Do we have to fear for the Dutch language to die out?

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. Most Dutch speak incredible English. They tend to be quite proud of their English proficiency.

There are around 500 000 internationals living in the Netherlands, which goes from the long-term expat to the one semester exchange student. Added on top of the amount of migrant workers who moved here in the 60’s mostly from Turkey and Morocco. That does make a lot of people and among them a lot who do not speak (proper)Dutch. Other than that the Dutch language is facing strong competition from, English in the internet, television and social media, music and university education. The increasingly English language-orientated education is putting our population at a risk of losing part of the Dutch vocabulary. By thinking and writing exclusively in English we will lose part of our Dutch vocabulary and with it the ability to think in that language. Did you know that more people in Amsterdam speak English than in Los Angeles.

Language is always changing, evolving and adapting to the needs of it’s users. In the early days changes were so slow that from year to year we hardly noticed it. With the advent of new technologies our language changes fast. Due to these influences, a language always embraces new words and expressions as people come across new words and phrases in their day-to-day lives and integrate them into their own speech. Many of the changes that occur in language begin with the language of youngsters.

I am totally aware of the fact that language isn’t set in stone. Language changes over time, new words and expressions are added to the dictionary while others fall into disuse and disappear. It is unavoidable. I regret that so many great expressions and terms will be forgotten over time. As a language dies out, so too does a wealth of knowledge particularly in the field of culture and history. For example due to the historically large number of Jews in Amsterdam, Yiddish has certainly found its way into the local language. So does the 17th century cant language called Bargoens used by criminals, tramps and traveling salesmen as a secret code. Like the local language, Bargoens has many Yiddish loanwords. Up to a few decades ago it was part of the colloquial language for the inhabitants of Amsterdam. Nowadays it’s in danger of dying out.

It’s hard to imagine a language with 23 million native speakers being in danger of dying out if we do not put a stop to it. Not only would this mean the demise of our precious language but also of the country’s culture. -by Bregje

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