Examinations and thoughts on the possibilities of preserving Boyash language Cover Image
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A beás nyelv megőrzésének lehetőségeiről
Examinations and thoughts on the possibilities of preserving Boyash language

Linguistic situation, language education, language teacher training

Author(s): Anna Orsós
Subject(s): Social Sciences, Language studies, Language and Literature Studies, Sociology, Ethnic Minorities Studies
Published by: Virágmandula Kft. - Kronosz Kiadó
Keywords: Gypsy language teaching; Boyash language; Hungarian public education system; Linguistic situation; language education; language teacher training
Summary/Abstract: INTRODUCTION Numerous sociological studies have demonstrated that to belong to the Gipsy minority - anywhere in the world - presents a unique situation. Both the wider and proximate social environments have an influence on the reinforcement of identity, as well as on the overall language usage and on its extent. If the environment is receptive and it values otherness as an asset, identity reinforcement at the individual and community level will noticeably be higher due to the prestige gain. Otherwise a reverse tendency can be observed.There is a diverse collection of information available on the present-day life of Gipsy communities living in Hungary’s surrounding countries or in any other countries of the world, but there is a limited source of credible information or research data available upon their history and their use of language. These gaps in the literature are mainly due to the lack of written sources as Gipsy literacy has only evolved over the past hundred years. Written documents referring to the Gipsy population have been produced mainly during the conflicts between them and the majority society, so during the course of peaceful coexistence no such written documents emerged.Gypsies are scantily accounted for even in the population census statistics, since they live on the periphery of society in a rather inaccessible position, and it is hard to give a straightforward definition on exactly who can be considered as Gipsy at all. Numerous researchers have attempted to categorize the main features of Gipsy existence from various perspectives, but so far it has proved to be impossible to give a globally accepted definition. That is why, in each case, the issue needs to be approached with careful consideration, and it is the best to leave the self-definition to the individual.Mainly to historical prejudices, there are some segments of society in which being Gipsy is considered to be a low prestige status. Most of the Gypsies claim to belong to the majority society; they usually adopt the language and religion of the host country. Only some of the countries consider Gypsies a nationality, while other countries define them as an ethnic minority due to their lack of motherland. These factors partially account for the remarkable differences between the official census figures and the scientific estimations of Gypsy population all over the world. THESIS TOPIC The thesis aims to investigate the current situation of the Boyash population as well as the relevant issues of education and language policy regarding Boyash language teaching in Hungary.This choice of topic is mainly justified by the following contradiction: As a result of the past ten years of work, the Boyash population that used to exclusively nourish an oral culture has just started to have its language described. However, the shift of Boyash to Hungarian language had started long before among the Boyash language users living in minority. A tendency that shows a varied picture from one community to another.Since the scientific literature on the Hungarian Boyash population is rather scarce, it was important for me to collect all the information available on the situation and opportunities of Boyash communities living in Hungary.Neither the space of this essay nor the author’s competence allows for a broader elaboration of the topic, so this thesis paper will essentially focus on the current linguistic situation of the Boyash community and on Boyash language education in the Hungarian public education system. RESEARCH METHODS I would like to present the Boyash language speaking communities through the lens of two of my research studies.The first study is of a general nature: it aims to present a picture of language use and language status within six Boyash communities. The second study presents the results of a more wide-ranging examination carried out in a Boyash community in Manfa, Baranya. This complex research pertains to bilingualism. Within the framework of Project No. 5/126/2001 of the National Research and Development Program, a research study on language shift and bilingualism was carried out in eight minority communities (Boyash, Croatian, German, Romani, Romanian, Serbian, Slovakian, Death) using the same theoretical and methodological system.During the research, I aimed to give a sociolinguistic description of the Boyash language community, to examine the reasons why Hungarian language usage overshadows that of Boyash language, and to observe the language-using behavior of people of different age and sex. Based on the research data, I examined the personal language usage habits of the Boyash speaking community of Manfa to understand why and when do speakers alternate between the use of Hungarian and Boyash language. In the course of the examination, the language selection strategy of the speaking partners was analyzed on the basis of the speaker’s language competence, their attitude toward languages, and the age, sex, and occupation of the participants of communication, as well as the communicative situation, the location, the presence of a monolingual person, the relationship between the interlocutors, the nationality of the speaker’s spouse, the content of communication and the function of language choice. During the interviews, the informants were questioned about their Boyash identity and their personal opinion on Hungarian, Boyash and minority languages.In the course of the research, my informants were selected by pre-set criteria of sex, age, education. A questionnaire was used as a tool of data collection, but I personally conducted the interviews with the assistance of a Boyash-speaking social worker. The answers were recorded on a tape recorder.While conducting the questionnaire-based interviews, I collected further information about the language usage behavior of the Boyash families and communities as a participant observer.In processing the questionnaire, two statistical methods were used. On the one hand, I evaluated the statistical significance of the variables of age and linguistic attitudes in the course of language selection. On the other hand, with the statistical method of a two-way analysis of variance with independent variable, I studied the relations between linguistic attitudes and sex and age in the research sample. THE STRUCTURE OF THE ESSAY Besides the introductory chapter, the study consists of three sections: The first section presents a linguistic situation report in the form of a description of the Boyash language community. The second section describes the role of Boyash language in public and higher education. The third section explores the development potentials of Boyash language teaching.The relation of current language policy to minority languages does not seem to be adequately analyzed; the reluctance to address the tasks and problems can be dangerous to minority languages and the delay could lead to their extinction. THE RESEARCH RESULTS Both of the above mentioned research studies prove the existence of Boyash- Hungarian language shift process. At the same time, however, they also show that Boyash language speakers ’ attachment to their language is still rather strong, although the frequency of Boyash language use might suggest otherwise. THE LINGUISTIC SITUATION This section gives an overview on the occurrence of Boyash communities in Hungary, the size of their population and the legal regulations relevant to them. Their situation is greatly influenced by the fact that they have been in a diglossal situation from the very beginning, as the intermediary language for communication with the majority society used to be, and still is, Hungarian. Although the language of the Boyash communities living in Hungary is rooted in Romanian language used in Bansag, the Boyash communities have not maintained connections with either the Romanian language or with people living in Romanian-speaking neighborhoods: the language development of the two communities has progressed in an isolated way.Until the end of the 1980s, the Boyash language only lived in its oral version. The actual beginning of Boyash literacy can be dated back to the end of the 1990s and it can be associated with the activity of an educational institution unique in the world, the Gandhi Secondary Grammar School of Pecs.At the point of the emergence of Boyash language education, it was necessary to develop a standardized spelling method. The first pieces of Boyash folk collection were folksongs and folktales. These were all recorded in accordance with Hungarian spelling rules and were accompanied by a detailed reader’s guide on pronunciation. Boyash literacy began in 1994, when the first books were published in the language. These publications were soon followed by a Boyash language course book, which presented the very first attempt to systematize the Boyash language, hitherto only used orally.At this time, there are also Boyash-Hungarian and Hungarian-Boyash dictionaries available. In the recent years, several song and folktale collections and translations have been published.The importance of these publications is unquestionable, even though they were not edited with the utmost philological care and concern. The last decade has proven the durability of this spelling system, since the first folklore publications were soon followed by numerous similar books and also by different linguistic publications. This spelling system seems to be acceptable for not only the majority of Boyash intellectuals but also for the literate majority of the Boyash-speaking population.According to the research results presented in great detail in my thesis paper, there is a significant generation gap in the usage of Boyash language. In the course of communication, young people tend to choose Hungarian language more frequently than elderly people. When talking to their spouse or to their children, the informants tend to use Hungarian language more frequently than Boyash. While in communicative situations outside family circles - doing official errands, shopping, visiting the doctor, working - the dominance of Hungarian language use can be observed. It can mainly be explained by the fact that the usage of Boyash language is rather limited in official, formal situations; the appropriate language styles that would make communication fluent in formal situations have not yet developed.According to the research, 80% of the Boyash language community of Manfa learnt Boyash language in the family, although the use of language is slowly decreasing, especially in the generation under 40.Although their commitment to the Boyash mother tongue is very strong and they feel the necessity of passing on the language to younger generations, most Boyash speakers do not consider this to be their own task, but rather delegate it to the spheres outside the family. In their opinion, the majority language - in this case Hungarian - is the mean of social success. In parallel with the increase of Hungarian language competence, a feeling of loyalty to the Hungarian nation can also be detected in the answers of male informants.In this community, the loss of language does not also mean the loss of identity. The language use and the identity of the Boyash community in Manfa are reciprocally proportional.The Boyash language plays a much more important role in the lives of middle- aged people than in those of younger generation. Their childhood environment used to be mostly confined Boyash community sites where Boyash language use was absolutely natural: it was the mean of intercommunity communication.The older generation is the most tied to locality and thus the least effected by modernity. They are still preserving and are glad to use Boyash language. For them the community traditions are still alive; however, due to the increasing permeability of the once confined community life, there is less and less chance to live by these traditions.It is important for the Boyash communities to know their cultural values so that they shall believe in passing them on to younger generations. Education, especially the three-level (elementary, secondary and tertiary) language education, shall have a vital role in achieving this goal.The Boyash identity - even that of the younger generation - is fairly strong in spite of the decline of Boyash language use. In this situation, a well considered, conscientious language and educational policy may generate a recovery of community life and language usage as well. AN EDUCATIONAL AND LANGUAGE POLICY OVERVIEW In the second part of my thesis, I give a general overview on the legal background of Gypsy language education. While examining the issue, it seems to be advisable to distinguish between two periods. The first period lasts up to the latest modification of the Public Education Act, while the second period covers the events after 2003.The foundation of minority education was laid by the Article (2) of Paragraph 68 of the Constitution, which stipulates the right of mother tongue education for the national and ethnic minorities. Following the codification of the Minority Act, for the very first time, the Gypsy minority had an opportunity to request the establishment of a Gypsy minority education similar to that of any other national minority and thus to break the tendency to approach educational problems from the aspect of social disadvantages.At the elementary level, there is no independent educational institution for the Gypsy minority. At secondary level, there are only a few institutions operating on the basis of special pedagogical programs developed for the Gypsy minority (i.e. the Secondary Grammar and Boarding School of Gandhi Public Foundation in Pecs) that include the teaching of Gypsy languages in their educational plan. There are, however, several gypsy classes and groups operating separately in other educational institutions. In case of Gypsy languages, neither the linguistic requirements nor educational syllabi are available for the institutions wishing to teach the language.An amendment was made in 2003 to Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education in order to improve the general education of Gypsy children.The Ministry of Education has played a significant role in promoting equal opportunities in the field of education and also in promoting social integration.The main elements of the modification of the Public Education Act are the following: the definition of the notion of child with disadvantaged background and integration preparation, a ban on failing pupils in first, second and third grade, and the revision of qualification for private student status.The restructuring of Gypsy minority education has established a professional framework to progress but it also decreased the number of Gypsy language lessons to two per week. Although it makes lesson mergers easier, which allows for other forms of language education (i. e. employing guest teachers, organizing language camps), it also reduces the effectiveness of language teaching.Though very important from the perspective of educational policy, from the view of language policy this measure cannot be considered effective, as it does not provide for the necessary conditions of language teaching. In case of Gypsy language, there is a permissive clause in the modified decree that does not elevate the prestige of Gypsy languages in comparison with other minority languages.In accordance with the Public Education Act, the conditions of employment in a teacher’s position are different in case of minority language teachers than in case of foreign language teachers. According to the law:„In all types of schools, only applicants with a degree in teaching languages or teaching foreign language and literature can be employed.In case of national or ethnic minority languages, until 1stSeptember2006, applicants with a degree in teaching and at least an intermediate C level language examination certificate or an equivalent certificate can be employed in teacher’s position. In case of Bulgarian, Gypsy (Romani or Boyash), Greek, Polish, Armenian, Ruthven and Ukrainian languages, persons holding an advanced C level state language exam certificate or any equivalent document can be employed, without commencing higher education studies, for an unlimitedperiod of time.”In the field of Gypsy language education there are several issues still to be sorted that have long been settled in case of traditional national minority education. In case of teaching Gypsy languages, there is still a shortage of course books, audio materials, and audiovisual devices that can make the language available for anybody, but the lack of organized language teacher training is the greatest deficiency in all.Point 62. of Annex 1 to 1021/2004.(III. 18.) Government Decree on the Promotion of Social Integration of Gypsies living in Hungary formulates Hungary ’s commitment to the extension of the assumptions stipulated in the European Chart of Regional or Minority Languages. Based on this paragraph, the National and Ethnic Minority Authority considered it necessary to examine the possibility to extend this protection over the Gypsy languages (including Boyash) spoken in Hungary and also investigated what further professional measures are required. BOYASH LANGUAGE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION In the course of my research regarding the current status of Boyash language in the public and higher education in Hungary and also the language teaching development opportunities, I had a chance to visit institutions involved in Boyash language teaching and also to conduct a questionnaire survey investigating the language teaching conditions.According to this research, there are only two secondary grammar schools (with A level GCSE exams) and eight elementary schools teaching Boyash language in Hungary. In these institutions, Boyash language was among the subjects offered to students who - irrespective of their nationality - wish to learn the language. To do this, a written permission from the parents was necessary. The language lessons were inserted in the timetable separately or in form of merged lessons (two lessons per week - the method varies from school to school. Since there is no ongoing language teacher training in Gypsy languages in Hungary, there are no qualified teachers of Boyash language. In the schools examined, there were no native speaker Boyash language teachers holding a degree in teaching any other languages. Out of the ten schools, only two employ native speakers with teaching qualifications (but only one of them has a language exam), and two employ native speakers without a teachers qualification (but who have completed a language exam). Among the Boyash language teachers, there are two teachers who emigrated from Romania who speak Romanian language and also hold a Boyash language exam certificate. In the other schools, Boyash language is taught by teachers who are currently learning the language themselves as well. Since there is no ongoing Gypsy language teacher training in any educational institutions at any level, the qualification of the teachers currently teaching Boyash language leaves us with doubts - the professional opinion regarding their qualifications is extremely diverse.Linguistic competence is not a sufficient condition for teaching a language professionally. This is a valid requirement in the case of other languages, not just in case of Boyash native speakers.Based on the results of the survey, we can conclude that the proper preparation for teaching Gypsy languages in Hungary has not been accomplished. The aforementioned lack of linguistic requirements, educational syllabus, teaching materials, and audio-visual aids presents further difficulties in the daily educational activity of teachers who are not even qualified in teaching. In addition to all this, minority languages usually have a lower prestige in contrast with majority languages. The speakers of minority languages have less opportunity to use their language, and the usage of Boyash language is also getting more and more limited. BOYASH LANGUAGE IN TERTIARY EDUCATION In 1994, Csokonai Vitéz Mihály Teacher’s Training College started a two-year post- gradual course in Romology in Kaposvar. The course included the teaching of both Gypsy languages spoken in Hungary. From 1996, the course was turned into „sleeping” course and later it was completely cancelled after the tragic death of the head of the department.In 1996, the University of Pecs took on Boyash language teaching by integrating it into the program of Romology Studies at the Linguistic Department of the Faculty of Arts. This course is still ongoing.The two officially accepted Gypsy languages are taught at the academic level exclusively at the Department of Romology of Pecs University. However, this academic course has not yet issued a diploma in teaching. To fill in this gap, since 2005, it is possible to obtain a degree in teaching beside the MA degree in Romology at the University of Pecs. Until the establishment of teacher training program, it is the highest degree obtainable in Hungary that allows for teaching gypsy languages in educational institutions by teachers who have a good command of Gypsy languages. That would enable them to act as a sort of multiplicator in school environment. In the course of linear education - the so-called Bologna Process - the three-year bachelor course will include Boyash and Romani language studies, while the master’s program (4-5 years) will provide the students with a degree in humanities or in teaching. The Faculty of Arts of Pecs University launched a Ph.D. course in educational sciences in2006. One of its programs, Romology, provides the students with further training and offers the lecturers and Ph.D. students the opportunity to carry out scientific work. DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS The real solution for the problem of Gypsy language teaching in Hungary would be the completion of basic linguistic research and the creation of auxiliary sciences and background sciences that would provide the base for the establishment of teacher training in Boyash and Romani languages, similar to the teacher training in other languages.Establishing the conditions of language teacher training is becoming urgent, but there are other obstacles preventing high-level, widespread Gypsy language and mother tongue education. Apart from a few exceptions, basic material conditions are still not provided: there are no course books or auxiliary educational materials that are necessary to support such educational programs.Besides the insufficient personal and material conditions, the present condition of languages, dialects, the delays in scientific research all make it even more difficult to introduce language education to schools.Although the implementation of Gypsy language teaching and especially mother tongue education is a process that requires a long time, it is also a fact that no serious progress have been made in this field for years. My empirical data also substantiate the fact that the loss of language and the process of linguistic assimilation are still in progress and, before long, this process will become irreversible. It is obvious that the project needs to be commenced without delay.During the past years, the Ministry of Education has shown activity neither in the legitimating of language requirements, nor in the preparation of educational syllabi. The decree allowing for the teaching of Gypsy languages makes the teachers rather vulnerable, so professional help is essential for them in their daily routine.Since it is a state responsibility to establish the conditions for language teacher training, it is important that the state shall act as a coordinator between the parties interested in the establishment of language teacher training, or it should delegate its responsibility to an institution that would carry out this task.It is also necessary to conduct further scientific researches to investigate the linguistic status of Boyash Gypsy communities in order to formulate a well considered, thorough language planning strategy. Due to the lack of scientifically grounded language planning, there is a danger of being overwhelmed by publications devoid of scientific approach, triggered by the growing social interest.Besides research development, there is also an essential need for innovative developments. The need for recording and saving the resulting data provided by the researches on Boyash language communities necessitates the establishment of an up-to-date linguistic, scientific and information center that could support the dictionary building project as well as computerized corpus linguistics.Giving a dynamic start to the necessary projects cannot wait long because of the intensive process of Boyash-Hungarian language shift.

  • Print-ISBN-13: 978-615-5181-45-0
  • Page Count: 196
  • Publication Year: 2012
  • Language: Hungarian