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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

Why Do Adults Decide to Learn a Minority Language? A Study of the Motivation(s) of Potential New Speakers of West Frisian

Guillem Belmar, Cindy van Boven and Sara Pinho
EintragstypEntry Type
Research Article
EintragsspracheEntry Language
new speakers; minority language; motivation; language learning; language revitalisation; West Frisian
Originally Published in
Belmar, Guillem, Cindy van Boven, & Sara Pinho. 2019. Why Do Adults Decide to Learn a Minority Language? A Study of the Motivation(S) of Potential New Speakers of West Frisian. Sustainable Multilingualism 14 (1). 138-159.
Year of Original Publication
Language Covered in Article
West Frisian
ISO 639-3-Code


This study focuses on the motivation of adults learning a minority language, based on a tripartite model: integrative and instrumental (Gardner & Lambert, 1959; 1972) and personal (see Benson, 1991) motivation. Adults learning a minority language are potential new speakers, a group that has been described as central to language revitalisation (see Pujolar & O’Rourke, 2018). Since the motivation to learn these languages does not seem to be linked to economic success or wider job opportunities, researchers have taken interest in knowing what drives people to learn a minority language (e.g., O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016). In this study, (potential) new speaker motivations were investigated by means of ten open-ended interviews with adult learners of West Frisian—a minority language spoken in the Netherlands—in two different settings: Afûk Frisian courses (a more traditional learning setting) and Bernlef Frisian courses (a student association that offers informal courses for their members). The results show a predominance of integrative and personal motivation (also found in O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016), but not exclusively (as suggested by Jaffe, 2015) since the language appears to be tightly linked to the province and it is deemed beneficial—to a certain extent—for socioeconomic success in the province.

InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents


West Frisian is a minority language spoken in the northern province of Fryslân in the Netherlands. The number of speakers of West Frisian is estimated at around 480,000, up to 27 % of whom are new speakers of the language (Belmar, 2018). Even though the percentage of new speakers is smaller than that of other minority language contexts—for instance, it is reported at around 42 % for Catalan in Catalonia (see Pujolar & Puigdevall, 2015)—, this new profile of speaker should be taken into account when designing, for example, language promotion campaigns, and it is therefore essential to study their characteristics.

In this article, the reasons why adults choose to learn West Frisian will be analysed, as well as how their motivation interacts with their use of the language and the revitalisation efforts in Fryslân. Several studies have looked at the role which motivation plays in the process of second language learning, and it seems clear that motivation has a significant effect on students’ performance and the development of domains of use and of new attitudes towards the language(s). Since minority languages such as West Frisian are not the means to access global world markets, it is intriguing to find out what motivates people to choose to learn a minority language as an adult.

Learners as potential new speakers of minority languages

‘New speaker’ has become a popular analytic category in studies on revitalisation movements of minority languages, especially in the European context. New speakers are commonly defined as people who have had little or no home or community exposure to a minority language, but instead acquired it through immersion or bilingual education programmes, revitalisation projects, or as adult language learners (see Pujolar & O’Rourke, 2018). In other words, a new speaker is a person who successfully acquires a foreign language, a ‘successful learner’. This label applies especially—though not exclusively—to those who adopt the minority language as part of their multilingual repertoire (see Pujolar & Puigdevall, 2015), and they are “construed as the desired outcome of language and education policies that aim at sustaining their usage” (Costa, 2015, p. 128). In fact, in many minority contexts, new speakers have become a significant sociolinguistic group, often even found to be more positive towards the language than ‘native speakers’ themselves (see O’Rourke & Ramallo, 2013) and characterised as a militant group, as they frequently staunchly defend their choice/right to learn—and use—the language (McLeod & O’Rourke, 2015, p. 260–285).

Motivation of new speakers

Gardner (2001) defines motivation as “the driving force in any situation” (p. 10). Motivation to learn a second language, specifically, can be defined as the combination of three elements: effort to learn the language, desire to succeed, and a positive attitude towards the task of learning a language. All three elements are necessary to distinguish between motivated and less motivated learners.

Motivation has been found to be fundamental for a successful second language (L2) acquisition process (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011). Many models have been put forward to analyse motivation and its effects — for instance, Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and Dörnyei’s (2009) L2-self, distinguishing the ideal L2 self, the ought-to L2 self and the L2 learning experience. Much of the research on the role of motivation in L2 acquisition was initiated by Gardner & Lambert (1959; 1972). In their socio-educational model, they distinguish between two types of motivation for learning an L2: integrative motivation (i.e., the desire to not only become proficient in the language, but to also interact with and become part of the L2 group), and instrumental motivation (i.e., the potential pragmatic gains from L2 proficiency, for instance employment prospects). Moreover, in addition to these two types of motivation, a third type was added in the literature on Japanese learners of English. These learners were often found to have a personal motivation, which relates to the individual’s development and satisfaction (for example, the enjoyment of reading or any other kind of entertainment in the language) (see Benson, 1991 for more information). Since previous studies have found that personal motivation also plays an important role in the acquisition of minority languages, in this article, we will maintain this three-fold model (instrumental, integrative and personal; see Table 1 below).

Table 1.Types of motivation (Belmar, 2018; based on Gardner & Lambert, 1972 and Benson, 1991)

InstrumentalPractical gain

(e.g., increased opportunities for employment; salary rise; etc.)
IntegrativeIntegrate in the community

Learn about the culture of a given community
PersonalAesthetics, enjoyment

Own heritage or that of close ones

The number of studies investigating motivation in L2 acquisition has grown exponentially, and most of them have been based on English as a target language (e.g., Boo, Dörnyei & Ryan, 2015; Dörnyei & Al-Hoorie, 2017; Ushioda, 2017). Motivation to study this global language has become “increasingly associated with factors such as necessity, utility, advantage, social capital, power, advancement, mobility, migration and cosmopolitanism” (Ushioda, 2017, p. 471), that is, instrumental motivation. This has led to a prevailing instrumentalist view of language education and motivation in the literature (for a more detailed overview, see Ushioda, 2017). However, learner motivation may be different in minority contexts, since the instrumental value is often associated with the dominant language, which makes it less likely for learners of minority languages to report instrumental motivation.

O’Rourke and DePalma (2016) examined what motivates people to travel abroad and learn Galician. None of their participants said that they learned the language for purely instrumental goals, but a common remark was the symbolic value of the language. Many were attracted to Galicia, but they also had other reasons such as family, friendship or romantic connections. O’Rourke and DePalma concluded, therefore, that motivation to study a minority language is mainly symbolic rather than instrumental. Costa (2015) makes a similar point when he states that for Provençal “new speakers are not simply ‘learners’ of a given language: they use the language in a particular, symbolic way” (p. 144).

Rosiak and Hornsby (2016) investigated motivation of learners of Welsh in Poland and also found mainly personal motivation. For example, learners considered Welsh to be ‘exotic’. The (potential) new speakers experienced some difficulties in the acquisition process due to negative conceptions of Welsh in Poland, lack of access to ‘authentic’ materials and to native speakers, and thus they faced a lack of opportunities to practise the language —many of these difficulties, the authors state, stem from the fact that they are learning the language outside of Wales. Rosiak and Hornsby therefore concluded that “new speakers of Welsh in Poland overwhelmingly have to be highly intrinsically motivated in their language acquisition, as the rewards and benefits of becoming a new speaker of Welsh in Poland are not immediately apparent” (p.71). This illustrates a point made by Dörnyei and Al-Hoorie (2017), when they state that in contexts where the language is learned outside of the geographical area where it is spoken, the learners usually have less contact with native speakers, and as a result integrative motivation is significantly less meaningful to them.

Jaffe (2015) investigated the motivation of adult Corsican language learners, who live in Corsica, and found not only personal, but also integrative and instrumental motivation. The learners constitute a heterogeneous group, and their motivation ranges from being able to communicate in the supermarket to being able to pass the language on to their children, including a few who can speak Corsican but want to learn how to read and write. Corsican was perceived as a practical tool by some of the learners, as they anticipated that they would need the language in the future in order to actively participate in society. Jaffe also describes learners whose motivation she labels ‘identity completion’, which in order to be satisfied requires a relative minimum competence in the language.

Thus, unlike O’Rourke and DePalma (2016) and Rosiak and Hornsby (2016), Jaffe (2015) finds instrumental motivation to learn a minority language. This difference is, once again, likely due to the fact that the learners in the former studies did not actually live in an environment where the minority language is spoken. The learners in Jaffe’s study lived in Corsica and were surrounded by the language in their everyday lives, which makes it more likely for them to not only integrate in the community, but also to need the language in a practical sense. Similarly, learners of Catalan have also been found to have instrumental motivation, since they feel the need to adopt this language when they enter the labour market, and because the use of Catalan is related to the pursuit of educational qualifications from secondary school to university (Pujolar & Puigdevall, 2015).

The West Frisian context

West Frisian (henceforth referred to as simply Frisian) is spoken in the northwestern part of the Netherlands, in the province of Fryslân, as well as in some neighbouring villages of the province of Groningen. Nowadays, Frisian is recognised in the Dutch constitution as one of the (two) official languages of the Netherlands (Hilton & Gooskens, 2013, p. 140), and the Dutch government considers it to be one of the indigenous languages of the Netherlands (Bijlagen II, 1993/1994, 23543, 3, p. 2 (MvT), as referenced in Laanen, 2001, p. 68).

Several studies have looked into the attitudes towards the language. Frisian speakers seem to be positive towards their own language, and they agree on the ‘beauty’ and the ‘value’ of Frisian. The same speakers, however, oppose some specific measures such as the use of Frisian in education or public administration (Gorter & Jonkman, 1995). Hilton and Gooskens (2013), who investigated attitudes towards Frisian in the Netherlands, found a significant difference between speakers with Dutch as a main home language—whose attitudes towards Frisian were highly negative—and those with Frisian as a main home language. In addition, they found that Dutch speakers living in Fryslân were more negative towards Frisian than those living outside the province, despite (or perhaps because of) the language planning and revitalisation efforts they have been exposed to. Thus, Hilton and Gooskens suggest that daily contact with the minority language may lead to more extreme attitudes in the majority language group.

Learning Frisian as a second language

New speakers emerge in a context of cultural and political intervention in maintaining and reviving regional and minority languages, through language acquisition planning in both the educational sphere and on other societal levels. Language acquisition planning thus plays an important role in the revival of minority languages. Language acquisition planning was described by Cooper (1989) as the organised effort to promote the learning of a language. Efforts in language acquisition planning focus mainly on language instruction, which is defined as a form of formal learning (Cooper, 1989), i.e., learning that occurs in an organised and structured context and is intentional from a learner’s perspective (Colardyn & Bjornavold, 2004), which includes L2 learning as well as literacy acquisition in one’s L1 (Eaton, 2010).

A substantial part of the Frisian population learned to speak Frisian as a second language, both in childhood through contact with the peer group as well as later in life as adults. Speakers of Frisian as a second language, however, report using the language much less often than the native speakers, for example, 85 % of the latter would use Frisian with a shop assistant, whereas 42 % of the L2-speakers would do the same (Gorter & Jonkman, 1995; Gorter, Meer & Riemersma, 2008). Similar trends have been reported for languages such as Catalan in Catalonia, where despite high percentages of proficiency in the minority language, only between 10 to 15 % of those not born in the region claim Catalan to be their language of ‘habitual use’ (Idescat, 2015).

The Frisian language and literature can be studied at the universities of Amsterdam, Groningen and Leiden, and it is also offered at three universities of applied sciences in Fryslân. Some language schools and other organisations also offer courses in Frisian, such as Afûk, which offers courses aiming at both comprehension and production. Frisian courses, however, have been said to excessively rely on the close relation between Dutch and Frisian. Fishman (1991) stated that the “genetic similarity between Dutch and Frisian is heavily relied upon (perhaps excessively so) in order to provide adults with an entry into Frisian as a second language” (p. 159) which in his opinion led to most efforts only reaching “those who are already committed to Frisian” (p. 160).

Even though not much has been written about new speakers of Frisian, it is a promising field of research. According to Belmar (2018), most new speakers of Frisian are Dutch native speakers, who either moved to Fryslân from other parts of the Netherlands or who were born in Fryslân but never learned the language. In this study, the participants reported mainly personal and integrative motivation to learn Frisian, but, interestingly, some instrumental motivation was also found. In fact, almost half of the participants in this study reported that they need Frisian in their daily life and that learning Frisian has some economic advantage, in line with Jaffe’s (2015) findings for Corsican and Pujolar and Puigdevall’s (2015) findings for Catalan.

The present study aims to investigate the motivation of potential new speakers of Frisian and the ways in which it interacts with their language use and with the wider revitalisation strategies in the province of Fryslân. To do so, we will analyse the types of motivation featured in interviews with adult learners of Frisian, as well as the factors influencing their motivation and the ways in which this may affect the revitalisation of Frisian.


This qualitative study investigates motivation of potential new speakers (i.e., adult learners) of Frisian by means of open-ended interviews, in which participants were asked five main questions (see Appendix A). These questions were based on the findings of Belmar (2018) on Frisian, as well as other studies on the motivation of language learning in similar minority communities (such as Jaffe, 2015 and O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016).


Ten participants were interviewed. Eight participants followed a formal Frisian language course offered by Afûk, that either focused on understanding and reading Frisian (LearmarFrysk courses), or on speaking Frisian (PraatmarFrysk courses). The Afûk courses were all 10 weeks long (10 classes of 2 hours each). The other two participants attended a Frisian course at the Feriening foar Fryske Jongerein Bernlef in Groningen. Bernlef is the association of Frisian students in the city of Groningen, with members who study at the Hanzehogeschool or at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Speaking Frisian is not a requirement to become a member of this student association, and the Frisian-speakers in the association offer informal Frisian lessons for those who want to learn the language. Six females and four males were interviewed (mean age: 37, range 19–66), all of whom had Dutch as their L1, with the exception of one participant whose L1 was English. Seven of these participants live in Fryslân, two live in Groningen and one in Utrecht.

Data collection

The Afûk interviews were one-on-one semi-structured interviews between the participant and the researcher. The interviews were conducted in person, except for one participant who was interviewed via Skype. The questions in the latter interview were answered in a way that is very similar to the real-life interviews, and the duration was comparable as well. Because there were no apparent differences either in terms of content or length, this Skype interview is not discussed separately, but it is incorporated in the discussion below. The Bernlef interview, on the other hand, was conducted with both students at the same time, in a more informal manner, in keeping with the informal setting where these courses take place.

On average, an interview lasted about 30 minutes. The shortest interview was about 15 minutes and the longest was about 40 minutes. All interviews were conducted in Dutch, with one exception where the participant did not speak Dutch and the interview was conducted in English. In one interview, the interviewer also used some Frisian.

Five questions served as directories in the interviews (see Appendix A), and they were based on what was found in previous literature on new speaker motivation (Jaffe, 2015; O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016; Belmar, 2018). A naming convention has been established for these semi-structured interviews, which will be used when quoting in the data analysis. All quotes will be presented in their English translation, done by the authors themselves, followed by a number which corresponds to the original quote in Dutch (see Appendix B).

Table 2.Naming conventions for participants

A/BAfûk / Bernlef
1/2/3...Number of participants
M/FMale / Female
19/20/21...Age of participant

“If I am in Fryslân, then I can speak Frisian with the Frisians”: Prevalence of integrative motivation over instrumental

As expected from previous literature on motivation of new speakers of minority languages, our participants highlighted their desire to integrate as the main reason why they started learning Frisian. All interviewees expressed that their goal is to fully integrate, be it in Frisian society, in their families or in the Student Association they are members of. As the participants remark, a basic understanding of Frisian seems to be necessary for them in order to keep up to date with local developments and events.

[B9M20] Because I am a member of a Frisian student association… and everyone around me speaks Frisian… and because Frisian people in general appreciate it when you are able to speak Frisian with them… and I am from a Frisian family, so I somewhat like to learn the language a bit. [Q1]

[A1F44] (…) but I do think that when you live there, and if indeed many people in your surroundings speak Frisian, I think it’s nice to understand it even better and to be able to sometimes say something in Frisian, or ask something, or small talk, yes. [Q2]

[A6M64] It is helpful if you can understand the people and read the Frisian newspaper. The municipal announcements are also often in Frisian. [Q3]

In fact, when asked about the importance of the Frisian language for them, in line with the findings of Belmar (2018), most participants highlighted the need to learn the language in order to integrate in Fryslân. Actually, even those participants who did not live in Fryslân mentioned their wish to be able to speak the language to the Frisians when they are in Fryslân.

[B10M19] (…) But I think it would be nice if I ever spoke Frisian, if I am in Fryslân and then I can speak Frisian with the Frisians. [Q4]

Interestingly, this is still the case even when the participant clearly states that there is no ‘actual’ need to learn the language in order to integrate in their group (in this particular case, the student association).

[B10M19] I do not think it is very important to be able to speak the language in order to be a member of Bernlef. [Q5]

It seems clear, therefore, that Frisian is perceived as a necessary means to achieve integration in a particular group, and this perception fuels the motivation of most participants, even when they openly claim there is a lack of ‘real’ need for it. One participant, actually, goes as far as to deny any kind of instrumental motivation to learn Frisian.

[A3F22] It is not important in the sense that I need it for something, for a job or that I need to learn Frisian for my studies or something else. But I do think it’s fun. I’m now living in the province and then it is nice if I can understand the people a little, it’s also sort of an interest in them. [Q6]

However, this is of course not always the case. As found for other minority languages—such as, for instance, Catalan (Pujolar & Puigdevall, 2015)— the minority language can also be a tool to achieve better employment opportunities, especially in settings where it enjoys some sort of official recognition and its use is promoted by local and (sometimes) national institutions.

[A7F32] For me, there is a practical use in learning Frisian, because for my job I really need it to get closer to the people here. […] The course was even more useful than I expected, for my job. [Q7]

“I just enjoy learning Frisian”: Personal motivation

Similar to what O’Rourke and DePalma (2016) found for learners of Galician in a summer school, Frisian language learners also report personal motivation to learn the language. These findings also mirror those by Belmar (2018), where over 90 % of his participants claimed that Frisian was important for them because they liked it —the highest percentage out of the four languages he asked his participants about, i.e., Frisian, Dutch, English and German.

[A1F44] Important is not really the right word, it’s more that I enjoy learning the language (…) I want to know how the language works. [Q8]

[A6M64] I think learning Frisian is mostly fun and interesting. It is not really important; I do not need it for my job. It does not have a practical use, but it is purely out of interest and for fun. [Q9]

Interestingly, the kind of course the participant is taking seems to play a role in their motivation, as well. An informal setting seems to have a positive effect on the learner’s motivation, taking the pressure of examinations off and focusing on enjoying the learning experience.

[B1019] Plus, it’s just very simple. Or simple… it’s not easy to learn, but it’s just fun that you learn via… that there is no pressure, so to speak. It’s not: you have to do an exam and know a lot. It is nice that Frisian lessons are offered, and I want to go for it, but if that was not the case, I would still like to learn Frisian listening to people. [Q10]

“In the rest of the country you can barely use it”: The effect of opportunity on use and motivation

The participants were asked whether they use the language in contexts other than the language course. Only three out of ten participants indicated that they use Frisian outside the course because it is a practical need for their job (or internship). Moreover, three people indicate that it is necessary to use it simply because they live in Fryslân and want to understand more of their environment. Only one of the participants with Frisian family really uses Frisian in social settings —with family and friends.

[A1F44] Yes, I have a Frisian husband, so Frisian in-laws, and at some point they stopped speaking Dutch when I’m around. [Q11]

[A8F59] You notice that you get more of, for instance, pieces in the newspaper or the Frisian radio station, and that you understand more than before. You get more information that way. [Q12]

[A7F32] On the streets people speak Frisian, so it’s convenient if I can understand them. [Q13]

Nine out of ten participants planned on using Frisian in the future, in communication with the Frisian people in their environment (in social contexts, as well as work). Even if fluency in Frisian is barely expected from non-natives, participants indicated that there is a need for at least passive knowledge of Frisian, when one lives in Fryslân: even if Frisian is not necessary to communicate in for example supermarkets, one still needs it to understand important elements of their surroundings, such as the local news, or small talk on the streets.

[A3F22] (…) if I use it, it is mostly because I have to read it, or because the people around me use it, for example in meetings sometimes. They don’t mind if I reply in Dutch. [Q14]

The fact that the motivation to learn Frisian is mainly integrative may be the reason why only those participants wishing to remain in Fryslân in the future showed any interest in furthering their knowledge of the language.

[A3F22] I don’t think so, because I am not staying in Fryslân. I think that if I had gone out looking for a job here, then yes, but that’s not the case. (…) in the rest of the country, you can barely use it. [Q15]

[A7F32] Yes, because I will continue living here in the future (…) I would like to learn to speak it better, because Frisian is such a weird and exotic language. [Q16]

This may be linked to the results of Rosiak and Hornsby (2016), when they state that opportunities to use the language and access to native speakers play a key role in the motivation (maintenance) of new speakers.

On the other hand, one participant indicated that she never uses Frisian outside the course, partly because she is not yet confident enough to use it, but also because she finds it difficult to find people who are willing to speak Frisian to her, without switching to Dutch. This latter point was raised by many, if not all, participants: Frisians tend to switch to Dutch when they notice that someone is not Frisian, which makes it harder to practice the language. As a consequence, not everyone is motivated to learn to speak Frisian once they have developed comprehension skills.

“Frisians tend to switch to Dutch when I speak to them”: The effects of language ideologies on motivation

Thus, if you are not a native Frisian, Frisian-speakers often switch to Dutch, which hinders the acquisition of the language and seems to point at issues of authenticity and legitimacy in the Frisian community (see, for example, Belmar, 2018). Those who are not perceived as ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ speakers are often unconsciously marked as outsiders, by switching to Dutch with them and thus barring them from Frisian. These tensions around notions of ‘authenticity’ and ‘legitimacy’ are central to most research being done on new speakers, and it has been found to function as a ‘social closure’, a sort of ‘identity control mechanism’ (O’Rourke & Ramallo, 2013, p. 290) which may lead to frustration and may even prevent new speakers from using the language (O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016, p. 4).

[A4F66] If you start in Frisian, they will reply in Frisian. But if you start in Dutch, the Frisians think it’s impolite to keep speaking Frisian, so then they switch to Dutch. Which I think

is actually quite a pity, because if they kept speaking Frisian, then I would be more inclined to do it as well. But anyway, that’s how they are. [Q17]

[B9M20] At the beginning when they don’t know you, they do speak Frisian to you, but when you start speaking Dutch they will automatically switch to Dutch, only some keep speaking Frisian. I always say, you can just speak Frisian to me, but many people find it difficult when you answer them in Dutch. [Q18]

[A6M64] I really want to, but it’s difficult because Frisians tend to switch to Dutch when I speak to them. [Q19]

The large influence of Dutch is also visible in an anecdote of one of the participants, who came up with the metaphor that when you want to learn Frisian, you have to “break through a screen of Dutch”. This participant does not speak Dutch but is learning Frisian. People often assume he can speak Dutch when they hear he is learning Frisian, and they find it surprising that one can learn Frisian without actually knowing Dutch. He further noticed that barely any English-Frisian teaching material is available, and in the course a Dutch background is assumed. This is in line with Fishman’s (1991) remarks stating that Frisian as a second language courses excessively rely on the parallels between Dutch and Frisian. This may have a negative effect on motivation of learners who come from outside the Netherlands and who may see Frisian as inaccessible if not proficient in Dutch.

[A2M27] (…) if you try in Frisian, you have to go through this screen of Dutch and I just skipped that, but people don’t understand that you can ‘not learn’ Dutch, and just learn Frisian. [Q20]

“I think it’s a matter of respect”: New speakers’ motivation and the revitalisation of Frisian in Fryslân

Both motivation and attitude are claimed to be key for the existence of new speakers of minority languages. Negative attitudes towards the minority language often translate to a smaller number of new speakers/learners and a greater lack of opportunities to learn and practice it. Moreover, views on language interaction differ strongly between new speakers and native speakers, and the former even tend to promote the language more actively than native speakers do in conversational settings (McLeod & O’Rourke, 2015, p. 260–285), as is implied by one of the participants, who defends the use of Frisian as a ‘matter of respect’.

[A2M27] (…) I think it’s really important if you live here to at least learn a little bit of Frisian, (…) I think it’s something everybody should at least try a little bit, at least the basics and understanding. I think it’s a matter of respect for the people who are from here, and I also think that it’s good for you. Learning Frisian has helped me get in the Frisian bubble. [Q21]


The results of this study show that the main motivation behind potential new speakers of Frisian seems to be integrative, similar to what Jaffe (2015) found for Corsican. An important goal for (potential) new speakers of Frisian is, therefore, to integrate in the community and become part of their desired social group. Motivation of a personal sort is also quite present in their discourses, with many participants claiming that they are learning the language simply because they like it (in line with the conclusion of O’Rourke & DePalma, 2016), a finding which mirrors the results of Belmar’s (2018) survey of attitudes, motivation and use of learners of Frisian in formal courses. Some instrumental motivation was hinted at by some participants, but it was clearly marked as not essential, rather as a means to improve the quality of life for those living in Fryslân.

In addition, all of the participants reported on the negative effect that ideologies of politeness —which could also be seen as questions of ‘authority’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘legitimacy’— have on their language learning. Be it just for politeness or because their language is perceived as not authentic, not genuine enough, Frisian native speakers tend to address new speakers in Dutch (see Belmar, 2018), which makes them less motivated to try and use the language, and this in turn reinforces the perceived need to address them in Dutch. At the same time, participants were also quick to highlight how native Frisian speakers tend to appreciate it when adults make the effort to learn their language and are often very welcoming of learners. The common perception that there is no need to learn Frisian, makes learners an interesting group, and despite their apparent resistance to use the language with them, attitudes of speakers towards learners tend to be highly positive.

In spite of this, the participants often commented on a practical need to at least understand Frisian, since they live in Fryslân. This confirms the findings by Jaffe (2015) that learning a minority language can indeed have some practical value, when the new speaker actually lives in the environment where the language is spoken. Moreover, this also reflects the fact that Frisian is linked to a specific geographic area where there is some external pressure to learn the language. In fact, we can also observe the perceived link between Frisian and Fryslân in the participants’ claims that they would only further their knowledge of the language if they stay in the province. New speakers of Frisian, therefore, start to learn the language because they want to integrate or because they like the language, but they only continue—and thus become ‘new speakers’—simply because they live in Fryslân.


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Related articles/sources in LME

Ortega, Ane, Jacqueline Urla, Estibaliz Amorrortu, Jone Goirigolzarri, & Belen Uranga. 2015. Linguistic identity among new speakers of Basque

Rodríguez-Ordóñez, Itxaso. 2020. New speakers of Basque: a Basque-Spanish contact approach

Appendix A: Question-guideline for the interviews

Background questions:



Motivation questions:

Did you have any previous knowledge of Frisian prior to the course?

Do you use Frisian outside of the course, e.g. with your friends, family or at work? (In which contexts)

How did studying Frisian become important to you? In which respect?

Does the language course meet your expectations? Why (not)? For example: is it easier or less easy than you anticipated? Is it more or less useful than you thought it would be?

Do you think you will use Frisian in the future (after the course)? If yes, how (in which contexts/for which purposes)?

Appendix B: Original quotes in Dutch

[Q1] Omdat ik bij een Friese studentenvereniging zit… en iedereen om mij heen Fries praat… en omdat Friezen het over het algemeen ook wel leuk vinden als je Fries terug kan praten… en ik kom uit een Friese familie, dus ik vind het op zich wel leuk om een beetje de taal onder de knie te krijgen.

[Q2] Maar ik vind wel als je er woont, en inderdaad als je zo veel mensen die Fries spreken in je omgeving hebt, vind ik het wel leuk om nog het nog beter te begrijpen en zelf af en toe ook wat in het Fries te kunnen zeggen, of vragen, of kleine gesprekjes, ja.

[Q3] Het is handig als je mensen kan verstaan en de Friese krant kunt lezen. De gemeentelijke mededelingen zijn ook vaak in het Fries.

[Q4] (…) Maar het lijkt mij wel leuk dat als ik dan ooit Fries kan praten, dat ik dan in Friesland ben dat ik dan Fries met Friezen kan praten.

[Q5] Ik heb niet het idee dat het heel belangrijk is om de taal te kunnen spreken om Bernleffer te kunnen zijn.

[Q6] Het is niet belangrijk als in, ik heb het ergens voor nodig voor een baan of dat ik per se Fries moet leren voor een studie of iets anders. Maar ik vind het wel leuk, ik woon nu in de provincie en dan is het wel leuk als ik de mensen een beetje kan verstaan, het is ook een soort interesse in hen.

[Q7] Fries leren heeft voor mij een praktisch nut, want ik heb het in mijn werk echt nodig om dichterbij de mensen hier te komen. (…) De cursus was nog meer bruikbaar dan verwacht, voor mijn werk.

[Q8] Belangrijk is niet echt het woord, ik vind het meer leuk om de taal te leren (…) ik wil weten hoe de taal in elkaar zit.

[Q9] Ik vind Fries leren hoofdzakelijk puur leuk en interessant. Het is niet echt belangrijk, ik heb het niet nodig voor werk. Het heeft geen praktisch nut, maar het is pure belangstelling en voor de lol.

[Q10] Plus, het is gewoon heel erg simpel. Of simpel… het is niet simpel om te leren, maar het is wel gewoon leuk dat je via via leert, er zit niet druk op. Het is niet van… je moet een toets doen of weet ik veel, het is leuk dat de Friese les aangeboden wordt en daar wil ik wel voor gaan, maar als dat niet zo was dan vind ik het nog leuk om Fries te leren via het luisteren naar mensen.

[Q11] Ja wel hoor, ik heb een Friese man, dus een Friese schoonfamilie, en die zijn ergens ooit gestopt met Nederlands praten waar ik bij ben.

[Q12] Je merkt wel dat stukken in de krant bijvoorbeeld, of de Friese radiozender, dat je er meer van oppikt en meer begrijpt dan daarvoor. Je krijgt meer informatie op die manier.

[Q13] Op straat praten mensen Fries, het is dan handig dat ik ze in eerste instantie kan verstaan.

[Q14] Als ik het gebruik, is het vooral omdat ik het moet lezen, of omdat iedereen om mij heen het gebruikt zoals soms bij vergaderingen. Ze vinden het niet erg als ik dan Nederlands terugpraat.

[Q15] Ik denk het niet, omdat ik niet in Friesland blijf wonen. Ik denk dat als ik hier op zoek zou zijn gegaan naar werk, dan wel, maar dat is niet het geval. (…) in de rest van de Nederland gebruik je het bijna niet.

[Q16] Ja, want ik blijf hier wonen. (…) Ik zou het leuk, en een verrijking, vinden om het uiteindelijk ook beter te kunnen spreken. En dan helemaal Fries, het is zo’n exotisch en raar taaltje!

[Q17] Als je Fries begint, antwoorden ze wel Fries. Maar als je in het Nederlands begint, is het voor de Friezen onbeleefd om Fries te blijven praten, dus dan schakelen ze over naar het Nederlands. Wat ik op zich wel jammer vind, want als zij nou Fries blijven praten, dan heb ik ook sneller de neiging om dat ook te doen. Maar goed, zo zijn ze nou eenmaal.

[Q18] In het begin als ze je nog niet kennen dan spreken ze wel Fries tegen je, maar als je dan eenmaal Nederlands gaat praten, dan schakelen zij meestal automatisch wel terug op het Nederlands. Maar een enkeling houdt wel vol in het Fries. Ik zeg ook altijd, je mag gewoon Fries tegen mij praten, maar veel mensen vinden dat toch lastig als je ze in het Nederlands beantwoordt.

[Q19] Ik wil dat erg graag, maar het is moeilijk, want Friezen schakelen meestal over naar Nederlands wanneer ik met ze praat.

[Q20] (interview conducted in English)

[Q21] (interview conducted in English)

Santrauka. Šiame straipsnyje nagrinėjama suaugusių žmonių motyvacija mokytis mažumų kalbos remiantis trišaliu modeliu: integracine, instrumentine (Gardner ir Lambert, 1959; 1972) ir asmenine (žr. Benson, 1991) patirtimis. Suaugę žmonės, kurie mokosi mažumų kalbos, yra potencialūs nauji kalbos vartotojai, kurie yra apibūdinami kaip pagrindinė kalbos atgaivinimui būtina žmonių grupė (žr. Pujolar ir O‘Rourke, 2018). Kadangi motyvacija mokytis šių kalbų nėra dažnai siejama su ekonomine sėkme ar platesnėmis darbo galimybėmis, tyrime apžvelgiamos priežastys, motyvuojančios žmonės mokytis mažumų kalbos (O’Rourke ir DePalma, 2016). Straipsnyje (potencialių) naujų kalbos vartotojų motyvacijos analizuojamos remiantis interviu su vakarų frizų kalbą (mažumų kalba, vartojama Nyderlanduose) besimokančiais suaugusiais žmonėmis dviejose skirtingose aplinkose: „Afuk Frisian“ kursuose (tradicinė mokymosi aplinka) ir „Bernlef Frisian“ kursuose (studentų asociacijos teikiami neformalūs kursai asociacijos nariams). Rezultatai parodė integracinės ir asmeninės motyvacijos dominavimą (žr. O‘Rourke), bet ne išimtinai (kaip buvo teigiama Jaffe, 2015), nes pastebėta, kad kalba yra glaudžiai susijusi su pačia provincija ir numanomu – tam tikru mastu – socialinės ir ekonominės sėkmės garantu provincijoje.

Pagrindinės sąvokos: nauji kalbos vartotojai; mažumų kalba; motyvacija; kalbos mokymasis; kalbos atgaivinimas; vakarų frizų kalba.



Country/State / Netherlands
Language Family / Indo-European / Germanic / Frisian; Frysk; Frasch; Fräisk
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