Slovenian-run multilingualism project in Austria bearing fruit
Klagenfurt, 11 December - More than 1,700 people have attended Slovenian language courses as part of a project promoting multilingualism and values of linguistic and cultural diversity in the Austrian state of Carinthia. The project has been running for more than ten years.
The Sponsorship of Multilingualism project was initiated by Bernard Sadovnik, the head of the Community of Carinthian Slovenians, an umbrella organisation of the Slovenian minority, and Willibald Liberda, the retired chief of regional Gendarmerie.
The main objective is to draw attention to the advantages of multilingualism and the values of linguistic and cultural diversity in Carinthia with the help of famous personalities who act as sponsors.
The project involves more than 200 sponsors, and more than 1,700 people have attended Slovenian language courses since it was incepted in 2010.
As reported by the Slovenian desk of the Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Sadovnik told a press conference in Klagenfurt this week that the project was a "piece of the puzzle" that had led to the 2011 agreement on bilingual city limit signs.
He noted that various prominent politicians and public personalities in Austria had helped raise the awareness of bilingualism and multilingualism in Carinthia, Austria and the Alps-Adriatic region as part of the project.
Sadovnik said that its greatest achievement was Slovenian language courses, which had shown that there was enthusiasm about the language among Slovenians in Carinthia and motivation for learning it as a part of their family and national identity.
He acknowledged that dialogue and coexistence were not yet sufficiently rooted in Carinthia for the majority of all residents to confirm that the Slovenian language and bilingualism are a common feature.
For this reason, the umbrella organisation will enable meetings and discussions on political topics that concern both the minority and the majority as part of round table debates, conferences and exhibitions in and out of the bilingual area.
According to Sadovnik, the long-term goal of the project is that, in addition to German and English, Slovenian and Italian are also spoken in all kindergartens and schools.
Liberda said that in order to understand a fellow human being, it was important to understand their language, which led to a better understanding of their way of thinking and emotions, which could contribute to the resolution of potential conflicts.