Friday, November 11, 2005

EuroQuest Special Program on Minority Language Broadcasting, Part II

Does minority language broadcasting help immigrants integrate?

One of the guests on EQ this week is Professor Hans Jansen, a leading Dutch Arabist and Islamologist and outspoken opponent of multilingualism in broadcasting and education.

I read an article recently that he wrote back in May 2000, in which he said providing minorties living in the Netherlands with information in their own language prevents them from learning Dutch quickly. He said the numbers of minorities with language difficulties are much lower in countries such as the UK, Germany or France compared to the Netherlands.

He thinks this is (or rather was) because of the Dutch policy towards newcomers: the German, French and UK governments take it for granted that those who want to live in their country have to learn their language.

Professor Jansen says the Dutch on the other hand, go out of their way to provide minorities with information in their own language. For example, when newcomers arrive in the Netherlands they are told in their own language that they will have to learn Dutch. Jansen says they should be told this in Dutch! Telling them in their own language underminds the idea that they need to learn Dutch.

I’m not sure about this. It seems to me to imply that unless people are forced to learn the language of their new host country, they won’t bother. I mean, just because I listen to English-language radio, watch English-language TV programmes, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn Dutch or that I’m not integrating or don’t want to try to. I take advantage of the English-language media but also of their Dutch equivalents. And in the same vein, just because minority language radio exists doesn’t have to mean that minorities would use them instead of the Dutch language media.

Take the following: another of the guests on EQ this week is Jorge Cuartas, Managing Director of Foquz Ethnomarketing. A survey carried out by his company showed that immigrants who speak Dutch at home read an equal number of Dutch newspapers as those who speak another language at home. And though they watch foreign language stations, they watch Dutch stuff, too....

But can immigrants do without domestic foreign language broadcasts??

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