- February 8, 2013
Žemaitytė: If you want Poles in Lithuania to develop, ban their language
Looking from the side on all adventures concerning the Vilnius Region and using Polish in Lithuania, I am disappointed by the attitude of my compatriots who have a very short historical memory and political short-sightedness.
Never before, and especially in our times, nothing positive has been achieved by means of bans. Especially, when people are forced to renounce their essence which for everyone is his or her mother tongue – no matter how strange the dialect of one language is or if we say about a separate language.
I think that maybe the ban of using Samogitian, Dzūkija and other dialects of Lithuanian should be introduced – maybe thanks to it we will live to see a new wave of their development?
Living currently on the Belgian-German borderland I have an opportunity to observe every day how everything was organized in a tiny part of Belgium where the inhabitants use German.
In Belgium there are three official state languages: French, Dutch and German. The last one has tiny, but vital place in the life of the country. For the person from the outside the federal structure of the Kingdom of Belgium may seem to be complicated. I will not explain it to you now, I will just point out that the German speaking territory is administratively subordinate to the French-speaking part of the country – Wallonia.
The German-speaking part of the country represents about 2 per cent of the whole territory of Belgium and comprises 0.7 per cent of the total number of inhabitants, but at the same time it is a separate administrative entity in which in the first instance the assumptions of cultural and language autonomy are carried out. German dominates literally everywhere – in streets, in self-government institutions … The names of places are in German or in two languages (including French).
Self-government documents are made exclusively in German or, in case of need, on the other page in French. Court sittings are in German. At schools students start learning a second language – French – in the second grade but I would say that it happens without special effort. The German community has its own newspapers, radio, TV, theatre and publishing houses. Moreover, an appropriate offer and cultural supply from large neighbouring Germany …
However, do not even try to call a Belgian speaking German a German. “I am a Belgian” – the speaker immediately will correct you politely but with emphasis. It is not important that these territories were historically vested in Belgium after World War I by virtue of The Treaty of Versailles. Furthermore – while speaking Dutch Flemish people boast of their separatist ideas every now and again, German-speaking Belgians, as they claim, are the most faithful patriots of the federal Belgium. And even if Belgium ever disunites they will not even take into account to come back to the Germany’s embrace.
In such a case, it is better to “cuddle up” to Luxemburg. Even now, especially young people, who perfectly use all three languages valid in Belgium, and additionally they speak English and Spanish, they are in demand for foreign employers from Brussels, Luxemburg or other countries and they occupy various posts in the EU institutions.
Maybe Lithuanians also afraid that Poles in Lithuania take advantage of the situation too much?
We should not ban but learn as many languages as we can – this is my advice.
Laima Žemaitytė –Mayer, a translator and a journalist of a Lithuanian origin.
Tłumaczenie Barbara Szydłowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Barbara Szydłowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.