Master Multilingualism

Multilingualism is everywhere! You just have to look and listen. Walking down a street in a big city you may hear people speaking different languages that you won’t understand. Besides hearing multilingualism it can also be seen in the signs that shops use or in the graffiti on the walls. We truly live in a world where multilingualism is the norm and monolingualism the exception. Multilingualism has important implications for communication, identity, social and cultural integration, and education. How can we deal with the challenges that multilingualism brings for the individual, society and institutions?

Structure of the programme

Our Master programme is unique in combining teaching many of the aspects at play in the world of multilingualism with a practical, research-driven approach. The programme is situated in Leeuwarden, capital of the officially multilingual province of Fryslân, in the north of the Netherlands. By choosing this location students are given immediate access to a multilingual laboratory. Students learn how to deal with day-to-day issues such as helping companies overcome communication problems, designing language policies, or advising schools on how best to teach children with foreign language backgrounds. They receive an MA degree in Linguistics from the University of Groningen.

The Master Multilingualism was initiated by the Departments of Frisian Language and Culture and the Applied Linguistics programme at the University of Groningen in co-operation with  Campus Fryslân and NHLStenden University of Applied Sciences.

“Hands-on experience”

This Master programme is all about applying theory to practice. We do this by letting the students experience multilingualism in real life. An opportunity for this are the many visits the students make to multilingual environments and institutions. One of our MA students shares her experiences:

“I think it’s really nice that the programme arranges excursions. Seeing minority languages in real life situations, and their challenges, really made me think about how I could help solve them. It is very interesting to see various multilingual situations such as the role of a minority language in religion, which really opened my mind.

Other excursions to the Fryske Akademy and the Provincial house in Leeuwarden bring the challenges faced by policy makers researchers to life. It made me feel involved in something current and important. The excursions help me to look at the minority situation in my own country from a different point of view.”

Job perspectives

Multilingualism exists at many levels in society each with their own problems and solutions. Here in the Netherlands we find different problems such as how to deal with minority migrant languages in education and how multilingual education should and could develop. To find answers to such a problem a multilingualism expert would do field research and give advice to the organisation in charge. By having in depth knowledge of multilingualism combined with their own skills and interests our students are well equipped to contribute to the globalising world.


The central theme of this course is language change in a multilingual community and the course familiarises the student with key concepts within the field of variationist linguistics. Dr. Nanna Hilton, specialised in language contact, introduces sociolinguistic analysis tools that can be employed during the course of the MA. Students will discuss topics such as regional variation, language contact, social variation and language attitudes as well as language endangerment and code switching. All classes are four hours with discussions and interactive assignments. Students are assessed by weekly assignments. This is a 5 ECTS course.

The central theme in this module is the practice of social and behavioural research techniques for language and linguistics. Regularly, results of scientific research are presented in discussions about language use and development. This course introduces students to the methods and techniques used in linguistic research and trains them to use basic statistical analyses in R. The essentials of behavioural research will be taught through a practical and problem-oriented approach.

Experts in (socio)linguistics present students with theoretical and methodological aspects of language planning and policy (LPP) and focus on topics such as intelligibility, language shift and language death with ideology and philosophy behind LPP. The course also deals with the role of context for the survival or maintenance of minority (indigenous as well as recently introduced) languages in a multilingual community. Topics such as the role of English in higher education and activism & language change are covered in class. The module consists of weekly theoretical lectures with following discussion. In this 5 ECTS course, students are assessed by two final essays.

This course presents Friesland as a laboratory for studying multilingualism in action. Students are offered first-hand knowledge of language use in Friesland, as well as lectures on a selection of topics particularly applicable to Frisian. Classes will consist of visits to Frisian cultural and government institutions as well as to institutions where interesting sociolinguistic situations can be observed. Experts from a number of different fields will introduce topics of theoretical relevance that students will get a chance to test empirically themselves

The central theme of this module is how multiple languages are acquired, how they develop and how they are represented in the brain. It looks at how the processing of the languages in a multilingual takes place at phonological, grammatical, lexical and pragmatic levels. Topics dealt with include early and late acquisition of additional languages, processes of production and perception, language attrition, cognitive consequences of multilingualism and the multilingual brain.

Joana Duarte PhD, specialised in multilingualism and educational linguistics, presents bi- and multilingual education as a laboratory for pupils, students and teachers in action. Students are offered first-hand knowledge of bi- and multilingual education at various levels and with respect to a range of target languages: dominant or majority languages, traditional and new foreign languages as well as regional & minority and immigrant languages. Classes will consist of lectures, group work, guest input and visits to schools in Fryslân as well as to guidance institutions supporting bi- and trilingual education. Experts will introduce education topics of theoretical relevance and with regard to their applicability in practice. Students are assessed by means of five weekly assignments and a final essay. This is a 5 ECTS course.

By means of a discourse and conceptual analysis of key texts on nationalism and minority thinking, the close relationship between language and political power is dealt with from a global, historical as well as anthropological point of view. In particular, the connections between language, state and nation(s) will be topics of discussion. Prof. Goffe Jensma will introduce the importance of language for the formation of a civic national or an ethnolinguistic minority identity as well as the role ideas on language can play to include or exclude population groups will also be discussed. Professor Jensma is specialised in social cultural history or minorities. For this course the students will be assessed on the basis of several papers, a portfolio, and an essay. This is a 10 ECTS course.

The student can do an internship at an institution that offers the possibility for the student to work with issues that are particularly prevalent in multilingual communities. The internship can be carried out in Leeuwarden, elsewhere in the Netherlands, or with an organisation abroad. The student carries out his or her own small research project, or actively participates in a larger project carried out by the local project group. Students doing an internship will work with a supervisor at the internship and a mentor at the university specialised in the subject.

In order to prove their expertise Students write a Master’s Thesis (of approximately 17,000 words, excluding bibliography and appendices). There will be several seminars to help the students to formulate a problem definition, choose suitable theoretical, and methodological framework for research. This task is supervised on an individual basis by a teacher specialised in the subject chosen by the student. The student will conduct research which they will present in writing. The students will be assessed on basis of their thesis and present their work to an audience. This is a 20 ECTS course.



Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9:00 to 17:00




September – July