Frisia and Dutch

Language Data – Frisian (Netherlands, Germany)
Fryske (Frisian)

Frisian is spoken in the province of Fryslân, and in a few border villages in the neighbouring province of Groningen. The provincial government and the councils of several municipalities have started a language policy that gives Frisian equal rights to Dutch. In the last decade the name of the province (Fryslân) and many local place names have officially been converted to Frisian. The area where Frisian is spoken is illustrated by the following map, where the various regions and their dialects are indicated.

In 1996 the European Charter for regional or minority languages was ratified by the Netherlands. In 1995 the right to use Frisian in the local and provincial assemblies was confirmed by statute. Since 1997 the law explicitly gives Frisians the right to use their native language in courts of justice, though it has been tolerated since the fifties. In 1980 Frisian was made a compulsory subject in primary school, and in 1993 it also became a compulsory subject in the first years of secondary education.

The province of Fryslân has about 600,000 inhabitants and more than half of these can be considered first-language speakers of Frisian. The number of Frisian speakers in the relevant part of Groningen may be about 3,000.

A sociolinguistic study in 1994 revealed that 94% of the population of Fryslân can understand the language, 74% can speak it, 65% are able to read Frisian (however, most of them read Dutch more easily) and 17% write Frisian. Frisian is spoken in 55% of the homes.  Speakers of Frisian form a (great) majority in most rural areas, and a (small) minority in the towns and cities, on the Frisian Isles and in the Stellingwerven (two Low-Saxon municipalities in the south-eastern part of the province). Practically all Frisian speakers are bilingual in Dutch. Most mother-tongue speakers of Dutch in Fryslân can understand Frisian, but are not able or willing to speak it.

The Frisian language in the Netherlands
by Durk Gorter, Alex Riemersma and Jehannes Ytsma


The province of Friesland (Fri. Fryslân) is one of the twelve provinces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The total population is 618,000 (1998) which is equal to 184 inhabitants per km2 (cf. The Netherlands: 15.6 million inhabitants; 462 per km2). The capital is the city of Leeuwarden (Fri. Ljouwert), which has some 88,000 inhabitants. Leeuwarden is one of the eleven ‘cities’ in Fryslân, which obtained city-rights during the Middle Ages. Some of these ‘cities’ are quite small and would be considered small villages by today’s standards. Friesland has 31 municipalities. A dense pattern of over 300 villages (many with a population less than 1,500) and only a few larger towns is typical for Friesland. The second largest place is Drachten with some 41,000 inhabitants, the tiniest villages may have less than 25 inhabitants.
The administrative borders of the province coincide well with the geographic area in which the Frisian language (Fri. Frysk) is spoken today. Only in a small part of the neighboring province of Groningen (Fri. Grinslân), where the language border crosses the administrative border, we also find a few thousand speakers of Frisian (Gorter, Jansma en Jelsma 1990).
In 1830 the population of Friesland (205,000) comprised almost 8% of the total population of the Netherlands, by 1920 the relative part had declined to 5.6%. By 1950 the absolute number of inhabitants had more than doubled (468,000), but it had further decreased relatively (only 4.6%). Today it is less than 4% of the total population of the Netherlands. The relative decrease is mainly due to a continued departure surplus from Friesland, especially caused by its weak economy. Friesland is traditionally an agricultural area, with relatively little industry. Today the (financial) service sector is quite important. According to age, the youngest group (below 19 years) and the oldest group (over 65 years) are overrepresented in Friesland compared to the average of the Netherlands. Many young persons leave the province to study at a university (mainly Groningen) or to obtain a job in the ‘city-belt’ (‘Randstad’) of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. In terms of educational level and income the population of Friesland is somewhat below average.

Migration is thus an important factor (Van Langevelde, 1993). During the 1950s there was massive emigration from Friesland. From 1960 till today the number of persons leaving the province every year has remained fairly constant, averaging ± 25,000. However, the number of newcomers has fluctuated from just over 20,000 in 1960, going up to a high point of almost 35,000 in 1974, decreasing to 22,000 in 1984 and settling at almost 27,000 in 1997. The outcome has been a surplus of immigrants between 1971 and 1982 and a negative departure balance in most other years. Population growth has come from a surplus of births. There is also internal migration to and from the countryside, where living in towns has become more important. The effect of this relocation of the population on the distribution of the language has been substantial. Both processes of migration made language related differences less distinct.


The census in the Netherlands has never contained a language question. So, there are no detailed data available on the numbers of Frisian language speakers (nor on Dutch or other languages). From representative sample surveys among the population of 12 years and older, which were repeatedly carried out in 1967, 1980 and 1994 (Pietersen 1969, Gorter et al 1984, Gorter and Jonkman 1995), we can deduce that today 74% of the population is be able to speak Frisian. This figure implies an absolute number of roughly 400,000 speakers of Frisian. From the same survey studies we know that a substantial part of them, 19%, must be second language learners, because 55% reports to have learned Frisian as their first language as a child. Currently, just over half of the population usually speaks Frisian at home. Again from these same surveys it is known that approximately 94% of the population can understand Frisian, 65% can read it and only 17% can write the language. What we observe over the timespan of more than 25 years is a slow decline in speaking proficiency and an increase in writing abilities. Yet, overall, the percentages have been relatively stable, which is shown in the graph 1.

As a rule, all inhabitants of Friesland are able to speak, read and write Dutch. There is, however, a substantial part of the Frisian-speakers who claim to have greater oral fluency in Frisian than in Dutch (about 60%).
In terms of language-geography there has been a contrast between the towns and the countryside for at least four centuries. Predominantly during the first part of the 16th century a separate linguistic system came into being in at least eight towns: the so-called "city-Frisian" (Fri. Stedfrysk). This was caused by a change in government (new rulers with immigrant civil servants) and increased trade contacts with the towns in the province of Holland (Amsterdam, etc) (Jonkman 1993). Fundamentally city-Frisian is a Dutch dialect, although it has strongly been influenced by Frisian, especially in its lexicon and pronunciation.
The emergence of city-Frisian gave rise to a lasting historical contrast between the towns and the countryside. Before World War II we can estimate that over 90% of households in the countryside spoke Frisian and less than 20% of households in towns where city-Frisian was spoken. Migration, both internal and external has changed this pattern, but even today the spread of the Frisian language reflects a contrast between towns and countryside. Frisian still has its strongest base in the countryside. In the villages the figure for Frisian as the home language is around 70% and in the larger towns over 10,000 inhabitants it is about 40% or less.
Some other dialect varieties can be found in Friesland. On three of the four Waddensea islands separate dialects for Amelânsk, West- (Westersk), Middle- (Midslânsk) and East-Terschelling (Aastersk) and for Skiermûntseagersk are spoken. All five can be thought of as being heavily influenced by both Dutch and Frisian, or, as a sort of mixed language. For all varieties the number of speakers is declining. The municipality of ‘It Bilt’, in the northwestern part of the province, consists mainly of land reclaimed from the ‘Middle-sea’ (by the beginning of the 16th century). Thereafter the area was settled by farmers from the province of South-Holland. Up until today a separate dialect (Biltsk) is in use by a few thousand speakers. At the northeaster border a dialect is spoken referred to as Kollumerks; it has only a limited geographical spread. In two south-eastern municipalities, East- and West-Stellingwerf, a Saxon dialect (Stellingwerfsk) is spoken by about one-third of the inhabitants as home language (± 17.000 persons). In recent years efforts at revival of the dialects have gained some popularity. Together the dialect areas mentioned are sometimes referred to as ‘non-Frisian speaking’ areas, which is only in part a correct label, mainly based upon historical considerations.

Frisian forms a rather homogeneous speech community, where all the dialectical varieties are mutually understood with ease. A major dialect is the speech variety of the south-western part which is known as ‘Súdhoeksk’. It differs from other varieties mainly because it has no breaking, a phonological feature, making the pronunciation quite characteristic. Another major dialect variety is spoken in the part of the Wâlden (see above) and is accordingly called ‘Wâldfrysk’. Finally, the third major variety is ‘Klaaifrysk’, spoken in the western part, de Klaaihoeke. There is another subvariety ‘Noardklaaifrysk’, in the north, where some discussion arises whether it should be a separate variety, included with Wâldfrysk or with Klaaifrysk. The standard variety of Frisian is an amalgam of Wâldfrysk and mainly Klaaifrysk (Tiersma 1985, Breuker 1993).

When we look at the distribution of language use of Frisian over different social domains or situations, we see an uneven pattern. In the domains of the family, work and the village community, Frisian holds a relative strong position, because a majority of the population habitually uses Frisian. In the more formal domains of media, public administration and law and education the use of Frisian has made some inroads during the last decades, but overall is fairly limited. Survey-research has thrown some light on the patterns of differential language use.
The next figure contains a summary of twelve situations in public life for which the respondents have answered what language they ordinarily use. The situations can be distinguished according to the degree of formality and the familiarity with the interlocutor. A cross-tabulation has been made with language background: thus those respondents that have learned Frisian as their first language (L1) are distinguished from those who indicated that they could speak Frisian, but it was not their mother tongue (L2).

See graph 2:
The top of the graph there is very small difference between first language speakers and second language speakers of Frisian. In speaking to a ‘Dutch tourist’ it seems obvious that using Frisian is ‘not done’. However, already in the second situation – language with Dutch neighbours – a degree of difference does occur. Second-language learners barely use Frisian with Dutch-speaking neighbours, where first language speakers do so in about one fifth of the cases (19%). A similar pattern occurs for a medical specialist; usually those have a Dutch language background and the situation is defined as formal and non-familiar.
In descending this ‘mountain graph’ the gap between L1 and L2 speakers widens in terms of the percentage that does use Frisian in the selected situations. At the bottom we find that 85% of Frisian L1-speakers habitually speaks Frisian in the shop where they do their daily shopping, whereas only 42% of L2-speakers does use Frisian.
In the survey many other questions were posed on language use (Gorter and Jonkman, 1995). Two similar questions were concerned with language choice. All respondents were asked to situate themselves in a shop in a larger town and answer the question of the language they would choose for the interaction with a shop-assistant. They were first asked ‘What do you speak when you are spoken to in Frisian by the salesperson?’, and secondly, its complement: ‘When the salesperson speaks Dutch to you’?

See graph nummer 3.
On the lefthand side of the graph we can see that when a salesperson addresses the respondent in Frisian, almost all Frisian speakers (with Frisian as their first language) will also use Frisian in return (98%). However, when the salesperson speaks Dutch to this same group, more than three quarters of the Frisian speakers accommodates to the shop-assistant and also uses Dutch. Only some 22% speaks Frisian in case of a Dutch speaking shop-assistant.  When we turn to the right-hand part of the figure, we see a totally different outcome. These are the remaining respondents (including 42 percent who claimed to have speaking ability in Frisian, and learned it as a second language). We can observe here that only one third converges to a Frisian speaking salesperson by answering him in Frisian. In the case of a Dutch speaking salesperson, hardly anyone will answer in Frisian.
Of course, these results have informed us only about one particular situation of language choice. It is, however, obvious that the language of the interlocutor is a very important factor. Language choice is, so to speak, “person bound”.
It also turns out to be quite important whether Frisian was learned as a first or second language. On the basis of such results and taking into consideration the rule that between strangers Dutch will be the ‘unmarked’, safe choice, it will not come as a surprise that many non-Frisian persons make the observation that they hear little Frisian spoken in the capital of Leeuwarden.
There are still other factors involved in language choice. One such factor is language attitude (Gorter and Ytsma, 1988). There is a wide variety of attitudes towards the Frisian language. Frisian speakers seem to be basically positively predisposed toward their own language. They express a certain emotional attachment and there is widespread agreement on the ‘beauty’ and ‘value’ of Frisian. At the same time speakers can wholeheartedly oppose certain specific measures to promote the use of Frisian, e.g. for education or public administration.
On the basis of systematic participant observation language attitudes (emotions and opinions) about Frisian can be placed in four simple categories (Gorter 1993, 155-165). In the first category we find persons with negative emotions and negative opinions concerning Frisian: e.g. they are against any use of Frisian for official purposes. They will often deny to be “anti-frisian”, but consider Frisian is a language to be used only by Frisian speakers among themselves. There are two categories in between. In one category we find persons who hold the opinion that Frisian is useless for economic purposes (or any ‘serious’ use), although at te same time they feel positively towards maintenance of the ‘beautiful’ Frisian language. Probably this is the largest group. There is another category similar to the former, but the reverse in terms of opinions and emotions. They will approach Frisian positively as some technical policy-problem that has to be solved in a rational way, but they feel little emotional attachment towards the language. There are not many who are outspoken negative in their emotions, rather neutral. Finally, there is a category with both positive emotions and opinions. This last category comprises a relatively small number of persons.
With such contrasting language attitudes, language conflicts are part and parcel of daily life in Friesland, but usually only on a small scale at the level of individual interaction. There is no large-scale social conflict over the use of the language. An exception was the introduction of Frisian place-names in 1989, when organized resistance by local businessmen made it difficult to effectuate the measure.

Outside the province of Friesland people are often hardly aware of the developments concerning Frisian. There the prestige of the language is relatively low, even though it may be held in high regard inside the province of Friesland. Although the Frisian-speakers are a quantitative majority in Friesland, the Dutch-speakers are the social group that has more chance that its (language) interests and desires are realized and thus they exert more power (Gorter 1993, cf Ytsma, Viladot and Giles 1994). The stable diglossia relationship with Dutch as the exclusive language in formal domains and Frisian as the ‘lower’ language no longer exists. In the current situation it is less clear when and where, what language can be used or has to be used. Frisian is allowed, and its use must be possible, but other mechanisms (a.o. rules of linguistic etiquette) are now constraining its use. It is clear that older strict ‘divisions of functions’ between the two languages has given way to new patterns, where Dutch enters into and cannot be kept out of the intimate spheres of the home, friends, family and neighborhood and where at the same time Frisian seeks to ‘conquer’ some of the ‘higher’ domains of media, public administration and education.
In the media Frisian has only a minimal presence. The two major daily newspapers have small amounts of Frisian texts every day (< 3%), and one special Frisian page every week. Local papers generally follow this pattern; here and there some have a bit more. There are a few literary journals Trotwaer and Hjir and a two-monthly magazine for education, De Pompeblêden. There are two special ‘youth magazines’, Sjedêrrr!!! and De Holder, aiming at the age category under 18. From september 1999 there is a general magazine Frsk, which is spread door-to-door among all households in Fryslân.
The number of hours broadcasted by the regional radio station has gone up quite considerably over the last few years, to some 50 hours a week. Frisian television was very modest for many years with less than one hour a week, including school TV. Since February 1994 there has been one hour of original TV-programming every day (plus the rerunning of programs). These programs are well received and have a relative high viewingrate. Research conducted in 1998 showed that 58% of the population listened to Omrop Fryslân radio and 77% watched Frisian television (Spinhof en Keijzer 1998). Frisian has only a very modest place in more recent ‘new media’ developments, such as CD-roms and the Internet.


The Frisian language has been officially recognized as the second language of the Netherlands. That formal recognition has, however, only entailed moderate promotion of the language by the state. In a slow process of legal codification certain provisions for the use of Frisian in dealings with the government have been made.
As Schmidt (1997) observes “the Frisian language underwent an important increase in prestige”. He referred to what has happened in Friesland for the legal framework over the last few years. In that framework four parts can be distinguished.
 (1) The first part is the covenant between the State and the Province. The Province of Fryslân began its language policy in the 1970’s. Because provinces are not an important layer of government, it was courageous of the Province of Fryslân to try to establish a formal policy. In 1985 it published an important report with the meaningful title: ‘from a favor to a right’, which was unanimously accepted by the provincial government. At that time the opinion of State was on the contrary that Frisian is not a right, but only a favor. A little extra could be given, e.g. in terms of provisions for Frisian in the schools or a small subsidy for Frisian theater. The conflicting perspectives between the State and the Province in the 1980’s led to long and tedious negotiations. Finally, in 1989, there was formal agreement, a covenant, between the Province and the State Government.
The covenant includes provisions for media, education, culture and scientific research, as well as for public administration and the use of Frisian in the courts. However, once this agreement between the State and the Province was legally tested on the issue of publishing binding documents in Frisian, it was rejected, within one year, by the highest court of the Netherlands. Thus the language policy for public administration needed a stronger legal base. In 1993 the covenant was renewed and expanded. Since 1998 there are new negotiations between the State and the Province for an update of the covenant, which will be structured similar to the European Charter (see below).
(2) Work started in 1990 to draft a Frisian language law, which was a long process again. That special language act was almost finished, just before it went to parliament, when the State government decided it wanted similar legal arrangements for the Dutch language as well. This resulted in the introduction of some articles on the official use of Dutch in the General Act on Administrative Law, which is dealing with how public administration in the Netherlands is arranged. As an exception one article on Frisian was added, which contains the core from the draft of the language act on Frisian. The general act has become effective July 1995. Today it is officially possible, so it can not be rejected anymore in the courts, to use Frisian in a legal way, in documents and in speaking.
(3) There were similar problems with Frisian in the courts. Frisian was allowed by a law of 1956 in the court, because there had been some riot in Fryslân in 1951 over the use of Frisian in one particular courtcase. The Dutch government in reaction drafted an Act which allowed some oral use of Frisian, which again had to be approved by the presiding judge. So in very few cases anyone used Frisian. The law has now been changed and the new regulations have become effective in 1997, including the official documents (e.g. birth certificates, marriage licences) of the municipal Registrars Office, which are always in both languages.
This adjusted law on Frisian in the court also includes many legal provisions on Frisian in written documents. Frisian can be used in documents as long as the process of the law is not ‘unduly obstructed’. That kind of provision may easily lead to problems of interpretation. Time will tell what happens in practice, and what jurisprudence will be established. Today one has, in principle, the full right to speak and write the Frisian language during courtproceedings.
(4) Finally, there is the European Charter for minority or regional languages of the Council of Europe. In the Netherlands the Charter is perceived as quite important. The Dutch State was among the first to sign (in 1992) and also to ratify (in 1995) the Charter, which has become effective March 1, 1998. But the crucial issue is will the position of Frisian improve? The Charter undoubtedly has a positive effect in the sense of a symbolic act where the Dutch member State is binding itself internationally, albeit only to what is a confirmation of already existing policy. Implementation of that policy based upon the obligations the Netherlands has agreed to (48 options), is of importance. For Frisian the hope of ratification of the Charter is, that in future additional provisions will be signed. Of course, it also becomes more difficult to reverse existing measures. There are, however, some other developments as well which may influence such a process. As it happens the Dutch government has also decided to place the Low-Saxon language (or dialect?) and the Limburg dialect, as well as Romani and Jiddish under the working of the Charter. Thus, where there used to be only one minority language in the Netherlands, Frisian, now, according to the European Charter, there are five minority or regional languages in the Netherlands. Of course, these languages have only obtained formal recognition under part II whereas Frisian was brought under part III. Thus the State only has an obligation towards Frisian and can leave the policy for those languages to a mere symbolic deed. Yet, it is unclear what the effect will be on policy towards Frisian.
 In conclusion, one can say that there is substantial political agreement that the government has a task to protect and promote the Frisian language. However, the policy plans have by and large a non-committal character and they have hardly been implemented. The power of the taken for grantedness of Dutch appears stronger than the formal operation of the language policy intentions.


Compared with other autochtonous language minorities in Europe, bilingual education in Friesland can be placed at an intermediate position (Sikma & Gorter 1991:109). The provisions for Frisian appear to be better than for migrant groups in the Netherlands (Extra 1989). However, notwithstanding a tradition of education in Frisian that goes back to the beginning of this century, overall, Frisian still has a modest place in the educational system. This section on Frisian schooling makes this clear.

Pre-primary education

Pre-primary education, 2,5-4 year, is not part of compulsory schooling in the Netherlands. Playgroups are mostly privately run, supervised by municipalities, where “teacher” do not need any formal qualification. There are around 250 playgroups in total, catering for some 8,000 pre-schoolers.
As a rule, the child is free to use its first language in the playgroup. A somewhat outdated study on language aspects of pre-primary education in Friesland revealed that Frisian is hardly used in urban playgroups, whereas rural playgroups are predominantly bilingual (Duipmans 1984). A recent study put forward that the number of playgroups with relatively many Dutch-speaking children has increased (Boneschansker & Le Rütte 1999). In contrast, the language background of the teachers has remained fairly stable. Finally, it was found that Dutch was used much more often than Frisian as medium of instruction during group activities.
An exception are seven Frisian playgroups, established by the Stifting Pjutteboartersplak. This association, founded in 1989, aims at creating a Frisian-speaking environment for young children. Most of the toddlers are Frisian-speaking, those who speak Dutch at home are immersed in Frisian.

Primary education

Frisian is an obligatory school subject at primary level (4-12 year)  since 1980. Frisian is legally obliged as subject and permitted as medium of instruction in every grade. Obligatory core-objectives have been set for the teaching of the Frisian language. The objectives completely mirror those for the teaching of Dutch. This implies that the educational programmes of the primary schools in the province should aim at full bilingualism for both Frisian- and Dutch-speaking students. A Frisian language course called Fryske Taalrotonde (Frisian Round-a-bout) has been published by the centre for educational advice in 1994. This language course can be used from grade 1 (age 4) to grade 8. The course is based on the core-objectives set for the teaching of the Frisian language. At present, over 70% of primary schools in Fryslân (n= 500 in total) make use of the language course. A problem relative to the actual implementation of the Fryske Taalrotonde in the schools is that two-thirds of the teachers working with the course report not to use the teaching materials on an integral basis (Le Rütte 1998). In practice, these teachers select certain parts of the course for their lessons. It goes without saying that this is not conducive to a continuous line in the Frisian curriculum. In addition to the Fryske Taalrotonde, many primary schools follow the special Frisian school radio and school television programmes.
A now somewhat outdated study of the Inspectorate from the school year 1988-89 showed that nearly all of the primary schools spend one lesson (30-45 minutes) on education in Frisian per week, so time expenditure was limited (Ministerie van O&W 1989). The position of Frisian as a medium of instruction was also weak. One fifth (22%) of the primary schools made no use of Frisian as a medium and a majority of the schools used Frisian as medium of instruction for 10 to 30% of teaching time. Moreover, it appeared that the use of Frisian as a medium decreased according to the proportion of Frisian-speaking students attending the school. In all likelihood, the position of the teaching of Frisian at primary level has not improved appreciably since the study of the Inspectorate ten years ago.
 With an eye to the unfavourable position of Frisian in the primary schools, it should not come as a surprise that evaluation research conducted in the early Nineties has shown poor outcomes in general. As far as Frisian language skills are concerned, the pupils’ results with regard to oral and reading comprehension can be considered satisfactory. However, their performance in the areas of basic (technical) reading and spelling is insufficient and remained behind the desired level of speaking and writing (De Jong & Riemersma 1994:244). All in all the findings illustrate that there is a considerable gap between the core-objectives and the achievements of the schoolchildren.
In contrast, students’ command of Dutch in terms of oral comprehension, basic technical reading, reading comprehension, spelling and writing ability turned out to be of a respectable level. It appeared from a comparison of the Frisian data with those of a national study that there were no significant negative differences between (Frisian- and Dutch speaking) students attending primary schools in Friesland and (Dutch) students living in the rest of the Netherlands.
An interesting new development in the school year 1997-98 is the establishment by the provincial centre for educational advice, GCO-Fryslân, and the Fryske Akademy of an experiment with trilingual primary education. The centre for educational advice counsels the schools and developes Frisian learning materials; the Fryske Akademy evaluates the project through scientific research. At present, seven experimental schools participate in the project. The aim is to reach full Frisian-Dutch bilingualism among the students and to foster their English language proficiency. The three languages are taught as subject and used as medium of instruction as well. In grade 1 to 6, 50% of the teaching time is in Frisian and 50% in Dutch. In grade 7 to 8, the division will be 40% Frisian, 40% Dutch and 20% English as medium. In practice, the latter means that English is used for two afternoon sessions per week as a medium of instruction.

Secondary education

Until 1990, secondary schools could optionally teach Frisian, and Frisian lessons have been offered in some secondary schools up till examination level. The Dutch Parliament agreed in 1991 to compulsory Frisian in the ‘basic education’ (basisvorming), that is, in the first three years of secondary schooling. The ‘basic education’ came into effect in 1993. Frisian is an additional school subject in the province, where the schools do not receive any supplementary financing for the teaching of the minority language.
For the teaching of Frisian at secondary level, the language course Flotwei Frysk has recently been developed. Moreover, there is a Frisian youth magazine called Sjedêrrr!!! which is frequently used by the secondary schools. The forementioned language course has separate, adapted teaching programmes developed for students in non-Frisian areas (towns) and for students with low learning capacities. Research has shown that a vast majority of teachers at secondary level (82%) use the new language course, often supplemented with other teaching materials (Inspectie van het Onderwijs 1999). Furthermore, guidelines have been formulated in 1993 and renewed in 1998, which describe the educational goals relative to the teaching of Frisian in the ‘basic education’. As a whole, the non-obligatory guidelines for the Frisian lessons correspond to the obligatory core-objectives set for the teaching of Dutch.
A survey study conducted in the school year 1997-98 by the Inspectorate has evaluated the position of Frisian at secondary level (Inspectie van het Onderwijs 1999). The study was an evaluation of the first five years in which Frisian was compulsary in the ‘basic education’. It was concluded that the teaching of Frisian as subject had only weakly developed. Time expenditure as to the teaching of Frisian was low. Out of 53 secondary schools in total, 43 were teaching Frisian only in grade 1, for one hour per week. In addition, it was found that the quality of the Frisian lessons was low in general. Furthermore, the study proved that Frisian was seldomly used as medium of instruction to teach other school subjects. Only 1% of the schools reported to use Frisian as medium of instruction on a regular basis, 30% did so incidentally, and the remaining part of the schools (69%) never used Frisian to teach other subjects. Lastly, an interesting finding in the survey was that only 27 students did a final examination in Frisian in 1999. On the basis of the outcomes of the study, the Inspectorate concluded that the current Frisian lessons did not contribute meaningfully to the linguistic and cultural development of the students.

Higher education

Three institutes for higher vocational education are located in the capital Ljouwert/ Leeuwarden, the Christelijke Hogeschool Noord Nederland (CHN), the Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden (NHL) and the Van Hall Instituut. They have a total enrolment of 13,000 students, in many faculties. Recently all three have drafted regulations on language use (Dutch, Frisian, English and other languages). Most faculties formally allow the use of Frisian in oral exams or in writing a thesis. In general, however, Frisian has a limited role as subject or as medium of instruction.
Part of these institutes are two teacher training colleges, which both provide teacher training for primary level. Frisian as a subject is incorporated into the primary level teacher training programmes. In the first two years of their four year programme, NHL-students are obliged to attend a Frisian course. Afterwards Frisian is optional. At the CHN the students are not obliged to attend Frisian lectures, but all students are invited to obtain a formal certificate, qualifying them to teach Frisian in primary schools. Most students at NHL and CHN obtain the required certificate, but this does not always imply a satisfactory command of the Frisian language. For secondary school teachers, part-time training is provided by the NHL and full-time by the University of Groningen (in a neighbouring province). However, the number of students is limited.
In Friesland itself there is no university, but Frisian can be studied at three Dutch universities. The universities of Amsterdam and Groningen offer Frisian language and literature as a main subject (M.A. degree), as well as possibilities for a PhD degree. Frisian is a subsidiary subject at Leiden university. In all three the number of students is small.
In scientific research Frisian has hardly any place at all, except for the universities and the Fryske Akademy. Since its foundation in 1938 the Fryske Akademy has occupied a central place in research on the Frisian language, history and society. Important projects regard lexicography (Larger Dictionary of the Frisian Language), history and social sciences. The latter mainly concerns the sociology of language and international comparative research on other European minority languages (Mercator-Education).


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