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“Everyone should learn Dutch.”

Author Ian Buruma says: “Everyone should learn Dutch.”

Ian Buruma’s idea to Save the World. What do you think?
As heard in the discussion programme The Forum from the BBC Worldservice on 22 May 2010.

In The Forum’s 60 Second Idea to Save the World, Dutch-born writer Ian Buruma suggests that everyone who has English as their mother tongue, should be made to learn Dutch as their first foreign language:

“I think it would be a good idea for people all over the world and every country (no exception) to learn Dutch as a second language. There are various advantages to this, especially for the English speakers. One of the curses of being from the English speaking world is that you do not really feel an incentive to learn another language, because everybody after all has to learn English which is a great disadvantage. Now there are advantages to Dutch. It has a rich literature. So there is a lot to read. It is spoken by many more people than just the Dutch population. If you include South Africa and Surinam, Dutch Guyana in South America, quite a large number of people. And nobody can take exception to it because Holland is small enough and powerless enough, now although a major economy. But people would not feel that somehow it is against their dignity to learn it. I think for that reason it might not be a bad idea.”

Of course, Ian Buruma has a vested interest because the famous writer and thinker was born and raised in The Hague, the Netherlands. Learning a second language is advantageous. However, why Dutch and why not another language? Because of its rich literature, he says. Because it is spoken all over the world and the small size of the Netherlands will not intimidate anyone. An important point Buruma does not make: Dutch is probably one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. In the family of languages they are brother and sister. So, a good idea? What do you think?

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