The making of Dutch at universities extra muros: a teachers‘ perspective
2022-04-13, 10:00–10:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

This presentation is about the role of the teacher in 'foreign language making’, more specifically in the making of Dutch in university language courses. It starts from the assumption that the students’ ideas about the foreign language are largely determined by the language attitudes and the linguistic knowledge of their teacher.

In foreign language teaching, languages are often conceived of as homogenous and invariable standard languages. For both the teacher and the students it seems important to have clear norms; variation is more likely to be perceived as annoying and disturbing. This is, however, problematic in the case of a pluricentric language like Dutch, because it provides a false picture of the language. It might even turn out to be a trap when teachers accept only one variant and feel insecure to accept or at least explain equivalent forms (Milroy 2001, Topalović and Elspaß 2008: 41).

Up to now, few researchers have taken the opportunity to explore the role of the teacher in the process of foreign language making. In my presentation, I will report on one-to-one semi-structured interviews with university teachers of Dutch which I have conducted for my PhD research. Are these teachers aware of any sociolinguistic approaches to language variation and pluricentricity (like Muhr & Dawn 2015)? And if they are, do they apply the relevant concepts and insights in the classroom? How? Does this help to increase language awareness among the students? I focus on the pluricentric nature of Dutch (as spoken in the Netherlands and in Flanders), but the results can probably be easily transferred to other language constellations.

My findings show that there are some teachers of Dutch at European universities who take note of current sociolinguistic research and try to integrate it into their teaching. Nevertheless, ‘standard language ideology’ is still very vivid amongst language teachers, even those with lots of experience. In the classroom, Dutch is presented as a homogeneous standard Dutch, without paying much attention to variation. Constructing and presenting Dutch as a foreign language still seems to adhere to the ideas of standard language ideology. However, it shows that workshops for and with teachers are a way to tackle this view successfully and to give teachers the opportunity to reflect their stance on standard languages and variation. This helps them to better understand and to redefine their position in the recursive process of foreign language making and it helps us to better understand the role of the teacher in this process.


Milroy, James, 2001. “Language ideologies and the consequences of standardization.” Journal of Sociolinguistics. 5 (4), 530–555.

Muhr, Rudolf and Dawn Marley, 2015. Pluricentric Languages: New perspectives in Theory and Description. Peter Lang: Frankfurt/Berlin.

Topalovic, Elvira and Stephan Elspaß, 2008. “Die deutsche Sprache - ein Irrgarten? Ein linguistischer Wegweiser durch die Zwiebelfisch-Kolumnen.” In: Denkler, M. (Hg.): Frischwärts und unkaputtbar. Sprachverfall oder Sprachwandel im Deutschen. Münster, 37–57.

Panel affiliation

On „foreign language making“: selecting language varieties for educational purposes