“Many people don´t know this but…”

Once upon a time Frisian and English were kin languages.
They were spoken along the coasts of the North Sea. Roman historians used to call the latter the Frisian Sea at the time.
In the last five centuries, however, the Frisian language has been under siege by other languages, especially French and Dutch. The influence of those two languages is plain to see.
What is more, in the last five decades the Frisian language has been under brutal attack by Dutch-spoken media, while our government is pig-headedly looking the other way. You probably won’t even believe me when I tell you that the large daily newspapers, which I’m sure you agree should be the vehicles of Frisian culture, are being printed — wait for it! — in Dutch!


And to top it all off, the schools that are required by law to teach the Frisian language (Frisian and Dutch are the official languages of The Netherlands, you see), recruit their staff from… well, frankly from anywhere. In any event, a decent command of the Frisian language is not at all a conditio sine qua non for someone to become teacher at a Frisian school. C´est le cadet de ses soucis, if you pardon my French — the least of the worries of the average school board, that is.


Perhaps now you can see where I´m coming from when I tell you that more and more Frisian youngsters — due to Dutch-spoken media and failing educational systems, and a (fanatic) state complacency — are very much inclined to adopt Dutch words and colloquialisms, adorn them with a Frisian pronunciation and spelling, and in doing so attribute to the further decline of our ancient language.
Mind you, if you look close enough, you can still see the similarities between Frisian and English, but they are growing scarcer and scarcer — and in 5th gear these days. 

Writing proper(!) Frisian nowadays is therefore not at all a Saturday walk in the park.
On the contrary, you need to walk a very thin line — on the one hand you want to touch the readers´ hearts by using words and expressions that they still recognize as their beloved maternal tongue, and on the other hand you do not want to estrange them by overdoing it, if you can see what I´m driving at. 


By the way, your compliment about my command of the English language really hit the spot. Coming from a professional linguist it means the world to me. I’m sure you know the feeling 


And, yes, you´re absolutely right… the influence of other languages is of all times — it’s the natural course of things. Remember the change of course the English language took due to the Roman occupation of England.
I remember a rather chauvinist Brit (is that a tautology, by the way?) who was actually convinced that it was the other way around. For he recognized so many “British” words in French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. “One can really see how primitive those languages are”, he said to me. “They had to borrow lots of words from us!”


Santa ignorantia!
And I have an English pal who simply hates those American spelling checkers that ruin his so dearly beloved native language.

So, yes, languages are living organisms — you’d better stand back, give them room to move, and then… go with the flow!

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  1. september 9, 2020

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