Issue raised about declining interest in Slovenian language abroad

Ljubljana, 19 January - As representatives of Slovenians in Slovenia's neighbouring countries are worried about the shortage of Slovenian teachers and declining interest to learn the language, the relevant parliamentary committee has decided to recommend to the government to improve its support for the promotion of the Slovenian language and identity.

Ksenija Dobrila of the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ), one of the two umbrella organisations of Slovenians in Italy, told the Commission for Slovenians Abroad that the number of Slovenians in Italy was declining.

She noted as a huge issue the shortage of the teaching staff and added that children were in contact with Slovenian mainly in organised environments, such as school or sporting and social events, but not also at home.

The head of the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia, Barbara Riman, also noted the shortage of teachers. The community has been striving since 2008 for the Slovenian language to be used in at least one kindergarten in Croatia, she said.

She thinks that one of the ways to preserve the Slovenian language in Croatia is to restore public transportation between the two countries.

Andrea Kovač, the head of the Union of Slovenians in Hungary, said that there were three bilingual kindergartens and two bilingual schools in the region of Porabje and that it would be a huge step if a teacher was hired in Szentgotthárd.

While there are around 3,000 Slovenians in the Graz area in Austria, only 24 children attend Slovenian classes there, said Susanne Weitlaner, the head of the advisory council for the Slovenian minority at the office of the Austrian chancellor.

She also noted that interest in Slovenian was also declining as part of the Slovenian studies course at the local university.

On the other hand, Mariana Poznič of the United Slovenia association from Buenos Aires said that a Saturday school of Slovenian had been in operation for more than 70 years, with thousands of children passing through it.

There are currently six Saturday schools of Slovenian in Argentina, attended by around 250 children. They are free of charge and the "interest is growing because new generations are starting to get aware of their Slovenian identity," Poznič said.

Vesna Humar, a state secretary at the Office for Slovenians Abroad, said that teaching the Slovenian language abroad "means entering the education systems of other countries, which means that good solutions require a lot of patience and dialogue."

She said that the state should pay more attention to activities regarding the Slovenian language abroad, such as sports, through which children learn Slovenian indirectly.

Roman Gruden of the Ministry of Education said that work with teachers was key, while noting that there were 43 teachers of the Slovenian language and culture as part of additional classes abroad, of which 14 teachers had been posted from Slovenia.

Commission member Sara Žibrat of the ruling Freedom Movement agreed that extracurricular activities were important for the greater use of Slovenian, while also noting the importance of motivation, such as job opportunities in Slovenia.

The commission recommended to the government to support as a priority and increase funding for activities and projects to preserve and improve the use of Slovenian in people's homes and projects that involve inter-generational transfer of knowledge.

The government was also urged to promote systemic scholarships for learning of Slovenian and for education in Slovenia, and to establish a task force that would examine the possibilities for new courses of Slovenian to be opened around the world.

The commission would also like to see measures for improved teaching of Slovenian as a second and third language, and better relations with Austria in order to ensure consistent implementation of the minority education law for the state of Carinthia.

© STA, 2023