EuroQuest Special Program on Minority Language Broadcasting, Part III
Can immigrants do without domestic foreign language broadcasts?
I think there seems to be a growing feeling among the public and politicians in the Netherlands that people who want to live here should speak Dutch. I’ve experienced it myself. Gone are the days when it wasn’t expected. Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has made it mandatory for immigrants to learn to speak Dutch in integration courses and has even drawn up legislation which says that would-be immigrants would have to learn Dutch before they come.
I asked my Dutch teacher what she thinks about minority broadcasting. (She also gives Dutch lesson to immigrants who have to take these so-called “inburgerings” courses.) She’s divided on the issue. On the one hand she says it’s a good way of informing people about life in the Netherlands, and what’s going on in the news, etc.
But, on the other hand, she fears that it would give people even less of a reason to learn Dutch, if they could get all the information they need in their own language.
She gave as an example the creation of a Turkish language medical centre near where she lives. She thinks this might give some Turkish women even less incentive to learn Dutch, as some women she has met say their main reason for wanting to learn Dutch is so they can go to the doctor on their own. She says there are some Turkish women who can quite easily live in a so-called Turkish-language bubble here – they speak Turkish with their families and female friends, they shop at Turkish shops and market stalls. And now of course they can go to a Turkish-language medical centre. She says people need an incentive to learn Dutch and these women have little. But if they have Turkish language broadcasting, would they have even less?
One of our Swedish guests, Nidia Hagström, is the co-ordinator of Swedish Radio's broadcasts in Middle Eastern languages. She believes that domestic foreign language broadcasting is the first step in the integration of immigrants into society. Foreign satellite stations broadcast information about what happens in other countries. But often not a lot of information about small countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands. So how else should newcomers who don’t yet speak Swedish or Dutch get their information?
Her Swedish compatriot, Social Democrat MP, Helene Petersson, even goes so far as to say it’s important to broadcast in other languages in a democracy. Of course, people moving to her country should learn Swedish, but broadcasting in their language is another way of getting information out about public services.
Islamologist Hans Jansen of Utrecht University says Dutch should be the most important language in world if you live in the Netherlands. But I wonder, need it be the only language we hear on our airwaves here?