Written by Dyami Millarson
Yesterday I spoke with a student from Prague who is passionate about learning Shire Frisian. What was, however, a serious impediment to his Frisian studies was the the lack of easily available English resources for learning Shire Frisian. The solution for him was, therefore, to study Dutch in order to gain access to better resources for learning Shire Frisian. This perfectly illustrates the scope of the problem.
There are probably plenty of people who would love to learn Shire Frisian – or other Frisian languages for that matter – but they meet significant barriers along the way. The removal of these barriers is of the utmost importance. I reached the conclusion around 2016 that there are not enough resources in English for learning Shire Frisian to fluency. The availability of English resources will make a real difference for Shire Frisian, as this can significantly increase its reach and thereby attract new speakers.
Thus, the impediment that English-speaking Fdisian learners from around the world experience is not only an impediment to them, but it is also an impediment to the Frisian languages, as these languages are unable to acquire new speakers as a result of their inaccessibility to the English-speaking public, even though we live in a largely English-speaking world now and the Frisian languages are closely related to English and Scots in terms of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
I am currently focused on making the smallest Frisian languages more accessible, because order in which I prioritise making specific Frisian languages more accessible runs from the smallest to the biggest languages. Others might do it the other way around, but the reason I prioritise the smallest languages first is because these tend to be forgotten and taking care of them first ensures that they will not be overlooked. Furthermore, the smallest languages need learners the most, because for those languages, it will make an immediate difference whether there are, let’s say, 30 speakers or 31 speakers.
I feel a deep personal connection with each and every Frisian language I speak, and since I have this feeling, I prioritise the weakest ones first, since I pray and wish they all survive. Imagine you have many children. You love them all equally. In an unfortunate turn of events, they all fall ill, and some more than others. You wouldn’t want any of them to die. You would do your utmost best to keep them all healthy. In order for you to succeed in saving every single one of them, it may be necessary to tend to the weakest ones first before tending to the strongest ones.
Since I work for the conservation of Frisian languages and cultures, I understand that I must work to increase the accessibility of the Frisian languages. I know that the situation for the Frisian languages is desperate. There are dozens of Frisian languages, and there is so much to do for making them more accessible. I can, ultimately, only hope to enthuse others with the materials that I produce, and I would love to get their feedback for improvement. The first English dictionary of the Hindeloopen Frisian language I released this year is a good example of this. I welcome everyone – no matter your background or general field of interest – to take a look at my freely available Hindeloopen Frisian dictionary, which is the first of its kind, and share their thoughts (contact information is included in the dictionary), and what they would like me to add. You, the reader, can make a difference!