Language Police flunk teachers from Estonia to Arizona

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 9 01:50:34 UTC 2010

If you look at official Russian language-sites - not sites that merely
happen to be in Russian - you will be surprised by the extent to which
the Russians' official feelings are hurt by the fact that Estonia and
Lithuania are trying to recover the knowledge, teaching, and ordinary
use of their respective native languages. The fact that these
countries are trying to rid themselves on both the official and the
domestic levels of the use of Russian as their *primary* language is
drawing tears from the eyes of Mother Russia.

"After all that we've done for those people! They're trying to destroy
the great, unifying language of the former Soviet Emp... uh, Union!
Why, until the Red Army conquered, uh, *civilized* these peoples, they
were still swinging through the trees! (Of course, these two little
countries had long formed part of the Tsarist Empire, but, like, WGAF
about non-Sovieticized history.) How can they be so ungrateful, after
all that we've done for them! And what about all the thousands of poor
Russians who have learned to speak not a word of these "minority"
languages, despite their having lived there for *centuries*! (Well,
since it suits our purposes, this time we will include the years of
Tsarist control.)"

I really have no idea, but I don't think that Mexico is reacting
similarly, if at all.


On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 4:19 PM, Dennis Baron <debaron at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Dennis Baron <debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU>
> Subject:      Language Police flunk teachers from Estonia to Arizona
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> There's a new post on the Web of Language:  Language Police flunk =20
> teachers from Estonia to Arizona
> Government language inspectors are fanning out across Estonia to =20
> ensure that the nation=92s teachers are speaking good, error-free =20
> Estonian. And the same thing is going on in Arizona, where state =20
> officials are monitoring teachers to check for foreign accents and =20
> grammatical mistakes. There are distinct parallels between the =20
> language police in Estonia and Arizona, whose motto is to protect and =20=
> serve the language=97Estonian in one case, English in the other=97not =20=
> those who speak it.
> In Estonia, instructors whose Estonian isn=92t good enough to pass a =20
> twenty-minute interview get warnings from the language police, and =20
> those flunking a second time can be fined or even lose their jobs. =20
> Arizona officials deny rumors that teachers in the state are being =20
> removed from classrooms for speaking English poorly, though they =20
> acknowledge that inspectors have identified several dozen teachers =20
> with =93pronunciation problems,=94 the educational euphemism for Spanish =
> =20
> accents, something they don=92t permit in classes where the students are =
> =20
> still acquiring English.
> The problem in Estonia is that many teachers speak only Russian, the =20
> language of Estonia=92s former Soviet masters. During the Soviet years, =20=
> Russian was not only the language of Estonia=92s political bosses, it =20=
> was also the language of the nation=92s cultural elite and the medium of =
> =20
> instruction in the nation=92s top schools. But with the fall of the =20
> Soviet Union in 1991, Russian began to be abandoned or forcibly erased =20=
> in Estonia as well as in other former Soviet satellites, to the =20
> chagrin of the large numbers of Russian speakers left behind when the =20=
> Red Army retreated.
> The problem in Arizona isn=92t Russian, but Spanish. Spanish speakers =20=
> predate Anglos in Arizona, which was part of the territory ceded to =20
> the United States in 1848 after the Mexican War. Despite its long =20
> history as the language of government and culture in the American =20
> Southwest, some English speakers now think of Spanish as language =20
> poverty, illiteracy, and illegal immigration. Newt Gingrich caused a =20
> furor a few years ago when he called Spanish the language of the =20
> ghetto, while English was the language of getting ahead.
> To learn about more parallels between Arizona and Estonia, read the =20
> rest of this post on the Web of Language:
> ____________________
> Dennis Baron
> Professor of English and Linguistics
> Department of English
> University of Illinois
> 608 S. Wright St.
> Urbana, IL 61801
> office: 217-244-0568
> fax: 217-333-4321
> read the Web of Language:
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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