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Dutch abandoning native language

The Dutch, renowned as linguists, are on the way to becoming the first people to abolish their own language as a teaching medium.

The motive is money. Already they find it profitable to operate at home in languages other than their own.

Now academics have recommended that Dutch should no longer be the official teaching language in schools and universities across the country. A commission set up by the Education Ministry says schools and institutions of further education should be free to teach all subjects in the language of their choice as part of the European Community's progress to a single market this year.

The commission is convinced that the status of Dutch is not vulnerable nor likely to decline in importance as a result of it not being the country's first official language of education.

If the commission's proposal is acted upon, universities would be free to scrap Dutch altogether and offer courses in anything from Zulu to Chinese. Most of the institutions, however, are likely to opt for English, already widely used in higher education.

The reason the Dutch are so willing to speak other languages stems from their own being a minority language belonging to the West Germanic language group. It is derived from the speech of the Salic Franks, who settled in the area of the modern Netherlands.

Dutch as a national language flourished during the country's golden age in the 17th century, when secure trading posts were established not only in Europe but also in the Near East, North America, Africa and the Far East.

Today, although Dutch is spoken in some of the Netherlands' former colonies _ notably in Indonesia and Suriname _ and in Belgium, where it is one of the two official languages, it remains largely unspoken to the rest of the world.