Thursday, November 10, 2005

EuroQuest Special Program on Minority Language Broadcasting, Part I

Does minority language broadcasting help immigrants integrate?

As Jonathan mentioned in his last post, this week’s EuroQuest, co-produced with Radio Sweden, looks at whether minority language broadcasting helps or hinders the integration of migrant communities into host countries.

Once upon a time, many European countries saw it as their obligation to help newcomers integrate by providing state sponsored broadcasts in diverse languages. But today, the Netherlands and Sweden have opted for two different approaches to the same issue.

This is because the Netherlands has chosen to reduce its broadcasts in minority languages, with the idea that learning Dutch, and Dutch only, will help migrant communities integrate. While Sweden believes this is partially true, it has also decided to maintain and even increase the broadcasting time for certain languages. So whose approach is the most valid?

Well, I don’t think there is an easy answer – but does it have to be either/or?

Take me for example. I’m a relative newcomer here in the Netherlands, having moved over just six months ago. And it seems to me that as an English speaker I could, if I wished, live quite easily in the Netherlands without ever having to learn Dutch. I produce English-language programs, I work mostly with other English speakers, I live with my English husband and I can listen to and watch English language radio and TV, and read English language newspapers. And every Dutch person I have met so far speaks amazing English - so ordering in shops or restaurants or going to the doctor is not a problem.

But I am learning Dutch because I want to and because I feel that it’s not possible to really get to know the people and culture of a country without learning their language. So I’m having Dutch lessons, I watch Dutch TV and I read the Dutch-language papers on my train ride to work every morning.

But at the same time I am very thankful for the English-language TV and radio that I have access to, and am eternally grateful for all the information I was given in English when I first moved here; about things like how the health system works, where to buy tram tickets, how to open a bank account and how to get a work permit. My first few weeks in the Netherlands would have been quite bewildering otherwise.

I wonder then what it would be like for those people arriving in the Netherlands speaking neither Dutch nor English?

More on that in part II tomorrow...

Want to hear news in Moroccan (they don't call it Arabic), click here: NPS. The NPS, or the Dutch Programming Foundation, is not only responsible for Dutch Sesame Street, but also ethnic language programming. Well, these broadcasts have been reduced from daily to once a week and will probably disappear altogether. The NPS itself is in danger of being done away with as part of a reorganization of the whole Dutch public broadcasting system. A sign of the times? You bet.....

(you can comment on this posting by clicking just under this sentence.)


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