Being in a country where you don’t speak the language can be a confusing and intimidating experience – combine that with having to use an unfamiliar public transport system, and it’s easy to get stressed out and find yourself lost in a random part of an unknown city. In spite of this, however, one Dutch language group advocates for trams and buses in The Hague to scrap their English-language announcements, arguing that it discriminates against Dutch citizens.
Dutch group campaigning against Anglicisation of the Netherlands
Stichting Taalverdediging, a foundation made up of a group of Dutch language enthusiasts, advocates “for the recovery and preservation of the Dutch language”, and fights against “the threat to Dutch posed by Anglicisation / Americanisation”. The group argues that, if nothing is done to ensure Dutch remains in use in the Netherlands, the loss of the language “in a few year’s time” will be “our own fault”.
With this in mind, back in the spring, Stichting Taalverdediging launched a new campaign aimed at abolishing English-language public transport announcements in The Hague. “At every stop that the trams and buses of the [city’s public transport operator] HTM call at, the speaker on the audio tape explains the stop and everything in the area, not only in Dutch, but also in English,” the group writes on its website. “It is really unbearable.”
English on public transport discriminates against Dutch speakers
Stichting Taalverdediging has also launched a petition, calling on people in the Netherlands to join their cause and fight against “this excessive use of the English language”. While the group feels it is fair to cater to tourists in the city, they argue that “HTM goes much too far” in its use of English on public transport, as it results in expats and international students “not [taking] the trouble to learn Dutch”.
The group also feels that the use of English discriminates against Dutch-speaking locals.“The Dutch constitution states that everyone in the Netherlands must be treated equally in equal circumstances,” the petition states. “That is not the case with the HTM. English speakers are favoured and the many other non-native speakers are left behind.”
HTM and The Hague municipality unlikely to make any changes
English-language announcements on public transport in the Netherlands have been around for a while, not just in The Hague but also in cities like Amsterdam. While some Dutch-language activists may be annoyed by the prevalence of the English language in the Netherlands, many locals don’t seem to share that frustration: at the time of writing, the petition has just 94 signatures.
Regardless of any potential sudden increase in signatures, Stichting Taalverdediging’s campaign is unlikely to lead to anything. Talking to the AD, a spokesperson for HTM said they understood the concerns, but emphasised that the company also catered to “the many tourists and expats” in the city. “If there is a diversion and we only broadcast in Dutch, they have no idea what’s going on,” the spokesperson explained.
The local municipality isn’t too impressed with the criticism either. “We are the international city of peace and justice, where expats live and tourists come. As a hospitable city, we like to make ourselves understandable, and that sometimes requires more languages than just Dutch,” a spokesperson told the AD.
Thumb: Bjorn Keith via Shutterstock.com.