (NL), Pola Oloixarac (AR), and Sacha Sperling (FR). The participating translators were: Anne RoetmanAstrid Huisman, Beth Fowler, Katinka Staals, Laura Williams, and Vivien Doornekamp-Glass.

The Language Rich Europe project proudly supported the initiative.

The Chronicles – About the columns

It all starts before the Festival itself with a prologue column from the young writers. They write about their expectations, excitement about being translated into languages they do not know themselves, or simply travel. As Sacha Sperling, a young French author, notes “Aujourd’hui, les mots sont devenus mon passeport.” [Words became my passport today].

07-11-2011 Prologue                          Pola Oloixarac (Argentina, 1977)

En fin, no sé qué me espera en el festival europeo. ¿Podré, como mi paisana Máxima, alcanzar cierto trato principesco? ¿O me pareceré mas a mis compatriotas sudamericanos que llevan a cabo trabajos mal remunerados para subsistir en tierra neerlandesa? ¿O se parecerá a la zona roja de Amsterdam; un festival que incluye la celebrada carne argentina a manos de una dominatrix holandesa entrada en carnes? Really can’t wait…

During the Festival, each author writes one column per day in her/his own language – each year Dutch, this year also French, Spanish and English. They are immediately translated into other languages. As Federico Fellini said “A different language is a different vision of life” and columns capture it well. In different languages, they allow us to see the Festival and The Hague through eyes that see the world from different perspectives. Young authors enjoy much freedom of expression in relation to the subject – it is about their personal experience and in a loose relation to the Festival, which makes texts varied and also intimate. All the versions including translations can be found on the Crossing Border blog and during the Festival are available fresh from the press to the audience.

18-11-2011 Column 2                           Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)

Does the ‘joy spring’ from the reinterpretation of a good text because the text is good, or is it because the act of translating that makes translation fulfilling. I’m not sure how much sense that made. It’s hard to talk about. Is cooking, or eating the most fun. You have to eat, but you don’t have to cook. And someone else can always cook for you, but they can’t do your eating.

19-11-2011 Column 3                           Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)

We went to the ‘afterparty’ and the DJ was very bad and the only drinks you could order were ‘wine’ and ‘beer’ and ‘bacardi and coke already mixed in a can’. It was fun. I smiled at people and walked around. I talked to Adam Levin a lot and he is one of my favourite authors in the world and I think the way I talked was similar to the way a twelve-year-old girl would talk to Justin Bieber. Sorry, Adam. It is exciting and cold here. Everyone is everyone.

 20-11-2011 Column 3 (La dernière nuit)      Sacha Sperling (France, 1990)

Au milieu de la nuit, j’ai regardé par la fenêtre. La rue déserte. Spui. On aurait dit une route. J’entendais l’écho des voitures fantômes. J’ai regardé la lune (elle était rousse), et puis de nouveau la rue. Un camion est passé. Un camion énorme. Je n’ai pas eu le temps de lire l’inscription sur le côté. C’était un trente cinq tonne dont les phares projetaient une lumière féroce. Je ne pouvais pas détacher mon regard. Il avançait doucement à travers la brume. Comme en apesanteur. J’ai pensé à la route. Zone de passage. Non lieu. Désert organisé. La route qui donne le sentiment que les choses flottent. Qu’il est facile de flotter soi-même.

The Festival also gives the stage to both writers and translators (on the photo to the left, Ben Brooks on being translated). It is possible to meet them in person and listen to their reflections on the writing and translation processes, which are both very intense taking into account the timelines.

And the last words are written down after the end of the Festival – the last words within The Chronicles as the conversations behind the stage go on… Unlimited…

30-11-2011 Epilogue            Peter Zantingh (The Netherlands, 1983)

Elke ochtend schreef ik een column. Op zaterdag las ik op het festival voor wat ik die ochtend, in mijn pyjamabroek op de hotelkamer, geschreven had. Wat ik maakte had direct een publiek. Crossing Border was het mooiste dat me overkwam sinds het boek er is. Echt. 

Maar nu wil ik weer schrijven waar niemand het ziet.

Epilogue – About the influence

The Chronicles are more than chronicles of the Festival. More often than not, the project acts as the first Dutch publisher and helps to introduce a new young international writer or translator to the market. The project underlines the importance of translation by raising awareness and appreciation of translation among the audience and also the young writers themselves. After the festival, a selection of the columns is published in The Chronicles magazine (usually in the beginning of the following year). The Festival creates an opportunity for young writers to meet their favourite writers and build on their international network.

All the literary events are combined with various concerts, which definitely makes literature friendlier to the wider audience and more fun to the authors themselves. We are already looking forward to the next year, but first the publication!

A big thank you to Jessa Bertens, Project Coordinator of The Chronicles for all the information and contagious enthusiasm!