Speak English with Poles, don’t bother with Polish


Polish sausage

Yesterday on telly (Nova) I saw a report about how Poles were getting on in Rotterdam. Once they showed the Polish food store (ethnic groups are often automatically associated with their food), I watched the rest. What I heard was well educated, normal looking Europeans who just happen to have crappy jobs that apparently pay less than minimum wage in 40% of cases and homes that are overpriced and crowded. As well, some 50% want to stay in the Netherlands because their chances are simply better. Some politicians says this will prepare them for the next wave of Eastern Europeans (Bulgarians and Romanians) who are due to arrive soon. These people are more often than not highly educated, speak several languages and do jobs the Dutch apparently have the luxury to refuse to do. They are not illiterate housewives or too old to integrate.

Then I found this recent article that reads “Poles speak English too well”, which is some weird complaint. On telly, they said that many Poles came to the Netherlands from England and Ireland, so it is logical that they speak some English. The article, however, basically points out that setting up Polish lessons for employers (known as reverse integration and highly criticised) is a waste of time if the Poles speak English. The people setting up these courses could have known this if they 1) bothered to get information from the Polish community like the telly did and 2) looked further in Europe than their own miniscule backyard.

And remember, when the Poles do stay they are obliged to learn Dutch anyways, so communication will be even easier! It seems the municipalities and the people setting up courses could use some serious cultural communication lessons themselves. Poles often speak Polish, some Russian and/or German, English and even other languages like French. Ah but learning Polish was a way to make money which backfired big time hence the complaint.

(Link: leeuwardercourant.nl)


  1. Darth Paul says:

    Fair enough. English is already a lingua franca in western Europe; and slavic languages are notoriously difficult for speakers of Germanic and Romance languages.

  2. Neil says:

    Certainly some Poles arrive in the Netherlands directly from Poland without English-speaking skills and one would hope understanding the nature of the demographic shift – how many are arriving with which language skill – is used to plan services.

    I find it interesting, the lengths to which the Dutch government will go to facilitate a liberal immigration policy in a way that maximizes opportunities for the immigrants to become part of the society, not simply living in the society but apart from it. The Dutch rightfully see this as a means of maintaining a future for the Dutch cultural inheritance.

    The program recognizes the fundamental role of communications and not just for the immigrant to learn Dutch but to communicate while the immigrant learns Dutch and also, in order to facilitate learning Dutch.

    The US is having debate on immigration issues. Our commitment to education – language and culture – for immigrants as part of the process is not so much a concern. I think we’re being short sighted.

  3. Orangemaster says:

    You can’t possibly be helping Poles immigrate by suggesting that employers learn Polish.

    Look what happened to me recently http://www.cheznatasha.nl/?p=103
    It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s never right :)

    Five people signed up to learn Polish, so it’s not going to happen. And as I Canadian I know we don’t force people to give up their origins like they do in the US.

  4. Neil says:

    Thanks for the link to your post about your experiences immigrating in the Netherlands. I appreciate it.

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