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Scholieren op de drietalige Otto Clantskoalle in Boksum. Foto: Het Hoge Noorden

Multilingualism and Language Learning

The Fryske Akademy is studying the social and individual aspects of multilingualism, with a focus on language minorities. Special attention is paid to education and policy, and to the acquisition of Frisian, Dutch and English in the province of Friesland.

The bilingual province of Friesland is the only region in the Netherlands that has been subjected to structural and periodical research into the position of the Frisian language as a minority language and the second national language for nearly half a century. Our studies into Frisian society as a multilingual laboratory, where other regional languages are spoken in addition to Dutch and Frisian, are of great significance to the research of multilingualism in Europe, both from a theoretical and a methodological perspective.

The Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning plays an important role in this cluster. This centre, which was created by the European Union in 1987 as part of an international academic network, is a key player in the research, analysis, and distribution of our current expertise with regard to language minorities and multilingual education.

Within the framework of this cluster, research is conducted on the effects of multilingual education in Friesland upon the language and cognitive development of children. In addition, our language sociological research builds on the tradition started by the Fryske Akademy in the 1960s when Lieuwe Pietersen studied the reading and speaking customs in Friesland. The cluster has links with two other clusters Synchrony and diachrony in language and Language description and standardisation.

The social situation and acquisition of the Frisian language provide a relevant model for other language minorities, and as a result, there are frequent international exchanges on the topic.


Research objectives

In the next few years, we will be focusing on:

  • strengthening the cooperation with our current Frisian partners, for instance with regard to the feasibility and implementation of the continuous learning pathway in education;
  • strengthening the ties between sociolinguistic and linguistic research;
  • expanding the research into multilingual language acquisition and language processing in Friesland;
  • researching language selection and language use in the new social media;
  • further expanding our role in global networks;
  • expanding our international networks and the cooperation within these networks;
  • strengthening our position in discussions about international language policies that affect language minorities.