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The importance of multilingualism.

Over the past decades, European countries have evolved from monolingual or bilingual to multilingual, but in most cases the barriers between language communities have not kept pace with these changes.

“There’s too little knowledge about each other’s cultures; too little interest and enthusiasm to learn each other’s languages. It’s a remarkable paradox: our society has all the tools it needs for a real global world in which intercultural contact can only improve things. Even so, we still seem to find it extremely difficult to get to grips with each other’s language, and consequently with each other’s cultures.

Command of language is more important than ever, and generally recognised as an important key for those who want to acquire a future in a community; this includes those people who were born in that community and those who arrive later in life.

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There’s an increasing need for multilingualism, if only because the language spoken at home often differs from the administrative language or the cultural language. Besides this, our community is becoming more diverse every day, so understanding each other is essential if we want to make communities sustainable and efficient. Whereas the old fault line generally lay between dialect and official language, these days it’s more often to be found between languages. Our mobility is also increasing, so there’s more and more chance that we’ll have to use a language that is not our native one.”


 From Jan Hautekiet’s introduction at the ‘MEERtaligheid dan OOIT’ (more multilingual than ever) symposium held at the University of Leuven in 2017.

Social developments, such as globalisation and migration, are making multilingualism relevant for more and more people. Creative artists, all of whom share a pioneering spirit without exception, are also aware of this, and increasingly include multilingualism in their work.

Bilingualism has been a matter of course for most Frisians for a long time. The Frisian language is what gives this province its essential, distinctive cultural identity. On the other hand, Dutch is also widely spoken, and young people in particular mix these two languages with English. In addition, there are large numbers of residents in Friesland who have a different cultural background and language, which means Friesland has a great deal of knowledge and experience with regard to multilingualism. This also extends to literature.