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There have been several different orthographies for Limburgish (varieties). Veldeke Limburg has published the first official Veldeke-spelling for Limburgish in 1952, with a second following in 1983. In 2003, Spelling 2003 voor de Limburgse dialecten (Eng: Spelling 2003 for the Limburgish dialects) was published and officially accepted by De Raod veur ’t Limburgs. This document has guidelines for the spelling of all Limburgish dialects, and also serves as a base for the online dictionary D’n Dictionair (2016)1)2). Nonetheless, as Limburgish knoiws many varieties, Veldeke underlines that this 2003 spelling is an advice, and writers can deviate from this if they think (the sounds of) varieties are better reflected differently3).
In the Netherlands, Limburgish is spoken in the province of Limburg. Limburgish is part of a dialect-continuum in The Netherlands, Belgium (province of Limburg) and Germany (in Rhineland, Rheinland). The language vitality is strongest in The Netherlands 4)
Limburgish is not one standard language, but has many (mutually intelligble) varieties. Nevertheless, Limburgish in the Netherlands is recognised as one language, including all varieties, through the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Covenant on Limburgish language.
In total (i.e. The Netherlands, Belgium , Germany), it is estimated that there are between 1.2 and 1.5 million speakers of Limburgish 15).
There is no data on speaker numbers of Limburgish in the Netherlands. In 2020, there was a total of 111,720,1 inhabitants in the province of Limburg 16), and according to a survey held in 2021 in Limburg (N=1011), 78% of the population (18 years and older) can speak (a variety of) Limburgish, of whom 67% speaks it very well17)
In 2021, a survey (N=1011) was held in Limburg which showed that the percentage of fluent speakers is largest with people aged 65 and over (74%), and Limburgish language use drops with every younger generation, that is 72% for people aged 50-64, 64% for people aged 35-49, and 52% for people aged 18-3418). These declining numbers are also reflected at home in the survey, as 46% of people aged 65 years and older compared to 28% amongst people aged 18-34 years use only Limburgish at home.
There are two recent surveys, a national survey (N=3.559) and a survey in the province of Limburg which report on language use in different social settings, of which the Limburg survey (N=788) shows higher percentages throughout:
|conversational partner|| language use: Limburgish only|
national survey 201919)
| language use : Limburgish and/or a mix with Dutch|
national survey 201920)
| language use: Limburgish
Limburg survey 202121)
|at the supermarket||39,2%||39,9 %||73% (with staff)|
|at the market||35,4%||36,7 %||73% (with staff)|
|at official institutes (e.g. municipality, bank)||-||-||41%|
|at the GP||27,2%||28,5%||38%|
|with strangers on the street||-||-||45%|
In the survey on language use in Limburg (2021), respondents (N=1011) were asked about Limburgish in education. Whereas a majority of 53% agreed that schools should pay attention to Limburgish, the agreeance decreases to 32% for kindergartens to use the language as medium of instuction, and to 14% for more scientic research. To promote the language, more funding should be made available by the provincial government according to 34% and by the national government according to 19% 22).
Since 1920, the national law on primary education has the provision that a regional language can be used as medium of instruction, besides Dutch 23). To which extent this has been done, is difficult to retrace. In 2012, Limburgish was taught (optionally) at up to 80 primary schools and up to 20 secondary schools. However, it seems that these numbers have been declining, as in 2019, the Committee of Experts reported that Limburgish was taught at some schools24), and in 2022, it is reported that some (primary) schools teach Limburgish via projects or after-school programmes 25).
In 1973, the Kerkradeproject (Eng: Kerkrade project) was initiated, in reaction to a study done in Kerkrade, in which schools connected negative school results to speaking Limburgish26). The project found in the research phase, that Limburgish speaking pupils, as opposed to Standard Dutch speaking pupils, were linked to negative results and given lower school advice for secondary education, which stemmed from teachers' negative language attitudes towards Limburgish, rather than the abilities of the Limburgish speaking pupils. This lead the project to develop proposals for change and teaching materials in order to promote language awareness and improve language attitudes towards Limburgish, and to look for ways to use Limburgish in the classroom. This resulted, relatively to the scale of the project, to more positive attitudes towards Limburgish in the classroom by teachers and educational staff, and less to no difference in school results and school advice for secondary education between standard Dutch and Limburgish speakers27).
In the same period as the Kerkradeproject, a study looked into the school results of standard Dutch and Limburgish speaking pupils in Gennep, which showed that there were no significant differences in test results, though, together with the results of a follow-up study in 1980, it can be concluded that teachers, due to more negative language attitudes towards Limburgish, judge the school performances of standard Dutch speaking pupils to be higher than the Limburgish speaking pupils28).
Fifteen years later, a study looked into the effects of the Kerkradeproject, and how much Limburgish was (still) used in the classroom29). The results showed that within the classroom, in the formal setting, teachers and educational staff used and tolerated Limburgish less than during the Kerkradeproject, though positive language attitudes remained, and the majority allowed the language outside of the classroom or in a informal settings (e.g. school yard)30).
In 1992, the Netherlands signed and, in 1996, ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which entered into force in 1998. In 1995, the Secretary of State for the Interior agreed with the addition of Lower Saxon and Yiddish to the list of languages to be protected by part II of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages 31). Whereas the Netherlands recognised Frisian, and Lower-Saxon, Yiddish and Romanes as languages with the ratification in 1996, Limburgish was not included.
Given the recognition of Lower-Saxon in the Netherlands in particular, the question was raised whether Limburgish, with a similar situation to this language group, should be recognised too, and as a result of this, the working group Werkgroep Erkenning Limburgs als Streektaal [Eng: working group for the recognition of Limburgish as a regional language] was set up at the initiative of Veldeke Limburg and the provincial government of Limburg 32).
Though the Nederlandse Taalunie (Language Union) gave a negative advice to recognise Limburgish, the Ministry of the Interior adopted this recommendation from the working group in February 1997, and so, in March 1997 Limburg was recognised under part II 35)36)37)
This facilitates its promotion across different layers of society such as education, with article 7 paragraphs:
The secretary-general of the Nederlandse Taalunie stated in 1999, that the recognition of Limburgish was a “unfortunate decision”38).
In 2019, The Dutch government recognised Limburgish as “as an essential, fully-fledged and independent regional language in the Netherlands” in the Convenant inzake de Nederlandse erkenning van de Limburgse taal [Eng: Covenant on the Dutch recognition of the Limburgish language] 40). The recognition includes that the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the provincial government of Limburg “will, insofar as they are able, make every effort and work together to maintain Limburgish as a regional language in the Netherlands, to promote its use and to promote the position of Limburgish, without the creation of new laws and regulations.” Both parties will make agreements on the implementation of the covenant.
The preamble (re)confirms that, by national law, Limburgish is allowed as medium of instruction at kindergarten and primary education, and Limburgish can be taught in addition to the curriculum at secondary education.
In April 2023, an open letter written by Hoes veur ’t Limburgs was sent to the provincial government of Limburg with the call to include the following in the subsequent covenant, which the two governments are discussing and developing in 202341):
In pre-school education, the Wet Kinderopvang [Eng: Childcare Act] states that,when “a regional language is in active use”, this language can be also be used as the medium of instruction, besides Dutch 42). This allows for the use of Limburgish, as underlined too in the Covenant on Limburgish language.
In primary education, the Wet op het primair onderwijs [Eng: Primary Education Act] states that, when “a regional language is in active use”, this language can be also be used as the medium of instruction, besides Dutch 43). This allows for the use of Limburgish, as underlined too in the Covenant on Limburgish language.
In secondary education, until August 2022, the Wet op het voortgezet onderwijs [Eng: Secondary Education Act] stated that, when “a regional language is in active use”, this language can be also be used as the medium of instruction, besides Dutch“ 44). The Covenant on Limburgish language also referens to this law, though states it can be taught as a subject. However, the current educational act, Wet voortgezet onderwijs 2020 (which was adapted August 2022) no longer mentions “regional languages in active use”. It does allow to deviate from Dutch as language of instruction when the subject is about another language, or when it is necessary to do so for pupils because of their origins45).
In October 2015, several Limburgish language organisations plead for a better position and use of Limburgish in education, especially in pre-school education, in the vision document “Sjiek is mich dat!” (Eng: that's neat!) 46)47). In November 2017, the provincial government of Limburg pledged to develop language policy for Limburgish, which came in the form of the framework policy document ’n Laeve lank Limburgs (Eng: a life long Limburgish), presented in June 2018. The three main points are: language promotion, language transition and language infrastructure.
For education, 'n Laeve lank Limburgs states to increase language transition in education, and raise the level of knowledge about multilingualism. Especially in pre-school education, children should be supported, not discouraged to use and develop their Limburgish language skills. The aim is to use Limburgish as medium of instruction more often, and to increase the presence of Limburgish in all educational levels48). The plans to increase the use of Limburgish as medium of instruction were tested at locations of day care centre Spelenderwijs in 2019 49). Media, community and organisations reacted to the framework policy document, and in January 2019, the framework policy document, including reactions, comments and recommendations, was presented to be discussed by the provincial states 50)51)52).
In the policy document Erfgoed 2022-2023 (Eng: Heritage 2022-2023), there is a section on Limburgish, and a budget of €95000 for language per year, but no concrete measures for education are mentioned 53).
In April 2023, an open letter written by Hoes veur ’t Limburgs was sent to the provincial government of Limburg with the call for the provincial government to have a leading role in language policy, and to develop a permanent concertation structure in the province, among municipalities and societal partners, and to promote Limburgish in pre-school education by establishing the following conditions to apply for subsidy54):
In 2005, some teaching materials up to grade 5 in primary school were developed by the Road veur ‘t Limburgs and het Bureau Streektaal Nederlands-Limburg (Eng: Bureau for the regional language Dutch-Limburg)56) 57). These materials mainly concern attitudes towards different languages, including Limburgish, and only to a lesser extent learning the Limburgish language 58). The materials are available in different dialects of Limburgish and in Dutch.59) (
For grade 6 and higher there is a teaching brochure called 'Limburgs op de kaart'60). It explains the different characteristics of the varieties in Limburgish. Its aim is to make the pupils aware of the differences between varieties in Limburgish and contributing to a positive attitude towards Limburgish61). Online, there is also some inspiration material available for teachers.
For secondary education materials exist for grade 9 and directed at all the different educational levels present in the Netherlands (Vwo, Havo and Vmbo). The materials were developed for both Limburgish as well as non-Limburgish speaking pupils 62).
The Province of Limburg subsidized a course developed for Higher Vocational Education. This course was named “Limburgs Dialect” or” Liergank Limburgs”. The aim was to make Limburgish also accepted during administrative meetings 63).
The provincial government of Limburg has budgeted €95000 per year for language in 2022 and 2023. The provincial government of Limburg also provides incidental subsidies for educational projects, such as Piepekoek64), or the Prijsvraag Limburgse taal 65) In the 7th report cycle on the ECRML, the Committee of Experts states that organisations “lack dedicated financial support” to develop learning materials 66)
The provincial government of Limburg provides structural subsidies for organisations, e.g. Veldeke Limburg67), Limburgse Academie68), and Huis voor de Kunsten Limburg 69). In 2022, it was announced that the provincial government of Limburg would structually support 't Hoes veur ‘t Limburgs, with €75000 for an educational and a communications worker; more funding should come from municipalities and the national government 70)71).
Education is a legal responsibility for the national government, not the province of Limburg, and in relation to this, the deputy for heritage in Limburg, stated to be dissapointed by the amount of financing for the Limburgish language by the national government, which was a single incidental subsidy of €25000 72). In April 2023, an open letter written by Hoes veur ’t Limburgs was sent to the provincial government of Limburg with the call for adequate financial support73).
Via projects and initiatives, learning materials have been made available. However, a survey (N=39) in 2021 showed that most teachers indicated a need for (more) Limburgish educational resources, and that most are not sufficiently aware of the existing materials 74). Moreover, the Committee of Experts of the ECRML stated in 2022, that there is a lack of dedicated financial support to develop learning materials 75).
In 2012, the Committee of Experts on the ECRML reported that in pre-school education, Limburgish is “is only occasionally used” and that structured approach regarding the use of Limburgish is absent 82). In 2022, the Committee of Experts reported that some childcare organisations (e.g. Spelenderwijs) use Limburgish as medium of instruction, but this is not standard83).
Limburgish was taught (optionally) at up to 80 primary schools and up to 20 secondary schools in 2012 84), whereas in 2019, the Committee of Experts reported that Limburgish was taught at “some schools” 85). In 2022, it is reported that some (primary) schools teach Limburgish via projects or after-school programmes. The Committee of Experts therefore made the recommendation for immediate action to “prepare a strategy to ensure the teaching and study of Limburgish as a subject at all levels of education and promote its use in preschool education” 86).
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