Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Exploring our hometown: A day at the Groningen Archive

You might have heard of Groningen as a popular student city, with a beautiful old town and local dishes such as the Eierbal, but did you know that Groningen also has its own dialect? It is to this day spoken by an estimated 590’000 speakers (ethnologue.com) and the language is growing in popularity, now being increasingly used in education, theater, music, cabaret, literature and media. To introduce people that are not familiar with the dialect as well as speakers of it, the RHC Groningen Archives organized the ‘Day of the Groningen Language’ (‘Dag van de Grunneger toal’). The event took place on March 17th on a brisk Saturday morning. This year the regional historical center (RHC) was proud to present the 9th edition, having prepared a program with Groningen-dialect-speaking musical acts, lectures, presentations of poets and writers and much more.

The Groningen archive is set to preserve and collect all things Groningen: books, magazines, newspapers, maps, drawings, prints, picture postcards, posters, photographs, negatives, films, videos and sound recordings (groningerarchieven.nl). Located at the heart of Groningen, the archive is a prime example of cultural heritage with its impressive collection of Groninger goods. Apart from their cultural library, the archive is actively involved in educating the public by organizing different workshops and lectures. The Dag van de Grunneger toal is a great example of this: the event attained visitors of all ages to learn everything there is to learn about Gronings. Every aspect of the event was centered around Groningen and its dialect; our writers even got to taste local eierballen!

Groningen Archive library

Us, a group of students studying local heritage, fittingly were asked to assist a Master student at the University of Groningen to conduct several interviews with visitors of the event. In short interviews of roughly 3 to 4 minutes, visitors were asked a couple of questions concerning their personal details, followed up by questions about their knowledge and attitude towards the Groningen dialect. Interviewers had to adapt the questionnaire to whether visitors were speakers or non-speakers of the language; as not everyone from Groningen speaks the dialect. Naturally the event attracted Gronings enthusiasts so finding fluent candidates was not too hard of a task.

Interview in process

Gronings is the collective name for numerous varieties of the Nedersaksisch regional language, spoken in and around the province of Groningen. The regional language is characterized by its distinct accent and vocabulary, which deviates strongly from other Nedersaksisch dialects. Nowadays about 65% of the inhabitants of the Groningen province say they can speak and write their language. For a lot of elderly people, Gronings is the most important means of expression. Younger generations do still speak the dialect, even though it becomes more and more mixed with Dutch. The newest generations are often only taught Dutch, as parents are worried about linguistic delay in the Dutch language.

Because Gronings is not recognized as an official language, it is not a mandatory subject in schools. However, more and more primary schools in Groningen choose to include it in their education, although this is not the case for high schools. The University of Groningen does offer a Gronings program, and it can also be learned through language courses which have seen a rise of interest in the last few years.

Gronings is also used in literature and music. Various books have been written in Gronings and in 2008, the Bible was published in Gronings. There are a couple reasonably well known artists who write and perform their music in Gronings, and the amount of artists and their success is rising every year.

The Dag van Grunneger toal is a local heritage that offers many vintage and traditional books, newspapers, maps, drawings, posters, photographs, films etc from the past. We as a small group have helped out a master student on conducting interviews with locals in the Groningen Achieves about their understanding and attitudes towards Gronings dialect. Even though the questions had to be adapted to accommodate non-speakers and speakers of Gronings, the day was a great success for interviewers and interviewees alike. In today's current situation, the majority of the elderly speak pure Gronings as their fundamental language, however, the younger generations tend to mix both languages together. Perhaps these types of events will continue to help preserve the vitality of our very own local dialect and give the younger generations the gift of cultural heritage in the form of language.

Food for thought: What else could be be done to help Groningen keep its dialect alive?

Written by: Jesse, Marie, Sandra and Saru

Groninger archieven. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.groningerarchieven.nl/

Gronings. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2018, from

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