Sunday, February 05, 2006

Holland Struggling with the Future

I lived in Holland for a year once. It was a great experience and I was always impressed by how incredibly open and tolerant the society was. That was in 1998. Today things seem to be moving in a very different direction.
All schools in the Rotterdam area have banned all languages except Dutch being spoken by the students, even in the playground. The burka has been banned as well as all flags being displayed (including the Dutch flag). Now Dutch Immigration Minister "Iron" Rita Verdonk has put forward a proposal that only Dutch be allowed to be spoken in all public places:

"Speaking Dutch in the street is very important. I receive more and more e-mails from people saying they feel 'unheimisch' (ill at ease) in the street," Verdonk said at a weekend congress of her liberal VVD party about integration.

The minister's comment seemed to contradict her own Dutch-only call, since she resorted to using the German word 'unheimisch,' which translates loosely into 'ill at ease' but has no direct translation in Dutch."

D-W World

I see broad language variation as a resource that a nation could harness and even benefit economically from. The attempt at control of social fabric in order to form the sort of society certain powerful elites would like to have, rather than the one that they actually do have, is a form of denial that does not benefit anyone. The plan by Verdonk to deport 26 000 non-nationals is part of this. The Netherlands has more than two million immigrants, mainly from Morocco and the former Dutch colonies, Surinam and Curacao.

Anyone who wants to come and live in the Netherlands now has to perform a language test with a computer over the telephone:

"From 1 March this year, people from outside the European Union hoping to come and live in the Netherlands will have to take a Dutch language test over the telephone. The exam will be carried out using an automatic speech recognition system and has just been approved by the Dutch Parliament, but the idea also has plenty of critics."
Radio Netherlands

Recently Dutch public television broadcast a program in which various groups residing in the Netherlands sat the tests, among them native-born Dutch nationals, Chinese restaurant owners and so on.

They all failed

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