Learner Perspectives on the Co-existence of English, Slovene, and Minority Languages in Slovenia

Presented at: Politics of Teaching and Learning Languages

This study investigates learner dispositions toward Slovene, English, and minority languages in Slovenia and probes political and policy factors that underlie the management of these languages. Background: Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic of two-plus million, gained independence in 1991, and entrance into the EU in 2004. Historically, the Slovene nation was part of larger multinational entities. Twentieth century treaty-border changes, however, resulting from two World Wars and migration, have yielded a relatively homogeneous state, but with significant minority ethnic groups. The last full census (2002) tallied 1,964,036, of which 83% declared Slovene ethnicity with 87.7% identifying Slovene as their “mother tongue”. Most non-Slovenes belong to (1) constitutionally recognised border area Italian and Hungarian minorities, who have strong rights protections; (2) geographically dispersed Roma community; or (3) 'new minority’ economic migrants, comprised of Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Albanians, from former Yugoslav republics. English occupies a dominant position in the education system (studied by 85% of pupils in compulsory and secondary education). Legislation restricts foreign language use in higher education, ostensibly because ‘internationalisation’ requires increased subject matter instruction in English. This emphasis, however, is the subject of “pro et contra” debate among academics and politicians.

Recognizing this sociolinguistic situation, Slovene language policy is development-oriented. It guarantees individuals the right to use their own language and forge links within their language community to (1) encourage ethnolinguistic pluralism within Slovene society and (2) the integration of Slovenia into the EU. This study, utilizing survey research and interviews, assesses the extent to which this plurilingual tradition is still embraced by young people as a favourable basis for promoting plurilingual education. Data are being collected as of this submission. Findings will be compared with previous studies that found Slovenians generally perceiving plurilingualism as a "natural" skill in which other languages in their repertoire include "foreign" languages, mainly English.

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