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Mercator News November 2011

A summary of the news for November.

Friesland wins song contest for minority language in Italy

The young Frisian singer Janna Eijer (22) from Jubbega won the eight edition of Liet International in Italian Udine, last Saturday evening (19 November 2011). Liet International is the big international song contest for contemporary songs in European minority languages. Alongside Friesland, the other contestants in Udine came from Ireland, Austria (Burgenland Croats), Val Badia (Ladinians), Scotland, Karelia in Russia, Udmurt in Russia, Friuli in Italy, Switzerland, Norwegian Sápmi, and the Basque Country and Asturias in Spain. Janna Eijer was send to Udine as the winner of the Frisian song contest Liet earlier this year. She was the only soloist of the twelve contestants. At Liet International songs were in Asturian, Basque, Croatian, Frisian, Friulian, Gaelic, Irish, Ladinian (South Tyrol), Rumantsch (Switzerland), Sápmi, Udmurtian (Finno-Ugric language in Russia) and Vepsian (Karelia).

Janna Eijer made an interesting change to the solid rock music from the Basque Country and Asturias and the folk music from Scotland and Ireland. She wrote and composed her sensitive ballad “1 blow” herself. While she was softly singing, the audience in the sold-out Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine was completely silent. The twelve-headed jury – one jury member for each participating region – made an exciting affair of the scoring. Not until the final jury member, Orla Sweeney from Ireland had given her votes, did Janna Eijer pass the Udmurt band Silent Woo Gore from the Russian Federation with only two points. It is the first time in the existence of Liet International, a Frisian initiative, that the Frisian contestant wins the song contest. Earlier winners of Liet International came from Catalonia, Corsica, Sápmi (4x) and the Faroe Islands.

Listen to the winning song of Janna Eijer: “1 blow”

The public award went to Coffeeshock Company, an energetic reggae, hiphop, rap band from Burgenland (Croatian), in the eastern part of Austria. Their huge, fanatic fan base joined them to Udine.

Liet International in Udine was organised by the Frisian foundation Liet International in cooperation with Friulian cultural organisations and governments. The song festival is supported by, among others, the Council of Europe, the Spanish region Asturias and by the candidate European Capital of Culture Ljouwert/Leeuwarden 2018.


Keppelfeest (literally "Connecting Party")

On 16 November 2011 it was 60 years ago that “Kneppelfreed” (Frisian for “club Friday”), took place. Instead of “kneppeljen” (clubbing), it was time for “keppeljen” (connecting), according to the Frisian movement organisation “Ried fan de Fryske Beweging”. They came up with a programme of 60 days, starting 60 days before 16 November, on 17 September, at the same courthouse where Kneppelfreed took place 60 years ago. During those 60 days several activities took place, like lectures, theatre plays, music events, etc. One of the activities took place every day. Special flags (picture) were designed for 60 towns and villages in Fryslân and each of them got 60 flags to display at houses, shops, along the road, etc. Every day a new town or village displayed their flag, so in the end 60 x 60 flags were visible in Fryslân. On the flag the name of the town and a clause from a poem typical for that town were printed.

At this website you can read all the poems and find some short movies of people reading their town's poems.

Kneppelfreed (club Friday)

Kneppelfreed (Frisian for “club Friday”), also known as the “Battle of Zaailand”, took place on 16 November 1951. On that occasion a group of protesters, bystanders and journalists went to the courthouse at the Zaailand square and clashed with the police when they met them with batons and water cannons and tried to force them apart.

Fedde Schurer, editor of the newspaper “Friesche Courier” in Leeuwarden, had accused the judge of the district court, Mr. Wolthers, in an editorial of "childish, insulting and harassing actions". Mr. Wolthers had condemned two milkmen for writing the Frisian words “sûpe” and “molke” on their milk churns, instead of the Dutch “karnemelk” and “melk”. And he had refused the vet Sjirk Franses van der Burg to defend himself using Frisian for a traffic violation. Mr. Wolthers had the vet waiting for an interpreter in the lobby of the courthouse for hours then decided that an interpreter was not necessary and finally refused to listen to Van der Burg's defence.

Because of his comments Schurer was summoned for insulting the judiciary. The trial was sensational, because it embodied a power struggle between the Dutch-speaking elite and the Frisian-speaking youngsters. Many outraged Frisians wanted to attend the meeting and raised banners in the square where the weekly market was just held. The crowd in front of the courthouse demonstrated against the decision to put the journalist on trial in the small rather than the large hall preventing them from attending. The choice for the small hall was taken by the court to save fuel costs. The police sprayed the people with water, but these were mainly merchants and unsuspecting housewives. There was a battle with the police in which many unsuspecting Frisians were considered to be Frisian Language fighters. Dutch journalists got sympathy for the Frisian movement because of the huge police force.

Two of the results of Kneppelfreed were that in 1955 the use of Frisian in primary education was permitted (Cals-law), and in 1956 the right to speak Frisian in court was officially confirmed (Donker-law).


Joint projects with Yamal, a visit to Salekhard, November 2011

Since July 2011 there exists an agreement on cooperation between the Fryske Akademy in the Netherlands and the Government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (Yamal) in the Russian Federation. The main area of common interest is in the field of minority language studies, where the situation of Frisian in Friesland can be compared to the situation of Nenets,  Hanti, Selkup and other minority languages in Yamal and where partners in both institutions can learn from each other. Furthermore, the international reputation of the Mercator Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning as a platform in Europa can be utilised to include the experience of other minority  language areas in Europe. In the framework of this agreement several plans have been formulated for mutual working visits, joint conferences and seminars, exchange of literature and information and other activities.
As representatives of the Fryske Akademy/Mercator Cor van der Meer and Tjeerd de Graaf were invited to take part in the Arctic Educational Forum which has been organised in Salekhard (the capital of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District) from 16 until 19 November 2011. About 250 participants attended this Forum, most of them representatives of institutes in the Russian Federation, where the languages of the Arctic regions are studied and used in educational programs. Other scholars from abroad were colleagues from Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Scotland, who also reported on the experience with the teaching and learning of minority languages in their country.

Photo 1. Opening of the Forum by the governor of Yamal

During excursions to schools, art centrums and other institutions the conference participants were able to meet with representatives of the local minority peoples and learn about the rich culture of the Nenets, Hanti and Selkup minorities. In some smaller settlements in the tundra teachers showed their work with the children of reindeer herders and other local people who have to send their children to a boarding school. These visits made a great impression and illustrated how in such arctic schools much attention is paid to the local culture and language. The use of information technology for the development of new language teaching and learning methods in a minority language situation will be an important aspect of the cooperation between the Frisian Academy/Mercator and the institutions in Yamal which are the partners of the agreement.

Photo 2. Excursion to a school in the tundra

This and other topics were discussed on the last day of the Forum in a meeting  with the director and vice-director of the Yamal-Nenets Department of Education (Irina Sidorova and Alexander Ivanov) and the director of the Yamal-Nenets Regional Institute of Education Development (Galina Shaporenkova). During this meeting the Russian edition of  the book “North and East Tartary” by Nikolaas Witsen was presented to the library of the Department and the participants from Friesland received books and further documentation about the local situation in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. 

Photo 3. Meeting at the Department of Education

It was decided that the plan of activities will continue in 2012 with the participation of two experts from Yamal in the Early Language Learning Expert Seminar (9-10 February 2011), organised in Leeuwarden by the Mercator Centre. In the meantime further action plans will be specified, such as a joint seminar in St.Petersburg with the Herzen State Pedagogical University, exchange of publications on bilingual and trilingual education, ethnolinguistics and language communication, preparation of joint publications, and the study of endangered languages, cultures and archives. We hope that part of these events will take place in the framework of the Russia-Netherlands Year 2013.

Background information on Regional and Minority Languages in Yamal

The Russian Federation is a multinational country where many languages are spoken. In this country the Russian language is the most important means of communication used for contacts between its citizens and in many cases with people abroad. Its use as one of the important world languages is stimulated in several ways, whereas the position of many regional and minority languages in Russia has become rather weak and in many cases it can be qualified as being in several stages of endangerment. 

The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District covers a large area of 770,000 km2, which is mostly situated on the Yamal peninsula and in the Eastern part of the Polar Ural mountains. It has a population of about 550,000 people and is one of the strategically important regions of the Russian Federation with concentrated rich natural resources, where each year more than 91% of the natural gas in the country is obtained. In addition to these natural resources, the other wealth of Yamal consists of its history and the people who live on these lands, their traditional culture and language. The indigenous inhabitants of the Yamal peninsula (approximately 14,000 people) are the Nenets, Khanty and Selkup. Most of them are Nenets, who practice their traditional way of life such as reindeer herding, hunting and fishing. There are 600,000 reindeer in the region which is a quarter of the world’s reindeer population. 

Each of these ethnic groups has its own language. More than 30 years ago there existed a rather extended bilingualism in these communities, in which often the leading position was occupied by the Nenets language, whereas Russian was the second language. Educational programs were directed at pupils, who came to school just speaking Nenets. They started their education using the native language, at the same time learning Russian which afterwards became the only language of education, while Nenets kept its position as a family language. This situation of transitional bilingualism lasted until the 80s of the last century. Since then more and more Nenets parents have shifted to Russian as the language of the family and the Nenets language has become endangered. However, for Nenets there are still possibilities to obtain a revitalization of the language, which might be considered as a good example for other minority languages in the Russian North. The exchange program with the Mercator Centre will contribute to this development.


Mercator News October 2011

A summary of the news for October.

MELT closing conference on early language transmission

Four days of Liet International in Friûl in Italy

New project “Teacher Training for the Multilingual Classroom (TTMC)”

East Frisians visit the Mercator Research Centre

MELT closing conference on early language transmission, 6 October, 2011 in Brussels

The MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project for the pre-school period (a result of the NPLD and funded by the EU in the LLP during two years) celebrated its success during a conference in Brussels on Thursday 6 October, 2011. The four partners presented the project results: a Brochure for parents, and a Guide for Practitioners, which are available in four editions and eight languages: Breton-French, Frisian-Dutch, Swedish-Finnish, Welsh-English. Furthermore, a Research Paper was made on the actual literature on multilingual language acquisition. All publications are available on

At the conference, two international experts presented scientific findings, their ideas on multilingual upbringing during the early years as well as their comments on the MELT project: prof. Annick De Houwer underscored the importance of early language acquisition, the chances and challenges of multilingual immersion, including the “silent period” of second language learners. Prof. Gunilla Holm discussed the education and qualification of practitioners. She also presented the recently established Bachelor Study for pre-school Education at the University of Helsingfors/ Helsinki, Finland.
Opening addresses were given by Mrs Lena Louarn, vice-president of the Conseil regional de Bretagne and Mrs Jannewietske De Vries, executive of the province of Fryslân. Both politicians stressed the strong relationship between the flourishing of the regional culture and the upbringing in the regional language. Mrs Kinga Gal MEP, co-chair of the Intergroup for Traditional Cultures and Languages of the European Parliament, stressed the importance of Linguistic Diversity for the EU Agenda 2020. She invited the project leader Alex Riemersma to present the MELT project and its results at the meeting of the Intergroup on 15 December, 2011.

The MELT project authorities (Commissioner, Member European Parliament, vice-president of Brittany, Commissioner of Friesland) have asked for valorisation and follow-up activities in a MELT-to-MOVE project, especially focusing on dissemination of the MELT product and the training of pre-school teachers.

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Four days of Liet International in Friûl in Italy

Twelve bands and lots of talent at the 8th edition of minority language song contest

In Friuli, in the northeast of Italy, Liet International will last four days from Thursday 17 until Sunday 20 November. Both on 17 and 18 November a Waiting for Liet International evening will be organised, with presentations and live performances of several contestants participating in Liet International 2011. On Sunday even an After Liet International evening will be organised.

Other activities during the Liet International weekend will be a conference about Minority languages and music education, organised by Friulian language organisation ARLeF. Besides several local speakers, also Mr Alexey Kozhemyakov, head of the secretariat of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe, and Mrs Ana Elorza, a music teacher using the Basque language and philologist, will address the audience. There will also be an exhibition of the French photographer Sandro Weltin. Sandro Weltin attended and carefully documented all editions of Liet International since 2008 at the request of the Council of Europe. A selection of some of his most interesting pictures will be exhibited in Udine. Check out the whole programme with all the activities.

The main event of course remains Liet International itself on Saturday 19 November in Teatro Giovanni da Udine. After seven editions in Friesland, Swedish Lapland and Brittany in France, it is the very first time that Liet International takes place in Italy. Going to Friuli makes sense for Liet International, because Friulian artists and policy makers were involved in the development of Liet International since the very first edition in 2002. In Udine Liet International is organised by Cooperativa Il Campo in collaboration with radio station Onde Furlane, ARLeF and Foundation Liet International in Friesland.

This year Liet International will feature twelve finalists, one more than last year. The complete line-up of Liet International 2011:

  • Skama la Rede – Asturias (Spain), winner of Premiu al meyor cantar
  • Noid – Vepsian band from Karelia (Russia)
  • Rollfa – Sápmi (Norway), winner of Sámi Grand Prix
  • Macanta – Scottish Gaelic band from Scotland (UK)
  • The Silent Woo Goore – Udmurt republic (Russia
  • Siroka – Rock band from the Basque country (Spain)
  • Aoife Scott – Irish Gaelic singer (Ireland)
  • Janna Eijer – Fryslân (The Netherlands), winner of Liet 2011
  • Priska – Friulian band (Italy), invited with a wildcard
  • Coffeeshock Company – Croat singing band (Austria), winner of Suns 2011
  • Cuntra Löm – Ladinian band (Italy), winner of the public award of Suns 2011
  • Rezia Ladina – Rumantsch (Switzerland), winner of the first Rumantsch song contest

The line-up is a combination of bands who qualified by winning in a song contest in their own country and bands which were selected by an international and independent selecting committee. Six bands qualified by winning a song contest, the other half was selected. It was the first time that the jury selected two finalists from the Russian federation. The large number of entries in minority languages from the Russian federation and the quality of those entries justifies this decision.

The main goal of Liet International is to promote contemporary music in minority languages and minority languages themselves. Since 2002 Liet International has become one of the largest and most successful events in the field of promoting minority languages. Since 2008 Liet International enjoys the support and the official patronage of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The festival usually attracts a lot of interest from the media. TV channels like BBC, CNN, SVT, NRK, Omrop Fryslân and many others regularly paid attention or even broadcasted Liet International. The next edition of Liet International will be broadcasted live on the radio and the internet by Radio Onde Furlane. The event will also be recorded by Italian television. More information about Liet International on their website.


New project “Teacher Training for the Multilingual Classroom (TTMC)”

The ECML (European Centre for Modern Languages) in Graz has granted a three year project called “Teacher Training for the Multilingual Classroom (TTMC)”. Project leader is the Mercator Research Centre in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in cooperation with the teacher training institutes in Fryslân. Project partners are the University of Vic (Catalonia, Spain), the Saint David’s University of Carmarthen in conjunction with Bangor University (Wales, UK) and the National Institute for Irish-medium education in Dungarvan (Ireland). Associate partners are the Mondragon University in the Basque Country (Spain) and the Bukowska-Ulatowska Teachers’ Professional Education Centre in Gdansk (Poland).

The general aim of the project is the improvement of multilingual education by better coordination of competencies, mutual recognition of qualifications and development of guidance instruments.

Basic information shall be provided through description of actual provisions and qualifications for teaching of regional/minority languages.

The project has four concrete goals:

  1. creating of a sustainable network of teacher trainers for linguistic diversity and the multilingual class room;
  2. development of a model for expert-laboratories of teachers of primary and secondary schools and teacher educators aiming at strengthening the relationship between teacher training and the schools;
  3. development of guidelines for the preparation of (future) teachers for the multilingual classroom;
  4. development of guidelines for the application and integration of instruments of language command descriptions (based on the CEFR) and descriptors of professional competencies for the multilingual class room based on those of the European Portfolio for Student & Teachers of Languages (EPOSTL).


East Frisians visit the Mercator Research Centre

Fifteen years ago seven schools were engaged in the development of trilingual primary education in Friesland, the Netherlands, nowadays there are over forty. This development inspires also the East Frisians in Germany. A group of twelve teachers of primary education in East Friesland, especially from the Aurich area, has made a study tour to Friesland on the 12th of October. The group was led by Cornelia Nath of the Plattdeutsch Buro of the Ostfriesische Landschaft in Aurich. In the morning some trilingual schools were visited (for instance De Tsjelke in Holwert and It Holdersnêst in Harkema) and in the afternoon a visit to the Mercator Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy was on the program. In the morning some practical issues of trilingual schools were discussed, like study materials, the separation of languages based on subject and/or teacher, and the planning of learning content and methods. In the afternoon theoretical aspects of multilingual education and issues of attitude and information were discussed. The content-based approach of trilingual primary education in Friesland is an example for Plattdeutsch in East Friesland.

The government of Lower Saxony in Hannover has officially given permission to teach Plattdeutsch not only as subject, but also to use it as language of instruction in other subjects (except for maths). After a long period of Plattdeutsch in nursery schools only (for children in the age of 4-6) the step towards primary school education is now finally being made. This partly because of the European Treaty for Regional and Minority Language, which has been signed by Germany being the treaty partner for Plattdeutsch. Lower Saxony is responsible for the implementation. The schools in East Friesland are very interested in the methods of multilingual education, for instance goals, allocation of time on the different languages, methods, and especially how students can learn two or three languages simultaneously and learn to use them in everyday life. For the future there are good opportunities for cooperation, including the area of teacher training, which will be provided by the University of Oldenburg for Plattdeutsch in East Friesland.


Mercator News September 2011

A summary of the news for September.

European On-line Language Observatory launched

European On-line Language Observatory launched, the EU co-funded project on multilingualism and language policy, has
launched its website today: The website will serve as the on-line reference on the practice of multilingualism in Europe, and feature a Language Observatory gathering and disseminating best practice in language policy and language learning.

The on-line Language Observatory will collect and present information on:

  • motivators, scope and practice of multilingualism in various sectors of civil society;
  • best practice in development and implementation of language policy;
  • multilingual tools.

The website also displays the policy recommendations recently published by the EU Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (CSPM), a body set up by the European Commission in October 2009 to promote multilingualism in Europe in the areas of culture, media and non-formal education. All consortium partners are also CSPM members. is designed for language learners and teachers, social and public services, civil society as well as policy makers involved in developing language policy.

Navigation will initially be possible in English, subsequently also in French and German. Dynamic content, however, can be uploaded in any language; the Language Observatory itself will indeed act as a test-bed for multilingualism

The Language Observatory is web 2.0 compliant and linked to all major social  networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many others), making it easier for users to share content available on and
make it accessible to a wider audience.

“The language observatory will serve as a platform for organisations and individuals interested in all aspects of multilingualism. It will not only offer comprehensive up-to-date information on events, news, publications and the
latest research but will also stimulate the debate around language learning and language policies”, said Ulla-Alexandra Mattl, Project Manager - Language Observatory (EUNIC in Brussels).

While the project was awarded EU co-funding until the end of 2012, the Language Observatory will persist in the long term. EUNIC in Brussels, the consortium partner leading on developing the website, will host the Language Observatory for a minimum of five more years after the end of the project. Examples of best practice will thus continue to be uploaded and shared with stakeholders.


August 2011

A summary of the news for August.

Education and public services must go multilingual, says EU platform

Regional FEL Conference: ‘Multilingualism and Language Learning in China, Mongolia and Russia’ at Lake Baikal

Education and public services must go multilingual, says EU platform

The EU Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism (CSPM) has published its policy recommendations to the European Commission, member states and regional authorities. Education and public services must go multilingual to boost Europe’s language skills, sustain Europe’s economies and cater for increasingly diverse societies, says the EU platform. The recommendations are available on the website of the European Commission’s multilingualism portal.

There are still unacceptable gaps in support for multilingualism and language learning throughout the EU. Even where good policies exist, implementation is often inadequate; some countries and regions show a much stronger commitment to multilingualism than others.

To make language teaching and learning more efficient, and enhance the ability of public services to meet the needs of their users, the CSPM urges European policymakers to:

  • make plurilingual education (i.e. mother tongue plus two) the norm: content-based language learning should be introduced more widely, and extensive informal learning outside the classroom created;
  • early language learning and lifelong learning opportunities should be developed;
  • strengthen learning support for immigrants: for integration and social cohesion purposes;
  • improve language skills of public services across Europe: to offer adequate services to newcomers, foreigners, migrant workers, as well as to disabled people and citizens with communication difficulties.

Multilingualism is also crucial to the preservation and accessibility of the common European cultural heritage. In this context, translation can make existing texts cross linguistic and cultural borders, and is an essential tool for communication and intercultural understanding. Working conditions for translators should thus be substantially improved, and sound degree programmes and opportunities for mobility developed.

As the Chairman of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism, Uwe Mohr, points out: “Europe needs to develop a language policy that monitors language use and ensures that languages are treated equally. We also highly recommend that the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism be continued on a permanent basis to act as an instrument of dialogue between the EU policy level on the one side and the national, regional and local language policy levels and social reality on the other side.”

To advise policymakers in designing and implementing successful policies for multilingualism, nine CSPM members have committed to setting up an on-line Language Observatory. The observatory, part of the ongoing
project funded by the European Commission, will conduct research, capture and disseminate good practice; it will be launched in the autumn.

The ultimate goal of the project is to raise awareness for the importance of multilingual education and training in Europe. Because, as Mohr puts it, “only as multilinguals can we fully enjoy the benefits of our culturally and linguistically diverse Europe and live a richer, more interesting and more successful life in the Europe of the future.”


Regional FEL Conference: ‘Multilingualism and Language Learning in China, Mongolia and Russia’ at Lake Baikal

To contribute to a network of scholars studying the languages in the region of Northeast Asia and to improve the UNESCO Atlas of endangered languages, those were the main goals of the regional FEL (Foundation for Endangered Languages) conference on Multilingualism and Language Learning in China, Mongolia and Russia, held from 20 until 26 August in Buryatia (Russian Federation).

A total of 25 representatives of the Russian Federation (Buryatia, Yakutia, Tuva, Moscow, St.Petersburg), the People’s Republic of China (Inner-Mongolia), Taiwan, France, The Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the USA discussed matters related to the conference theme. Conference meetings took place in Ulan Ude and near Lake Baikal (picture).
Papers were presented on various subjects related to a number of languages and cultures of the region. In particular Evenki, Even, Buriat, Mongolian, Tibetan, Tuvain, Kalmyk, Oirat Mongolian, Nivkh, and Ainu: language teaching of minority languages in endangered language communities, multilingualism and language policy, documentation and safeguarding of endangered languages in the region.

During and after the conference a few interesting excursions were organised, such as to Buddhist datsans (temples), Buryat archives, the Buryat ethnological museum and a village of Russian Old-Believers. The informal contacts established during these excursions and the stay at Lake Baikal contributed to the success of the conference and will facilitate the extension of future activities within the FEL Regional Interest Group (RIG) for Northeast Asia.
The conference organisers are grateful for the financial and moral support they received from various sides, in particular from the Buryat University.

UNESCO Internet Atlas
In 2009 the UNESCO has published an Internet Atlas of the endangered languages in most countries of the world. The FEL has been involved in the preparation of this Atlas and works further on the collection of data which will make the presented information up-to-date. Regional Interest Groups (RIG) of the FEL are set up in various parts of the world. Tasks of these RIG’s are for instance to establish and strengthen the relationship between specialists, minority language communities, and organisations in their region and to report on the experience of such communities in the field of language learning, conservation and possible revitalisation.

More details on the FEL conference can be found in the conference programme and a photo impression is given here.

On behalf of the Organising Committee,
Tjeerd de Graaf and Ljubov Radnaeva
Foundation for Siberian Cultures, Germany (
Foundation for Endangered Languages, UK (
Centre for Russian Studies at Groningen University
Mercator European Research Centre on
Multilingualism and Language Learning
c/o Fryske Akademy
P.O.Box 54
NL-8900 AB, Ljouwert / Leeuwarden
The Netherlands


July 2011

A summary of the news for July.

Mobilising Civil Society to Promote Multilingualism:

Agreement on Cooperation between the government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (Russian Federation) and the Fryske Akademy (The Netherlands)


Mobilising Civil Society to Promote Multilingualism:

The Civil Society Platform to promote Multilingualism was launched by the European Commission in October 2009. Since then 29 selected member organisations, active in the fields of culture, non-formal and informal education systems and media, interested in issues connected to multilingualism with a transnational or European-wide dimension have delivered a set of recommendations to EU policy makers in order to improve multilingualism policy on EU, Members State and regional level.

The ongoing EC co-funded project, to which nine of the platform members, including the Mercator Network, have committed, is intended to set up an online Language Observatory until December 2012. This Observatory will be designed to capture good practice and to conduct research in the following areas: local and regional provision of adult language training; language policy and practice in public services; early language learning. The Mercator Network will be responsible for data collection. To ensure the dialogue with policy makers, stakeholders and the civil society, two conferences will be organised to disseminate the project results and thus guarantee the influence and participation of civil society in the European decisionmaking process. The project is using art, culture and media to promote multilingualism addressing four major target groups: actors in non-formal education systems and social services, policy makers and grass-roots civil society organisations. In order to raise awareness of the importance of multilingualism in society at large, the project will also constitute a network of Ambassadors who are either well-known and multilingual, or particularly knowledgeable and active in the field of multilingualism in civil society. The website is currently under construction.


Agreement on Cooperation between the government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District (Russian Federation) and the Fryske Akademy (The Netherlands)

Since the XIIth Conference of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, which took place in September 2008 in Leeuwarden, official contacts have been established between the government of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District in the Russian Federation and the Fryske Akademy and its Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning in the Netherlands. To formalise these contacts, together with the Department for International Relations of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District in 2011 an official document has been prepared for an Agreement on Cooperation. 

In this Agreement both Parties recognise the importance of maintaining cultural diversity and its major component – language diversity. They recognise that the widening of mutually beneficial cooperation, the use of scientific and cultural potential of the Parties, knowledge and experience of specialists in different spheres will stimulate the use, study, maintenance and development of minority languages, in particular the languages of the indigenous peoples of the North inhabiting the territory of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.

The Parties intend to promote joint research and educational programmes, conducted in the territory of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District and the Netherlands. They shall jointly develop and carry out projects in the sphere of education, scientific research and the development of cultural ties between representatives of the Parties focusing on the research, maintenance, protection and support of minority language.

On the occasion of the signing of the Agreement by the governor of Yamal and the director of the Fryske Akademy, on 8 July 2011 a special video-conference (picture) has been organised by the representative of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District in St.Petersburg. During this conference a number of organisations in Salekhard presented their work on educational problems related to the minority languages in the district and Professor Reinier Salverda introduced the work of the Fryske Akademy and the Mercator European Research Centre.

In the following discussion a number of possible action plans was considered, such as the organisation of joint conferences, exchange of literature, mutual visits of delegations, and the preparation of information bulletins about the language situation in Russia. In the coming months these action plans will be further evaluated together with representatives of other institutions in St.Petersburg, such as the Institute of the Peoples of the North at the Herzen State Pedagogical University. A delegation of this institute attended the meeting.

At the end of the video-conference Reinier Salverda, the director of the Fryske Akademy, thanked the organisers of the meeting – which lasted more than two hours - and expressed his best wishes for the colleagues in Salekhard.

Information about the video-conference and the agreement of cooperation can be found on the website of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District.




June 2011

A summary of the news for June.

Final conference of MELT project in October

The MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project is aiming at the strengthening of linguistic diversity in the pre-school sector (children aged 0 - 4) and in particular at awareness-raising of parents and teachers in that sector. Over the last two years four language communities worked in close partnership with each other: the Frisian language in Fryslân, the Swedish language in Finland, the Welsh language in Wales and, the Breton language in Brittany.

The international closing conference of the MELT project will take place on Thursday 6 October, 2011 in the charming city of Brussels. This final conference is jointly organised by the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, a department of the Fryske Akademy (Fryslân, the Netherlands), Folkhälsan (Swedish language community in Finland), The Welsh Language Board (Wales, UK), the Divskouarn (Brittany , France) and the Region Council of Brittany (Brittany, France).

Some speakers at the conference are:

  • Kinga GAL (European Parliament, Co-chair of Intergroup EP for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages)
  • Alexey Kozhemyakov (Council of Europe, Expert Human and Linguistic Rights, Head of the secretariat of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages)
  • Jannewietske de Vries (Fryslân, the Netherlands, The Frisian Minister of Finance, Recreation and Tourism, and Language and Culture)
  • Lena Louarn (Brittany, France, Vice-president for languages of Brittany)
  • Annick de Houwer (Belgium, Expert Early Bilingualism Developments “Early Bilingual Development and the Role of Input and Attitudes.”
  • Hywel Jones (Wales,UK, Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithrin, that provides various training opportunities to provisions staff, volunteers and parents in Welsh-medium playgroups)
  • Gunilla Holm (Finland, Expert on education for daycare pedagogies at the bilingual Helsinki University)

Various products, all translated into eight languages, presented at this conference:

  • A toolkit (a sort of handbook) for teachers of nurseries and pre-schools to improve their skills towards multilingual language development of children aged 0-4 years.
  • An awarenessraising brochure aimed at young parents dealing with questions about bilingual or multilingual upbringing in a minority language setting.
  • A research paper with theoretical background on early language learning in a multilingual environment and best practices and strategies in immersing children in a minority language.

The conference will focus on the achieved results and products so far, the successes, recommendations and the challenges for the future of Multilingual Early Language Transmission. We invite members of the MELT project, NPLD members, members of the European Parliament, Council of Europe members, researchers, experts, policy makers, practitioners and interested others to the conference. We aim to provide opportunities for discussion, further research and future collaborations to continue a sustainable multilingual line from pre-school to primary and secondary schools and the conscious choice of parents and practitioners to speak and use the minority language in the daily life.

If you are interested in attending this conference, please send us an email. As of July you can find a registration form on the MELT website, for further information on the MELT project, please visit

May 2011

A summary of the news for May.

  • Fifth European Expert Seminar: “Cultural Education and Civil Society: How can Languages contribute?"
  • Conference "Early foreign language learning"
  • UNESCO Expert Meeting: “Towards UNESCO Guidelines on Language Policies: a Tool for Language Assessment and Planning”

Fifth European Expert Seminar: “Cultural Education and Civil Society: How can Languages contribute?”

Cooperation project Fryske Akademy and Basque Autonomous Community will be continued for four more years.

Together with the Basque Autonomous Community the Mercator Research Centre of the Fryske Akademy (Frisian Academy) organised the fifth European Expert Seminar: “Cultural Education and Civil Society: How can Languages contribute?” The seminar took place in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, on Thursday the 26th and Friday the 27th of May. All participants, experts from the Basque Country and Fryslân, but also from all around Europe, look back on a very succesfull seminar. After five years of cooperation, this would be the final seminar in the context of the cooperation project, but that won't be the case.

(Group photo participants)

The Basque government and Mercator are so pleased with the results of the cooperation, that both parties decided to continue working together. To confirm this, representatives of the Basque government and Mercator signed a declaration of intent for the period 2012 - 2015. In this period research will be executed on bi- and trilingual education, with special attention for Inglish classes, and results will be exchanged. The situations in both regions related to minority languages are quite similar and thus they can learn a lot from each other. The aim is to come to a definitive contract in which all the details are worked out as quickly as possible.


Conference "Early foreign language learning"

Policy, science and practice in the field of early foreign language learning were brought together at the conference "Early foreign language learning" on May 12, 2011 in Utrecht. Progression is certainly there! In the Netherlands there are more than 600 vvto (‘vroeg vreemdetalenonderwijs’, early foreign language learning) primary schools. These schools teach children a foreign language from an early age. In 2003 there were only 40 vvto-schools. The prognosis is that internationalisation is increasing in the Dutch education systems. It won't be a matter of many years before the number of 1000 vvto-primary schools is reached.

Vvto-primary schools teach more than just the compulsory English course in grades 7 and 8. Even languages like German, French, Spanish, Frisian and English are offered from grade 1 (children aged 4 years). In Fryslân, more than 50 primary schools are trilingual, the languages Frisian, Dutch and English are taught from grade 1. All these schools are affiliated with the early foreign language learning network, a part of the European Platform, the center for internationalisation in Dutch primary schools, secondary schools and teacher training.

The central message of the speakers (Prof. Janet van Hell, Prof. Kees de Bot and Mrs. Evelyn Krikhaar) at the conference was: "Start early!" There are many advantages when children have the opportunity to acquire more languages at an early age. Some benefits to learn more languages from the early start are:

  • Children communicate easier, faster and better with other people in this increasingly globalised world.
  • Children have less shame than adults to learn a language other than their mother tongue.
  • The pronunciation is better, there is less accented speaking.
  • Grammar is better managed, there is also more change to develop better writing skills.
  • There are vocabulary advantages, the meaning of a word can be determined better.

Guest speaker Mrs. Marja van Bijsterveldt, Minister of Education, Culture and Science received a note, the first copy of the standard vvto. In her speech, the Minister brought up an important advice of the Education Council, written in June 2008: "Start early with a foreign language, preferably in the lowest groups of primary school, so children will use a language at a good level."
Children can flourish their talents through good language input in the educational system in the Netherlands. Because, "language is the basis for a brilliant educational career." The Minister promotes the work of the vvto- network provided that the results of the study English at primary schools are positive. This research is called FLIPP (Foreign Languages in Primary school Project) conducted by the University of Groningen and Utrecht University. "If this study suggests that early language learning produced indeed a positive influence on the language performance of students in the broad - and therefore, indirectly from repeating the performance in other subjects - then there is a firmly based story to build further on the current early foreign language policy". In 2013, the results of the research are expected. The Minister indicated that there needs to be patient, but ambition must remain as it is said in English: "Good policy should not be built to go fast. It should be built to go far."

The pioneers of vvto will not wait, they continue to proclaim the value of multilingualism in education in the Netherlands. The continuous learning line between the primary and secondary education should be enhanced. And the quality of teachers and teacher training must be improved, by offering minors multilingualism and minors English. There is still much work to do for the pioneers to convince policymakers, school boards, parents and especially teachers of learning foreign languages at early ages.


UNESCO Expert Meeting: “Towards UNESCO Guidelines on Language Policies: a Tool for Language Assessment and Planning”

In 2003 an ad hoc workgroup of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNESCO has developed a number of criteria to determine the vitality of a language and its possible status of endangerment. Dr. Tjeerd de Graaf, research fellow at the Fryske Akademy and the Mercator Research Centre has been one of the members of this workgroup and during three days he was invited to consider the follow-up of this work during an expert meeting at the UNESCO office in Paris. This interdisciplinary meeting was organised by the three UNESCO sectors on Culture, Communication and Information and Education and brought together about 35 scholars who considered the problem of language vitality and endangerment from different points of view.

After a number of keynote speeches by specialist in the fields of linguistics, anthropology, education, information and communication science the following existing factors of endangerment were discussed:

  • Factor 1. Intergenerational Language Transmission
  • Factor 2. Absolute Number of Speakers
  • Factor 3. Proportion of Speakers within the Total Population
  • Factor 4. Trends in Existing Language Domains
  • Factor 5. Response to New Domains and Media
  • Factor 6. Materials for Language Education and Literacy
  • Factor 7. Governmental and Institutional Language Attitudes and Policies, Including Official Status and Use
  • Factor 8. Community Members’ Attitudes toward Their Own Language
  • Factor 9. Amount and Quality of Documentation

In three discussion groups each factor was carefully considered and where necessary the related definitions and descriptions were modified according to the recent developments. In this way a revised version of the Language Vitality and Endangerment methodology will be prepared together with a tool for UNESCO member states to assess their local language situation.

During these days also the further improvement of the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger was considered. Tjeerd de Graaf, who is as regional editor responsible for the part of the Atlas on Europe and the Caucasus, had consultations about the internet version with the editor-in-chief Christopher Moseley. During these days the Spanish version of the printed Atlas and a special brochure on this UNESCO project was launched.

Further information is available on the website

April 2011

A summary of the news for April.

  • SOAS-UCL / Mercator Research Conference Leeuwarden: The changing role of minority languages
  • Publication ‘Trilingual Primary Education in Europe’
  • Anéla Conference in Utrecht, The Netherlands


SOAS-UCL / Mercator Research Conference Leeuwarden: The changing role of minority languages

What impact do social media like Twitter, Facebook and Hyves have on minority languages and their function? This and many other interesting issues concerning the changing role of minority languages were presented and discussed from Wednesday, April 6 through Friday, April 8 in Leeuwarden.

Language scientists and practitioners from around the world came to the capital of the Dutch province of Fryslân to talk and learn about this subject. It was the second conference organised by the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning from the Fryske Akademy in collaboration with the SOAS-UCL Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Languages of the Wider World in London. Through the cooperation of these two institutes a bridge will be built between the minority languages in Europe and the languages of the wider world.

The program included a number of interesting presentations, given by researchers, teachers, policy makers and students from 15 countries.

Speakers included: • Richard Bourhis (picture), Professor of Social Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada • Ofelia Garcia, Professor of Urban Education, The City University of New York, USA • Waldemar Martyniuk, Executive Director, The European Centre for Modern Languages, Graz, Austria • Ann Pauwels, Professor of sociolinguistic, SOAS, University of London, UK • Miquel Strubell, director of Linguamón-UOC Chair in Multilingualism, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain • Lid King, National Director for Languages in London, UK • Ilze Brands Kehris, Director of the OSCE in The Hague.

Participants and organisation look back on a succesfull event, with a good atmosphere and a lot of attention from the local and regional press. Not only was the conference mentioned in the regional newspapers, live interviews with speakers could be followed on the radio and even the daily news show on Frisian television, 'Hjoed', payed attention to it.

Publication ‘Trilingual Primary Education in Europe’ 

The new book ‘Trilingual Primary Education in Europe’ (picture) describes some developments with regard to the provisions of trilingual primary education in minority language communities of the European Union.

This book aims to describe the actual state of trilingual primary schooling in a number of multilingual regions in Europe in the first decade of the 21st century. This study is essentially an update of the study which reflected the situation at the turn of the century (Beetsma 2002). The publication proves that the situation in various regions during the last decade has changed greatly.

Through collaboration with the Ministry of Education of the Basque Country and the Network of Schools this publication has been made possible. The book ‘Trilingual Primary Education in Europe’ was presented at the International Conference organized by SOAS-UCL and Mercator Research Centre in Leeuwarden, the province Fryslân (Netherlands). Director of the Fryske Akademy, Prof. dr. Reinier Salverda presented the first copy to Mrs. Jannewietske de Vries, the Frisian Minister of Finance, Recreation and Tourism, and Language and Culture.

In this updated study the definition of trilingual education is applied in accordance with the commonly used definition of bilingual education: all three target languages are to be taught as a school subject as well as used as a medium of instruction during a relevant number of teaching hours. In the various regions multilingual schooling shows much more variation in classroom settings, didactic methods and attainment targets than can be inferred from general statements on bi- and trilingual education.

All chapters contain several descriptions of trilingual primary schooling in the regions: Aosta Valley, Aran Valley, the Balearic Islands, Carinthia, Catalonia, Fryslân, Luxembourg, North Frisia, the Swedish community in Finland, the Basque country and the Valencian community. These descriptions vary from situations with a strict distinction in teaching and use of the target languages, through regions where a mixture of language education models is applied, to educational settings with interesting developments in the direction of a total immersion approach as described in previously described case studies.

If you are interested in purchasing one ore more copies of this book, please send us an email.

Anéla Conference in Utrecht, The Netherlands

On Wednesday April 20, Anéla, the Netherlands’ branch of AILA, organised a conference on multilingualism and language policies in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Over 100 participants discussed in three streams: (a) second language acquisition and education; (b) language policy and levels of language command; (c) immigration policies and access thresholds. The aim of the conference was not only to inform each other on current issues of research, but also to define relevant topic for the research agenda as well as the urgencies for language policy at national and international level.

Current issues of research are focussed around early foreign language learning; common minimum standards for attainment levels of language skills in primary, secondary and vocational education; and, threshold levels and entrance exams for immigrants. In the discussion on education the main focus was on continuity of teaching and learning, in particular language skills and the holistic approach (subject and medium of instruction). The role of the teacher in research project was re-defined as co-researcher who during the data-collecting and analysing period could improve his own education by reflecting on his teaching skills and the multilingual interaction with the pupils.

Discussion on language policies and integration focussed on the value of entrance exams for the real integration of new comers. It was felt that there is a huge gap between main stream political ideology aiming at assimilation versus scientific ideas and research results on multilingualism of society and plurilingualism of the individual citizens. Education can contribute to the improvement of language command, but the success is never guaranteed.

March 2011

A summary of the news for March.

  • Symposium: Language(s) as European Cultural Asset - Salzburg
  • Internet consultation Frisian language law Dutch Minister of the Interior Donner: Frisian must become a formal right
  • MELT Information Evening - Day Care Centre "De Toverbal" Gorredijk, Fryslân’
  • Popular Party switches off Catalan television in the Valencian Country


Symposium: Language(s) as European Cultural Asset - Salzburg

The Herbert-Batliner-Europainstitut in Salzburg, related to the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, held a symposium on 16-17 March, titled: Language(s) as European Cultural Asset. The European Commission was represented by the former Commissioner for Multilingualism, mr. Leonard Orban, and mr. Harald Hartung, head of Unit for Education and Culture. Both of them underlined the importance plurilingualism in persoanl life of all EU citizens. They explained the recently developed EU language policies, aiming at the preservation of all languages of Europe, the role of language learning and linguistic varieties for the integration of newcomers and the social inclusion. Mr. Orban stressed that language learning goes beyond the school gates. Therefore, the EU as well as the member states should permanently invest in life long learning programs and edutainment tools and methods.

Mr. Hartung spoke about the role of multilingualism for the good relationship between neighbouring EU member states. According to the ELAN study (2007) he underlined the importance of the learning of two languages alongside the mother tongue, which is official EU policy (Barcelona 2002). Furthermore he underlined the cooperation between the Commission and the relevant NGO's for the success and the sustanability of any project funded by the Commission. Read more...

In his contribution to the conference Alex Riemersma investigated the vitality of regional and minority languages within the EU and the role of European language policies for the protection and preservation of these langauges. After a number of resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in the 1980s the Commission has initiated a special budget line for RMLs. The Mercator Centres in Aberystwyth (Wales, UK) in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) and Leeuwarden (Fryslân, Netherlands) could sustain during almost twenty years on this earmarked budget. Since the Action Plan for Languages expired in 2006, the budget was mainstreamed into general budget lines. The Mercator Centres Network could restart as a temporary project for three years (2009-2011). Other networks in this field such as the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD), RML2future, and the European Network of Universities on Multilingualism (EUNoM) are co-funded for a period of three years as well. For all networks and projects it is very hard to create and maintain a common structure which is essential for the sustainabilty of the project goals at international level.

Alex Riemersma stressed the importance of a coherent EU Language Policy which includes a legal base aiming at the vitality and empowerment of all languages: state languages, autochthonous minority languages, as well as immigrant and sign languages.

Internet consultation Frisian language law Dutch Minister of the Interior Donner: Frisian must become a formal right

The Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Minister Donner (picture), announced in February a bill on the Frisian language. Before sending this bill to the parliament, the Minister has initiated a internet consultation to invite opinions of the public. This internet consultation is available in Dutch only. The text of the draft "Law for the use of Frisian" ("Wet gebruik Friese taal") is available in both Frisian and Dutch. You can find the internet consultation at The internet consultation is available until 29 April. The description says the internet consultation is for everyone concerned, but says nothing about which languages are permitted for the contributions.The Europeesk Buro foar Lytse Talen (EBLT; Dutch umbrella organisation for Frisian and Lower Saxon organisations) would like to invite all Frisians and others interested to use the opportunity to respond online to this consultation on the bill. By responding, you let the Dutch government know you care about the future Frisian language law. The more responds, the better.EBLT is positive about the intention of the Dutch government for a Frisian language law. The law means a huge step forward for the formal position of Frisian within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. But, according to EBLT, the proposal is too limited. The proposal of the Ministry deals mainly with the court and administrative matters. EBLT would like that the law also covers other domains such as media and education. EBLT also think it's important that Frisian will become more visible in public. For example, the court in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden should have the bilingual name Rechtbank/Rjochtbank and the police in Fryslân as well: Politie/Plysje Fryslân.EBLT itself has submitted a contribution to the internet consultation. Besides, since the internet consultation does not contain a questionnaire, EBLT has published a text, in Frisian, which is available for everyone for completing the internet consultation. If you want to use this text, or parts of it, is of course up to yourself. This text is available on the Facebook page of EBLT.

MELT Information Evening - Day Care Centre "De Toverbal" Gorredijk, Fryslân

GORREDIJK / DE GORDYK, March 9, 2011 - Parents and pre-school teachers are wondering: How can I raise my children in two or more languages? The European MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project aims to provide answers to questions on what it means to raise your children bilingually theoretically and in everyday life. Approximately forty parents and pre-school teachers of day care centre "De Toverbal" in Gorredijk have received more information on multilingualism in Fryslân (a Province of the Netherlands) and in Europe (picture).

Every day, parents and other caregivers or educators of young children notice that children like to learn and are sensitive to languages: children easily acquire a second language. Scientific research shows that multilingualism has a positive effect on the development of knowledge in children. Multilingualism has cognitive, social, cultural and economic benefits. Therefore, it is best for young children in the age of 0-4 years to be raised speaking Frisian or be raised bilingually and that they go to a Frisian-speaking or bilingual pre-school. Mercator (The Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning, part of the Fryske Akademy) is project leader of the MELT project and provides parents and educators with information on the benefits of a multilingual pre-school education, hoping that they will make a conscious choice to raise their child bilingually or Frisian-speaking.

Frisian is a minority language in the Netherlands. There are more than 60 regional or minority languages in Europe. More than 50 million people are bi- or multilingual. The goal of the MELT project is to share ideas and expertise in an international context. The project is a collaboration between four linguistic regions: Friesland (Frisian in the Netherlands), Swedish-speaking regions in Finland (Swedish in Finland), Wales (Welsh in Great Britain) and Brittany (Breton in France). The partners have developed a toolkit (a sort of handbook) for teachers of nurseries and pre-schools to improve their skills. The toolkit offers them guidelines, practical examples, lesson plans and theory that is aimed at language development of children aged 0-4 years. The toolkit has been translated into eight languages and is currently being tested by several daycare centers in the regions. The SFBO (the Centre for Childcare in Friesland) has had a leading role for more than twenty years in Friesland when it comes to introducing the Frisian language to young children; they therefore are responsible for the practical execution of the MELT project. Another important product, besides the toolkit, is the brochure for young parents dealing with questions about bringing up their children in two or more languages. This brochure will be translated into Dutch and Frisian and will be distributed to parents in Friesland in April and May.

The discussion on the information evening in Gorredijk started off with statements such as "Bilingual children develop better than monolingual children" and "Nowadays, children should receive a Dutch upbringing instead of a Frisian of bilingual upbringing" The discussion of the first statement centered on the use of the word "better", which was perceived as confusing. The majority of parents disagreed with the second statement, as there has never been any scientific proof that a Frisian-speaking or bilingual upbringing has any negative effects on children later in life. And, as scientist have stated that bilingual children have better linguistic skills than monolingual children and that they have more cognitive flexibility, one might say that a bilingual upbringing only has advantages? Parents and educators have learned much about the opportunities a multilingual upbringing and education may bring and they will surely share this information with others!

Popular Party switches off Catalan television in the Valencian Country

The Catalan public television (TVC) cannot be broadcasted in the Valencian Country for the first time in 26 years · Acció Cultural, the association owning the relay stations, is convinced that TVC channels will be soon received through DTT · More than 650,000 people signed in favor of broadcasting

The Valencian cabinet headed by Francisco Camps (PP, Partido Popular, conservative Spanish nationalists) managed to fulfill one of its political obsessions: to put an end to broadcasting of Television of Catalonia, the public television of the autonomous community of Catalonia, in the Valencian Country, another Catalan-speaking land. A legislative amendment established a fine of 120,000 € per month imposed on Acció Cultural del País Valencià (ACPV, Cultural Action of the Valencian Country), the civic and cultural association that has been trying to set up relay stations across the country since 1984. ACPV's aim was to supply the Valencian territory with TV3, 3/24, 3XL and 33 TVC channels.

Freedom of expression under attack
The crusade against Television of Catalonia is not new. Several presidents of the Valencian Generalitat (government of the Valencian Country) have tried to close down the relay stations owned by ACPV in the last years, but Francisco Camps' cabinet has intensified legal proceedings against ACPV. Today, the association owes 600,000 € to the Valencian courts.
The relay stations were set up between 1984 and 1986 after 150,000 Valencian people donated money in a popular campaign launched by ACPV. TV3 was the first channel available in Catalan in the Valencian Country, for Valencia's own TV, Canal 9, did not start broadcasting until 1989.
ACPV launched a signatures campaign last year so that the Spanish Congress approved a law allowing reciprocal reception of autonomic channels in territories sharing the same language. The campaign gathered more than 650,000 signatures across Spain.

Further information:

February 2011

A summary of the news for February.


Expert Meeting “More languages, more opportunities” Rotterdam 

The project “More languages, more opportunities: A Papiamentu – Dutch language development project” is active in two parts of the city of Rotterdam, IJsselmonde and Hoogvliet. At this moment, the project runs there for one year in 11 families. To make the project more visible and understandable for professionals in Rotterdam that are involved in language learning, the Antillean community and/or multilingualism, an expert meeting was organized on 16 February. 

Mrs Wesseling, project manager of Stichting de Meeuw - the organization which executes the project in Rotterdam coordinated by the Fryske Akademy/Mercator - opened the day with some notes about language learning, and especially the difficulties in the Dutch language. 

Next, Mr Severina of Stichting Splika (organization promoting Papiamentu language in the Netherlands) introduced the theme of bilingual Papiamentu-Dutch use by telling some anecdotes. He spoke about his experiences of being a child in the Antilles. There, Papiamentu was the home and street language, but was banned from school, where only Dutch was allowed. He also spoke about his experiences as a teacher in the Antilles, where he noticed that a lot of information did not reach the children, because the Dutch language that was used was not meaningful for them. When he first came to the Netherlands, he was introduced in the Dutch society by an Antillean organisation. Because they could explain him how things work in the Netherlands in his mother tongue, Papiamentu, he could make sense of it and felt welcome in the country. 

Then Mrs Verheyden-Lels of KLIK-educational support, spoke about language development in general and multilingual development specifically. With interactive techniques she showed how a child experiences language learning and what a parent can do to elicit the natural curiosity of the child to use language. She stressed the fact that parents are very important in the language development of a child. The language input parents give and the involvement parents show in the language development process, are crucial in the language development of a child, especially in the period when a child is between 0 and 6 years old.

Following, project leader and researcher Nienke Boomstra introduced the project “More languages, more opportunities”. A short video illustrated the practices of a language coach during a home visit, and showed how the bilingual materials were used. The design of the project and research were explained. Three central subjects are: 1) the parental beliefs, these are the ideas the mothers have about their role in the language development of the child; 2) the (language) interaction between mother and child; and 3) the language development of the child in Papiamentu and Dutch. Reports will be written to advice professionals working on language development with the target group of Antillean families. Besides, scientific articles will be  written for theoretical purposes. 

Finally, Mrs Orman, an author, told us a so-called stack-story, mainly in Dutch but with some Papiamentu as well. The story was about a boy named Djan, who experiences some setbacks when he was supposed to watch the land of his neighbour. Mrs Orman told the story very lively, with expressive body language and different voices for different characters. Papiamentu has a long history of storytelling, and is still used a lot in families. 

After the official programme there was some time to meet each other and talk about all themes. This gave space for open discussions and information gathering. About 55 professionals attended the expert meeting. It was considered a great success. 


2nd RML2future conference held in Aabenraa

Adult education for regional and minority languages was the topic of the 2nd regional conference of the network RML2future in Aabenraa (Denmark) on 7-9 February 2011. The conference was hosted by Højskolen Østersøen, a Højskole where students can learn either Danish or German in interaction with fellow-students that are native speakers of the language. Conference participants were part of the Højskolen Østersøen’s community for three days and experienced the educational approach of the Højskole. Saskia Benedictus-van den Berg of the Mercator Research Centre gave a presentation on adult education in different RML regions in Europe, which showed that there is a great variation in availability of adult education in the different regions and also in the kind of provision. Another presentation was held by Johanna Schröder, of the Agency for European Education Programmes of the German-speaking community Belgium; she explained more about the funding possibilities within the EU’s Grundtvig Programme for adult education. After that, Lisbet Mikkelsen Buhl of the Danske Skoleforeningen and Anke Tästensen of the Deutscher Schul- und Sprachverein, presented the institut für Minderheitenpädagogik (institute for Minority Pedagogy).The 3rd RML2future conference will be held on 26-28 September 2011 in Carinthia/Austria, on the topic of early multilingualism.


Expert Meeting and international conference: ‘Multilingualism in Europe: prospects and practices in East-Central Europe’

 On the 23rd and 24th of March the third Expert Seminar of the Mercator Network of Language Diversity Centres will be organized in Budapest. The seminar is hosted by the Hungarian partner in the Mercator Network: the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest

The Expert Seminar will be followed by an international conference on the 25th and 26th of March with the subject ‘Multilingualism in Europe: prospects and practices in East-Central Europe’. 

The Expert Seminar will prepare for the third international conference which will focus on developments of the setting of minimum standards for Regional and Minority Languages in education and the essential legal provisions and requirements for their implementation. This international conference will take place on the 31st of September and the first of October 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. 

For the Expert Seminar several important experts already confirmed their presence. Among them are Jeroen Darquennes, György Andrássy, Gabor Kordos, Bernat Joan, Antoni Milian, Pia Lane, Mitja Žagar, Robert Dunbar, Guus Extra and Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta. 

For the draft program of the Expert Seminar, please click here

Click here for the conference programme.


January 2011

A summary of the news for January.


One hundred Frisian pre-schools

The target of the Province of Fryslân has been reached! On December 31st 2010 there were at least one hundred Frisian playgroups and nurseries, as agreed with The Centre for Frisian Childcare, SFBO. Chairman Sikko de Jong of SFBO (Sintrum Frysktalige Berneopfang) said: “We are proud, a milestone must be celebrated, but we will continue to certify bilingual preschools and kindergartens”

Frisian Commissioner of Culture, Mrs Jannewietske de Vries, has announced the hundredth bilingual pre-school at a ceremony organized by SFBO (The Centre for Frisian Childcare). De Vries said: “The practitioners from the pre-school are the pioneers; they must implement bilingualism in the workplace.”  
SFBO executes of the practical part in Fryslân of the MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project. This centre has a partnership with the Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning (hosted by the Frisian Academy). Mercator is responsible for scientific research and is also overall project leader of the MELT project.

Four European language communities cooperate in the MELT project: Fryslân (Frisian in The Netherlands), Swedish speaking municipalities of Finland (Swedish in Finland), Wales (Welsh in Great Britain) and Brittany (Breton in France). The project aims to: 

• Identify and share best practices in immersing children in a minority language 
• Improve the skills of early years practitioners 
• Provide young children with a strong educational foundation 
• Provide information to parents on bilingualism 
• Strengthen language communities and promote cultural and linguistic diversity. 
The MELT project is a two year Comenius Multilateral Project co-funded by the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme.  The project proposal comes from a co-operation between regions on this topic within the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity (NPLD).

Research paper 
Folkhälsan (the Swedish-speaking municipalities in Finland) is responsible of the development of a toolkit in eight languages.  The toolkit is still being tested at the participating pre-schools in the four regions. The toolkit is a key component of the MELT project. It gives structure and creates a language rich environment. The toolkit will offer them guidelines to support that process. A pamphlet will also be made that makes parents aware of the benefits of a multilingual upbringing. The research paper, developed by Mercator, will have a more theoretical approach, looking at models and completed with examples of good practice in the participating regions and will give recommendations. 

As part of the MELT project there was a seminar in Helsinki to share experiences on ways of developing minority language skills among children between six months and four years old, on December 13th 2010. The aim of this seminar was to evaluate the work that has been done so far; the four regions all have their own role within the project. There were presentations and a visit to a Swedish-medium nursery in Helsinki. 
Brussels Congress 2011
The project, funded by the European Commission, will run until the end of 2011, with a final congress in Brussel on October 6th 2011. The Regional Council of Brittany will organise this. The products of the MELT-project are not only meant for the four participating regions but also for the eleven language communities of the NPLD and later on for all multilingual regions in Europe.


Kickoff Language Portal

 Participants from all major research centers in The Netherlands came to the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam in order to attend the kickoff meeting of the Language Portal. Prof. Hans Bennis recounted briefly how the proposal for a Language Portal competed against proposals from all sciences and was ultimately awarded this most prestigious project grant. He emphasized that the same proposal should also be submitted by our Flemish partners to the Belgian authorities, as Dutch is one of Belgium's two standard languages. Dr. Eric Hoekstra (Frisian Academy) showed that the comparative Dutch-Frisian edge generates new and unexpected differences between the two language. Dr. Liesbeth Koenen and dr. Bieke van der Korst presented a format for the Language Portal's homepage (see picture).

Presenting the teams for Dutch and Frisian grammar
The chief aim of the project is to provide a complete parallel description of Dutch and Frisian grammar, that is, phonology, morphology and syntax. The Dutch team consists of:

Jenny Audring (morphology)
Hans Broekhuis (syntax)
Crit Cremers (syntax)
Björn Köhnlein (phonology)
Ton van der Wouden (morphology and project manager)

The Frisian team consists of three staff members of the Frisian Academy
Sybren Dyk (morphology)
Eric Hoekstra (syntax)
Willem Visser (phonology)
Arjen Versloot (manager)

Programming tasks will be taken care of by a team led by dr. Roderik Dernison and dr. Carole Tiberius of the Institute of Dutch Lexicography of Leiden University. 

Major grammatical project
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) had decided in 2010 to subsidize this project with 1,7 million euro's, payable from the special NWO budget for prestigious proposals. This is the first time that the subsidy has been granted to a linguistic project, and it is only the second time that it has been granted to a project from the humanities. 


Hearing on Frisian by Intergroup European Parliament in Strasbourg

 A delegation of Frisian politicians and NGOs spoke in Strasbourg to a crowded European Parliament Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages on Thursday 20 January, to discuss the problems arising over the Dutch Government’s lack of implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Talks focused on the current situation for Frisian, the lack of protection from linguistic discrimination, the prospects for Frisian language legislation, and the need for greater decentralisation of powers to the Frisian Provincial Government.

The Intergroup put Frisian on the programme following the letter regarding Frisian in the Netherlands that was sent by 17 Frisian organisations, united in the Europeeske Buro foar Lytse Talen (EBLT), to the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. EBLT and the Steatekomitee Frysk (Provincial Council committee Frisian) of the Provincial Council of Fryslân - in which every political party of the Provincial Council is represented - were invited to explain their letters and views. As far as we know it was the first time the Frisian language was on the agenda of a meeting of a committee of the European Parliament.

The Frisian representatives also spoke to several Dutch members of the European Parliament. They were surprised by the lack of attention to the Frisian language in the Netherlands and promised to try to convince their colleagues in both the European Parliament and the Dutch Parliament to put the issue higher on the agenda.

From left to right: Mrs Jannewietske de Vries (member of the Executive of the Province of Fryslân), Mrs Richt Sterk (representative of EBLT) and Mrs Corrie Hartholt-Van der Veen (chairwomen of the Steatekomitee Frysk in the Council of the Province of Fryslân) explained the current situation of the Frisian language in the Province of Fryslân and The Netherlands.