• August 5, 2020
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Mandatory for both – librarian and mechanic: even the higher education may not save from the Lithuanian language exam

The Lithuanian language exam is mandatory for librarians, nurses and even school cloak room staff. As he met the members of Seimas, the National Language Inspection manager spoke that in this situation, even university degree may not be enough.

Last week the National Language Inspection obliged eight employees of the Vilnius Municipal Central Library to take the national Lithuanian language exam, because they have graduated from Polish or Russian schools before 1991. According to the manager of the inspection, A. Valotka, if they do not take the exam within the following five months, the staff could not continue working and their manager would be fined.

After this information surfaced, the Minister of Transport, Jaroslavas Narkevicius started considering a change of the government’s decision and on Monday, the members of the Conservative parliamentary group met up with Rima Graziene, the manager of the Vilnius Municipal Central Library and A. Valotka, the manager of the National Language inspection.

“There are more questions than answers after the check for the national Lithuanian language exam was conducted. <…> The current situation with the librarians, who work in Lithuania, have been born in Lithuania, grew up in Lithuania, can fluently speak Lithuanian, have never encountered difficulties when communicating with visitors.

I am just confused about the operating principles of the controlling authority itself. Now that it has been a decade since we retrieved the independence of Lithuania, do we still find this control necessary”, – a Conservative Monika Navickiene spoke at the meeting with the managers of the library and the inspection.

Valotka, the head of the National Language Inspection, spoke that the decision of the government was passed in 1993, and the mentioned 2003 document is just the latest edit. According to A. Valotka, all legislation has the same flaw – they start aging as soon as they are passed.

“Life goes on and I think this situation proves that the life has gone ahead, yet, unfortunately, we have to refer to well-aged legislation”, – the head of inspection spoke.

He stated, that the National Language Inspection will take initiative to review this decision. According to A. Valotka, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, which curates this decision, will be contacted and the discussion regarding possible changes will take place.

Valotka has noticed, that more often that not attention is paid not to one’s practical Lithuanian language skills but to a document that proves them. Both – members of Seimas and A. Valotka – agreed that changes of the decision should be discussed and put in place.

Graduated from university, but that does not help

As it became clear during the meeting, even if the staff have graduated from higher education institutions, they may have to take the Lithuanian language exam regardless. A member of Seimas, M. Navickiene has pointed out that one of the librarians has graduated from Vilnius pedagogy university where she took the Lithuanian language exam. Yet, as A. Valotka stated, that may not be enough to protect her from having to take the exam again.

“What language were the lectures taught in? If the lecture were given in either Russian or Polish, then no. Otherwise, everyone in possession of a higher education diploma does not make it to the list”, – A. Valotka said.

In other words, the Lithuanian language exam taken in the higher education institution may not help an employee if the language the subjects were taught in was not Lithuanian. Others, who have received a higher education diploma are safe, according to A. Valotka. M. Navickiene questions the logic of this decision, if a person, who has already taken and passed the Lithuanian language exam must take it once more.

If a mechanic communicates with visitors, if you go to such institution, if you approach an employee in Lithuanian, he must communicate in Lithuanian with you

 Mandatory for both – a nurse and a mechanic

Nevertheless, it is not only the librarians who are obliged to take this exam. According to A. Valotka, employees in every institution, that requires communication with visitors, must speak Lithuanian, and the language skills must be proven by the taken and passed exam. Even a cloak room attendant at a school must speak Lithuanian, as well as a mechanic whom you bring to fix your car to.

“If a mechanic communicates with visitors, if you go to such institution, if you approach an employee in Lithuanian, he must communicate in Lithuanian with you”, – says A. Valotka.

The manager of the National Language inspection, A. Valotka, explained that a couple of weeks ago a complaint was received about one of the ferroconcrete factories in Vilnius. The complainant sent a video and audio file to the inspection and added that he has been a customer at that institution for 5 years and during every visit he asks the employees to speak to him in Lithuanian, yet they always answer in Russian.

“Be it a ferroconcrete factory, or a small business, unfortunately, the rules are the same. That is the consumer rights protection”, – the head of the National Language Inspection explained.

According to him, the requirement to take the Lithuanian language exam if a person has graduated Polish or Russian schools or higher education institution before 1991 could be eliminated. However, he noticed, that in some of the cities in Lithuania, clients are not able to communicate with the service providers in Lithuanian.

“We must pay attention to what kept happening in Visaginas, for example. People complain that a doctor has passed a language proficiency exam, lives in a non-Lithuanian environment, <…> and that, naturally, makes him forget the language”, – A. Valotka spoke.

Will not make the employees take the exam

 Rima Graziene, the head of the Vilnius Municipal Central Library has already told LRT.lt that she will rather pay fines than make the employees, who have been working in the library for 25-30 years take the exam. She repeated that during the meeting on Monday.

During the meeting, R. Graziene spoke, that this decision is outdated and irrational: “How can I make those eight people, who have been working in the library for years, take the exam? They will not take it because their Lithuanian language skills are great, you saw that yourself on the TV. If the decision is outdated, why don’t we reconsider and change it? They would not be working in the library had their Lithuanian language skills been poor. They are great employees and their Lithuanian is great.”

Says he has made a deal to change the decision

 Not too long ago the Minister of Transport Jaroslavas Narkevicius has posted on social media that he has made a deal with the ministers of education, science and sport regarding the change of the government’s 2003 decision.

“Unfortunately, the question of language proficiency exam is still relevant. The language inspection has “found” the people, who do not yet possess the document showing the needed qualification and are threatening with fines if the exam is not passed.

Those people have graduated higher education institutions, however, as it appears, the inspection finds it is not sufficient enough. I want to point out, that we are already working towards changing the categories and conditions of the national language. Today I made the deal with the ministers of education and culture, to review and entirely change the decision of the government”, – J. Narkevicius wrote.

At the Ministry of Culture, the LRT.lt portal has found that so far it is unclear what exactly will be changed in the government’s decision. The National Language Inspection has to provide their suggestions first.

Translated by Brigita Gerikaitė within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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