Within a radius of about 250 meters around my residence, there are also families from China, India, Chile, Turkey, Egypt, Norway and Scotland. And no doubt there are more nationalities to be found. My research wasn’t that intricate.
Last week, an Italian moving van unloaded.
In our neighbourhood, we talk in English and, if possible, occasionally use a word or phrase in Dutch as well.
At one of the neighbouring primary schools, there are pupils from more than 40 different countries. What is called multilingual education is offered there: 50% of the lessons are given in English.
What was once Latin is now English. The lingua franca of our time, that much is clear.
The renewed plea for more attention to German and French at secondary schools sounds sympathetic and historically very explainable: we know no better than that the neighbouring languages have a prominent place in the curriculum.
It strengthens the unity of Europe if all neighbours would speak each other’s language, which is still not the case.
There are strong economic and cultural ties with Germany. It is our big neighbour. The languages are related and many of us go on holiday there.
But younger Germans are generally fluent in English. As an exporting country, Germany would benefit from the promotion of English as a second language in German schools. This fits in well with the customs in the Netherlands: so why should you want to speak more German?
With French, it is even less obvious: holiday country number one for Dutch people. But that’s pretty much what it is.
French as the world language of the elite is outdated and in Belgium’s economically most important part of the country, Flanders, Dutch is a very good choice today.
And yes, the French themselves, incorrigible as they are, still speak little ‘across the border’: so therefore more French?
It is doubtful whether the call for more German and French at secondary school will still have a great deal of resonance in the year 2019.
No matter how beautiful these languages are, and no matter how great the cultural connection seems to be, don’t forget that Chinese and Spanish are the new world languages.
As a trading nation, the Netherlands has global connections.
A choice for the neighbouring languages is, therefore, less obvious than it seems.
One in seven people on this earth speaks Chinese.
The New Silk Road is rapidly gaining in importance. Eurasia is connected by this linea recta with the great Chinese foreland. Talk about trade interests.
Although Spanish is less widely spread than English, more people speak Spanish as a first language. Knowledge of one Romanesque language is always a plus. So why not opt for the biggest one?!
The choice of foreign languages in the curriculum is not self-evident, as it turns out.
Fortunately, English offers a foothold, in spite of the approaching Brexit. That’s just how it is.
Columnist Pieter Hendrikse looks at the events in and sometimes also outside Eindhoven. He does this based on his own expertise (education, social, cultural) and in a free role.