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Attitude of the second generation Dutch in Australia to language maintenance and ethnic identity
Responses to the questions concerning attitude revealed a greater degree of interest in Dutch than is often generally assumed or can be expected from the national census data. In addition, there was a desire on the part of the majority of informants to pass on some elements of the Dutch language to their own children.
Actual language maintenance was also claimed at a higher rate than expected with almost all informants using some Dutch, even though the majority of use ratings fell into the categories of ‘rarely’ or ‘sometimes’. Activities with the potential to influence the use of Dutch – visiting the Netherlands, association with Dutch organisations and attendance at Dutch classes – attracted little participation from this second generation group at present, even though there had been a greater degree of involvement in the past. Of these language maintenance activities visits to the Netherlands were shown to be most popular, with least involvement in classes in Dutch.
Two variables – frequency of use of Dutch and sex – emerged as significantly related to attitude to language maintenance. A more positive attitude and more frequent use were linked, and attitude was also shown to be a possible predictor of use, which suggests continued use of Dutch in the future for (at worst) the one third of the sample who recorded a positive attitude. Females displayed a more positive attitude to language maintenance and were more highly represented in several areas of language maintenance activity – use of Dutch, visits to the Netherlands and attendance at Dutch classes. This may be a reflection of Australian social norms, (in particular the encouragement given to females to acquire a second language), or of different language use patterns among females in general.
In terms of ethnic identity (and therefore extent of assimilation), the majority certainly does not identify completely with Anglo-Australians and almost all members of the group were aware of Dutch influences still present in their lives today and could describe a number of aspects of Dutchness. There was a significant link between ethnic identity and frequency of use of Dutch.
The findings indicate that it is likely that Dutch will be maintained by some members of the second generation in Australia, even if such use tends to take the form of symbolic language maintenance. It must also be acknowledged that the second generation is different from both first generations migrants and Anglo-Australians, with whom they are often compared. In fact, many informants appear keen to create or maintain a new identity which incorporates traits from both the Dutch and Anglo-Celtic cultures and to have that new ‘blended’ or dual identity acknowledged in a multicultural Australia.