Foresight study on ‘Languages in the Netherlands – Languages for the Netherlands’

The purpose of this foresight study is to provide a coherent overview of the position of language and culture in Dutch society, both within and beyond scholarship and within and beyond education. The main question is: what do Dutch businesses, government, civil-society organisations and knowledge-driven institutions need to know about languages and cultures?

Background and positioning

The role that a knowledge of languages and cultures plays in society is changing rapidly. Factors fuelling this change include the growing level of multilingualism in Dutch society, diplomatic, military and trade missions to all continents, new forms of migration, and a shifting world economy. Policymakers, politicians, teachers and researchers can scarcely keep up with these major transitions. This lag is threatening to erode the Netherlands’ prominent position in Europe and in the world – for example as an economic and diplomatic leader – which in the past was supported by a broad knowledge of languages.

Various reports have already discussed the position of minor languages at Dutch universities (for example the reports by the Staal Committee in 1991, the Vonhoff Committee in 1994, the Gerritsen Committee in 2002, the Cohen Committee in 2008 and the Thomassen Committee in 2015). These reports discussed the position of the relevant university language programmes, some of which were threatened with extinction.

By undertaking this foresight study, the Academy is choosing to take a broader, societal approach:

  • What knowledge of languages and cultures is important to the Netherlands and how can we respond to that demand in our educational system, in research, and, for example, in the development of supportive language technology?

The study should produce analyses that give actors in various societal sectors a basis for making language policy decisions. In that sense, it will help spark broader discussion of languages in the various sectors.

Tasks

The Committee’s tasks are as follows:

  1. survey what is necessary and desirable in the Netherlands and for the Netherlands when it comes to a knowledge of languages and cultures;
  2. map out the current and the desired situation in education;
  3. make specific recommendations based on 1 and 2.

Term

The Committee will submit its foresight study report (after review) to the Academy Board in the first half of 2017.