Language Choice In A Bilingual Environment: Media And Family Influences On Southern Slovakian Children

Metykova, Monika (2002). Language Choice In A Bilingual Environment: Media And Family Influences On Southern Slovakian Children. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The Slovak Republic appeared on the map of Europe on Januaiy 1, 1993. In rhetoric and regulations the Slovak government led by Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar (in power between 1993 and 1998) began a deliberate and programmatic establishing of Slovak national identity as homogeneous and stable to the detriment of ethnic minorities that constitute fourteen per cent of Slovakia's five million inhabitants. I argue that an ethnic-linguistic understanding of nation involves a number of levels, such as legal, political, social and cultural and process like re-writing of history, invention of tradition together with psychic influences, for example in the form of identification with the Leader: I demonstrate that language is a key component of identity and a field in which power is contested. This is exemplified for example by attempts at regulating the use of minority languages in public; in the Slovak case a language law was passed in 1995 that prevents minorities from using their languages in dealing with state administration and public institutions. Intervention in language use is particularly alarming because it can lead to the effective disappearance of a language/s. I conducted a study in the largely bilingual (Slovak-Hungarian) area of southern Slovakia that explores children’s language choice in relation to television viewing and sheds light on the complexities of ethnic identities in contemporary Slovakia. The sample included Slovak, Hungarian as well as bilingual/biethnic children. The findings suggest that ethnic Hungarian children educated in Hungarian and living in monoethnic/monolingual households associate themselves more strongly with the Hungarian ethnic group than their counterparts educated, in Slovak and/or living in biethnic/bilingual households. Children, however, show awareness of both the local realities of their lives as well as larger global influences in relation to language choice as well as television programmes.

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