Serbian heritage language schools in the Netherlands through the eyes of the parents

Andrej Palmen

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional

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It is difficult to find the exact number of other languages spoken besides Dutch in the Netherlands. A study showed that a total of 96 other languages are spoken by students attending Dutch primary and secondary schools. The variety of languages spoken shows the growth of linguistic diversity in the Netherlands. However, in some countries the trend is that (immigrant) languages disappear within two or three generations. Losing the ability to communicate in a first language is a negative development. Language shift has a number of negative consequences that affect the child’s social, cognitive, and emotive development. Therefore, it is important that heritage language schools exist. This thesis examines how a small community, the Serbs in the Netherlands, attempts to pass on its heritage language to younger generations through heritage language schools.
The study drew from the three community-based Serbian heritage language schools in the Netherlands. Questionnaires were sent to the parents of children attending the schools in order to gain an overall picture of participants’ opinions. In order to gather more qualitative data, interviews were organised with parents (individual or in groups) at each Serbian school. Parents who participated in the study cited many reasons for sending their children to Serbian schools. They are aware of the benefits that their children will gain if they grow up reading, writing, and speaking two languages. Parents hope that this will increase the children’s academic skills and career opportunities. Moreover, that Serbian school has helped them to pass on their Serbian language and culture. However, the Serbian schools have their limits. Lack of resources and financial aid force the schools to operate on a voluntary basis, which threatens quality instruction.
This study provided an opportunity for parents to share why it is important that these Serbian schools exist and why it is important to maintain one’s heritage language.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScience Shop, University of Groningen
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2016

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