Terms of inclusion, short and long

My coworker Mattia is a gem; a man of deep thought and good ideas. He asked me today if I knew of any writing on the topic of language learning and inclusion.

One trait common in Dutch speakers (at least in the Randstad) is that, as soon as a non-native speaker joins the conversation, they will switch to English. I can speak only for myself: it’s an act of inclusion, of liberation. I want expats to feel at home in the Netherlands, and autonomous in their manner and pace of learning Dutch. Forcing them into it over lunch, which is a time to relax, is not something I’m fond of doing.

Mattia reminded me today that, while it’s an act of short-term inclusion, it’s also an act of long-term exclusion.

If expats don’t have anyone to practice Dutch with, specifically to practice Dutch work talk, they may never feel comfortable enough to communicate in it.

Why do I not make an effort?

I tell myself it’s because I studied linguistics and tutored children for so long that speaking Dutch as a form of teaching doesn’t make me feel like I’m on a lunch break. I tell myself I can’t recalibrate my relationships with people from one language into another. That my neurodivergence makes conversations too slow-paced as it is.

But I don’t think those reasons matter, really. I think it just makes me uncomfortable.

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