Say tjiis: Frisian language makes its debut in the European Parliament

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The Frisian language will be spoken in the European Parliament for the first time on Monday as part of a session dedicated to Europe’s minority languages.

Jan Huitema, an MEP from Makkinga for the VVD party, will speak for one minute in his province’s native tongue to highlight its cultural and historic significance as the Netherlands’ second language, he told NOS.

The evening has been organised by a group of around 60 MEPs representing minority languages and will also feature speeches in Scottish Gaelic, Catalan and Low Saxon. The latter is spoken by an estimated 5.5 million people in Germany and the eastern Dutch provinces.

A row earlier in the week led to a decision not to use live translation because some member states are reluctant to raise the status of minority languages spoken in their borders, particularly in the case of Spain and Catalan. The speeches will also not be included in the Parliament’s official record.

Around 470,000 people in the province of Friesland speak Frisian, including 350,000 who count it as a first language. Until the late Middle Ages versions of Frisian were the native language as far south as Amsterdam. It is the closest relative to English among current European languages, reflected in words such as tjiis (cheese).

Huitema told NOS that even though few of his audience will be able to understand him, he was looking forward to Frisian having ‘its day in the sun’, 25 years after Europe adopted its Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.



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