Written by Dyami Millarson
The island has called me back. It is my fate to be here and study the language that is spoken by only approx. 30 people. I will be here at least until 23 May. My birthday will be the 19th, so I will spend my birthday in 2019 here on Schiermonnikoog.
In 2017, I spent my birthday in Tainan, a culturally rich city in Taiwan which has visible traces of Dutch history. Being a Dutchman, I thought that was an appropriate place to be for my birthday. I explored the history there and learned more about the Dutch ancestors and the local languages that are spoken in Taiwan. Having explored the linguistic landscape of Taiwan, I myself hope to learn the Taiwanese local languages one day.
Silence for the Dutch men, women and children who died in Taiwan.
In 2018, I celebrated my birthday by having learned the language of East Terschelling which is spoken by only approx. 150 people. At the time, many regarded it merely as a dialect and they found it a little odd that I was so interested in learning to speak and write this language. Moreover, historically, many looked down on the people from East Terschelling because they were poor folks. Along with the languages of Schiermonnikoog and Hindeloopen, the language of East Terschelling received international recognition as a result of our studies.
The local newspaper mentions me.
I am here now on the Wadden island of Schiermonnikoog to tell the locals about the recognition of their language. Whilst on the boat on my way to the island today together with my father, I discovered that the free local newspaper had mentioned me when it talked about the island language. It described the language as ‘derived from Old Frisian with Scandinavian influences’. This makes one think of the Vikings: The islanders used to be sturdy sailors who had close contact with other seafaring nations, and this history with the sea may certainly have influenced the development of their language.
Local products in the supermarket.
Apart from spreading the good news on the island, I will be interviewing several last speakers of the island language. One of the speakers I hope to interview in the coming days is a 101-year-old man who wrote me a letter a few days ago. He said that it was his first time writing the island language. I was really intrigued by this. He thanked me for having played my part in the international recognition of the language. He said he had always heard it was a dialect, but he thought it was really a language because the grammar is quite complicated: The island language has 3 grammatical genders like the Viking language Old Norse and Old English.
Send me your questions
I need you guys to help me a little. I have been preparing for the interviews. I will be asking many linguistic questions, but I also wanted to ask some cultural and social questions. Please comment below and share your ideas to help me out. What do you want to know about the culture of the island? I might include your cultural/social questions in the interviews!