Frisian is the only second official language in the Netherlands, spoken by some 450.000 Frisians in the north of the country (and circa 10.000 Frisians in Germany). Only a small elite can actually write it. Therefore, like so many other minority languages, Frisian is something in between a dialect and a state language. Throughout the last two centuries the use of Frisian has been contested and defended time and again. Nowadays, quite a few institutions promote the Frisian language. It is protected by European treaties and mandatorily taught at school. Despite EU efforts its speakers are more proficient in Dutch than in Frisian. And exactly this makes it all the more interesting! The case of Frisian shows the interesting dynamics of minority languages in general. It is an excellent example of how minority languages attempt to create a balance between local and global, between unity and diversity.
The province of Fryslân
Fryslân is a province in the North of the Netherlands with some 650.000 inhabitants. It is typically known for its wide horizons, its seedikes and their sheep, its many lakes and canals, sailed on in summer and crossed by ice-skates in winter. The Frisians are often stereotyped as sturdy, stubborn, and supercilious people who vehemently cling to their own language and culture. While, in fact they’re a welcoming people who embrace modern society with a pleasant passion for the place they call home.
Structure of the programme
Our Frisian specialisation track within the Bachelor programme first of all provides the student with a robust knowledge of Frisian Language & Culture. Furthermore, this track is composed in such a way that Fryslân and the Frisian language also do function as a specific example of the general story of minorities and multilingualism. The Frisian track offers you the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge on a European minority, to improve language proficiency in a minority language, and to develop your comparative research skills.
For those who, after completion of their studies, have the ambition to work within Fryslân, the programme can arrange placements within one of the many Frisian cultural institutions or within the Frisian government. The Department has excellent contacts in the province to accommodate the students.
Fryslân as a laboratory
Further knowledge of Fryslân can be acquired in some of the other main courses from the main programme, especially in the two ‘Frisian laboratory’ courses. In those classes all BA-students get to know the situation of Frisian as a minority language in greater detail. During ‘The Cultural Heritage’ for instance, students are invited to visit institutions in Fryslân such as the ‘Fries Museum’ in Leeuwarden, the provincial capital, to experience and analyse how Frisians try to preserve their past, and present this to the public and how this can be compared with other minorities
At the end of the BA-programme, students must prove that they are of capable of working with the concepts, theories, and methodologies taught in the past three years by writing a bachelor thesis. Those who want to specialise in Frisian and Fryslân are warmly invited to choose a topic in the field of Frisian studies. They will be encouraged to do a comparative research, linking the case of Fryslân with one or more other minority cultures. By doing so, the students show their ability to relate their specific knowledge to general knowledge, thus connecting the global issues to the local situation.