On Saturday, the 17th of March, we, as a group of Minorities and Multilingualism bachelor students, were invited to the ninth edition of the ´Dag van de Grunneger Toal’ (day of the Groninger language) to do field research. After we were given the instruction on how to do interviews with the participants (dailnemers), we started our search. In the beginning it felt quite awkward to approacht the participants, while they were busy doing other things and enjoying themselves. Just when we got enough courage and approached someone, he gave us a big ‘no’. That didn’t make us feel more confident. However, the second person we approached was a very sweet lady, who was willing to give us all the information and more. After that we felt more confident and it was not so awkward anymore.
Since 2010, the event traditionally takes place every year in March which has been appointed the name ‘Meertmoand Dialectmoand’ (‘March month Dialect month’). This means that in March, extra attention is given to the Groninger language. The ‘Dag van de Grunniger Toal’ is a special contribution to this month, a day in which visitors can experience the versatility of the Groninger language in for example, music, literature, media and education. There are workshops and presentations given on various topics, such as the future of the Groninger language, there is a book fair and even Groninger live music.
When we arrived at the event, we got the assignment of conducting 10 to 15 interviews with participants of the Dag, to collect data for a master thesis on the Groninger language. The interviews were conducted in pairs of 2 to 3 students and consisted of a series of questions touching upon different topics such as language attitudes, Groninger identity, proficiency and language use. One question on language attitudes we asked, for example, was “do you feel ashamed when you speak Gronings?”. We also asked the participants to read aloud some words and to name, in Gronings, a few pictures we showed them. The interviews were filmed with permission of the participants who signed a form indicating whether they wanted their interview to be shared on social media or not.
The interviews were very fun to do, as most people were very friendly and eager to talk about ‘their’ dialect to us. What we found was most striking were the answers on the question ‘What character do you think makes you a ‘real’ Groninger?’. We heard quite the same answers during the day. As the prejudices would expect, most people would describe their character as ‘down-to-earth’, ‘on the background’ and ‘quiet’. There was only one person we talked to who said that was a silly question, as we are all citizens of the world and that you can’t assign character traits to people based on where they come from.
After our visit to the 'Dag van de Grunneger Toal', we think ‘De Dag van de Grunneger Toal’ is a good initiative and certainly worth to organize it. A lot of people we met on this day were really proud of their Gronings and enjoyed the attention for the language they grew up with. For most people it’s a day full of nostalgia, with the books written in Gronings, CD’s in the Groninger language and the Groninger food (e.g. Aaierbal) you could buy there. As the average age of the participants was a bit above 50, we think it is also important to raise awareness amongst the younger generations, since they are the ones who need to carry on the Groninger languages. This is not an easy task, to enthusiasm the younger generation. All we can do is keep on organizing days like these and hope that the younger generation eventually will see the importance of keeping a language alive, even if it is a regional language as the Groninger language is.
SB, MB, SL