[lg policy] Slovakia:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 4 21:03:56 UTC 2009

Language Purity
Posted by transubstantiation on July 3, 2009

Linguists and translators in Europe are perplexed at the news that
Slovakia is implementing a controversial new Language Act which will
change the attitude of the authorities to the freedom of language use
in this small Central European country which has a population of just
over 5 million. Such legislation may not mean a great deal in
Slovakia’s comparatively ethnically homogeneous neighbours such as
Austria, the Czech Republic or Poland but for a country with large
Hungarian and Roma minorities this ‘Act of Language Purity’ could be
the start of what many believe to be Slovakia’s turn towards language

The new Language Act will come into force on the 1st August 2009 and
stipulates that all official names in foreign languages will have to
be translated into Slovakian or the institutions and companies
responsible for these foreign affectations will face fines of
approximately €5,000. The fines can be meted out to public offices,
companies, advertising agencies, police officers and court judges
alike. All are equal in the eyes of the (language) law. The Slovakian
Ministry of Culture has already laid out the official procedure for
meting out fines which will use a ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’
policy. Two official warnings will precede the ‘language’ fine.

However, observers outside of Slovakia and the sizeable Hungarian
minority within Slovakia (almost 10% of the population) has labelled
this linguistic legislation an act of language imperialism and an
attempt to assimilate the Hungarian population into the Slovakian one.
The Roma population stands at almost 2% with other linguistic
minorities amounting to approximately 3% which means that 15% of the
population of Slovakia will be adversely affected by this new
legislation, not including of course various other institutions and
companies that use other languages in their work.

Questions are being asked about the real reasons behind this move to
‘purify’ the linguistic landscape of Slovakia. Is it indeed cultural
and linguistic? A need to nurture the Slovakian language and free it
from the all-encompassing grasp of English (”I’m loving it” ;
“Connecting People” ; “Just Do It”) or is it a political move that
panders to conservatism and language imperialism? Either way, the
future of translation in Slovakia and Slovakian translation will most
certainly be influenced by this move.


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