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Minority Linguistic Issues in Western and Eastern Europe: An overview of two cases. Breton in France and Russian in Ukraine. Jose C. Ibarra . France: brief background. France is notorious for the prestige with which it holds its language and culture.

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Minority linguistic issues in western and eastern europe an overview of two cases l.jpg

Minority Linguistic Issues in Western and Eastern Europe: An overview of two cases.

Breton in France and Russian in Ukraine.

Jose C. Ibarra


France brief background l.jpg

France: brief background

  • France is notorious for the prestige with which it holds its language and culture.

  • A telling statement made by French culture Minister Jacques Toubon in 1993 states that: “Francophonie can and must be an alternative to the cultural and linguistic uniformity that threatens the world” (Anthony p. 3).

  • This same conservative Culture Minister made the Toubon Law of 1994 mandating all official publications, public announcements, and advertisements to be given in French.


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Brittany: Overview

  • Brittany occupies the northwestern region of France and is roughly about the same size of Taiwan or about 70% larger than Massachusetts.

  • The population of Brittany is estimated at 4,200,000.

  • The main language of the towns is French, however both Breton and Gallo are spoken in the region as well.

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    Wikipedia


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Challenges facing Breton speakers

  • According to Patrick Malrieu, the President of the cultural Council of Brittany: Breton is losing 20,000 speakers a year and can wait no longer.

  • France has yet to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages due to its unwillingness to modify its constitution.

  • The 2002 Financial Legislation Act published by the French Constitutional Council asserts that the constitution allows no other language besides French to be used in instruction.


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Breton Challenges cont’d

  • Privately funded Diwan (“seed”) schools, where classes are taught in Breton through the immersion method, have been very helpful in reviving Breton.

  • However plans to incorporate these schools into the state education system have been blocked by the French Constitutional council.


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The Breton Struggle

  • The Breton struggle is typical of that in many countries outside the Soviet sphere: A minority group trying to maintain its language amongst a society dominated by a national language and that pursues a monolingual education system.


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Ukraine and the Soviet Era

  • Ukraine experienced a gradual suppression of Ukrainian and an ensuing Russification during the Soviet era, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Parents were given the opportunity to choose the language of instruction for their children

  • Most chose Russian due to its importance in job opportunities whereas Ukrainian was not as vital.

    Wikipedia


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The legacy of Russification

  • Today in Ukraine 20% of its population is ethnically Russian and more than 60% of its 51 million inhabitants speak Russian.

  • Between 1995 and 1997 the number of Russian language journals increased from 101 to 118 and the number of newspapers from 721 to 746.

  • The current President of Ukraine is a native speaker of Russian and actually spoke very little Ukrainian when he was elected.


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Russian Minority struggles

  • Following the demise of the Soviet Union, there has been an emphasis on De-Russification.

  • An extreme example is the recent outlawing of Russian pop music from public buses in Ukraine last year.

  • Ukrainian has become the official language of instruction. Currently the number of schools instructing in Russian does not surpass 10% of the total number of schools.

  • In 2001 out of a total 21,258 general schools in Ukraine, 2,215 were teaching in Russian.


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Legislation in Ukraine

  • Ukraine made strides in guaranteeing rights to minority groups following the Soviet breakup.

  • The 1991 Declaration on National Minorities guaranteed every ethnic and nationality group the right to use the native language in “every field of social life.”

  • It also passed a Language Law which allows for the use of other languages parallel to Ukrainian under the conditions of having citizenship, being a local majority in population, and having a high density of speakers.


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Russian Minority Struggles

  • Despite these legislative advances, there is still ethnic strife due to the emphasis on Ukrainization and Derussification.

  • For example, Segments of the Russian-speaking population have viewed the decreasing use of Russian in schools and the outlawing of Russian music as being unfair.


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Comparing East to West

  • Like many Eastern European countries, Ukraine is still dealing with the lasting effects of the Soviet era.

  • In trying to promote its long-suppressed national language and culture, it is passing policies viewed unfair by the Russian-speaking population.

  • France, like most other Western European nations, isn’t having to deal with the after-effects of the Soviet era and is dealing more with the more typical majority vs. minority issue.

  • In France a minority population is seeking to gain rights and not be completely assimilated into the French culture, whereas in the Ukraine the large Russian-speaking group is trying defend its rights and not have them consumed by the surge of Ukrainian nationalism.


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bibliography

  • “Ukrainians Take Control.” The Register-Guard. December 28, 2004: p. A10. NCLive. 

  • “Ukraine: Language Issues.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=3>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: Minority Groups.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=4>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: Language in Everyday Life.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. <http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=6>. 03 November 2005.

  • “Ukraine: International Treaties.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=23&TID=7>. 03 November 2005.

  • “France: Language Issues.” U.S. English Foundation, Inc. < http://www.us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/viewResearch.asp?CID=59&TID=3>. 18 October 2005. 

  • 1. Anthony, Ted. “Fears of Cultural Imperialism Spread along with English.” Associated Press. 2002. <http://wire.ap.org/APpackages/english/imperialism.html>.

  • 2. “A World Empire by other Means.” The Economist. 20 December 2001. <www.economist.com>


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