Opportunities for Preserving Minority Languages and Education

Csilla Bartha

This study introduces the extensive literature relevant to the theme under consideration. Thus it focuses on those languages which are in danger of extinction, the main cauases of language exchange, the ideological background of  bilingual language knowledge, the existing sytem for the teaching of minorities, and the related majority ideologies underlying strategies for the education of minorities. The Hungarian language is far from being an “endangered” language but current changes in certain individual cases suggest that it can be seen as “endangered” in those particular cases.

In order to avoid the process of language exchange it is important to work out a unified language strategy for the Carpathian Basin. From an educational point of view this essentially means that in areas where Hungarian is the minority language, educational models for teaching mother tongue Hungarians should ensure that the language of instruction is Hungarian. Teaching conducted using the majority language is most suitable in those schools in which the majority language is essential in particular subjects.

In educational matters the author looks at the importance of language from the preservation point of view. This is because language itself is the medium of education; on the one hand it is the tool and target legitimating and upholding the inequalities of power between the minority and majority.  On the hand, it can be used to fracture the hegemony of the majority, as a tool of resistance and it has a role in the redistribution of power.  An examination of the support for minority languages and cultures indicates the degree of recognition of these elements. In turn this shows the ideological content, the aims of social policy, the nature of education for minorities, and  the axis of language orientatin and output. Beyond all this it shows the nature of the relations between the minority and the majority. In the Hungarian case the attitude of the majority is most typically  that which recognises the tight connection between language, identity and learning; and within this the recognition of the beneficial language and psychological effects of education in the mother tongue (but mainly only learning of the majority language). In actual fact learning through the medium of the mother tongue only has an instrumental role in a process of redirection towards the majority language using refined methods, while serving the purpose of assimilation. Among the most frequent instruments for “redirection”  one can find, for example: networks of schools  which are not adjusted  to the needs of minorities;  bilingual schools;  and discriminatory procedures in the contents of curricula and the relevant teaching methods employed. Education in the majority language indicates especially that the minorities are dealt with as a homogenous block and are not treated as being separate or representing various groups with respect to the differnces between language knowledge.

For the retention and development of languages it is indispensable (from a basic, collective human rights pont of iew) that selective procedures should  be employed in establishing schools and in the way in which they operate; such an approach should have a decisive role with respect to teaching material and the language of instruction. A conception based on such principles itself is based on power touching particular areas of the community, education, culture, religion, social matters and the genunine nature of information. All this can only lead to a complete social political change of the classic philosophical matrix of the nation state, and at the same time affect the possible success of the active political role-acceptance of the language communities concerned.