The Linguist

The Linguist 59,2 - April/May 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 17 of 35

FEATURES Theo Merz visits the Russian states where a clampdown on teaching native languages is putting teachers at risk I n a classroom in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, children are rehearsing for their school play. Through a quest involving monsters, gangsters and traditional local food – and a script that shifts between Russian, Tatar and English – the 12-year-old heroes come to understand the importance of keeping native languages alive. It is a message that is being lost in Russia, which has more than 100 minority languages, many in rapid decline. As the Kremlin seeks to enforce central control over the Russian Federation's 22 republics, the status of these languages in the education system has been downgraded. Changes to the law two years ago reduced teaching hours and made the study of native languages, even in regions where they are widely spoken, voluntary rather than compulsory. Teachers have been laid off or pressured by authorities to resign; one language-school owner told me he was forced to flee the country because of his work. Last year, an activist self-immolated in protest against Moscow's treatment of the nation's indigenous languages. The Shkola Solntse ('Sun School'), where the students are preparing their performance, is making a rare stand against the state's new language policies. The two-storey building, with a recent extension and 150 pupils, is located in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan. This republic is situated on the river Volga some 500 miles east of Moscow, and around half of its four million citizens are ethnic Tatar. The school is continuing to offer Tatar lessons to all pupils in spite of the 2018 legislation, which also ruled that children can only take such classes if their parents report they have a minority language as their mother tongue. "The law is asking parents to define whether their child is Russian or whether they're Tatar," explains Pavel Shmakov, an energetic 62-year-old who has been head of Solntse since 2013. "That is very harsh. What if the Dangerous lessons WRITING ON THE WALL Teacher Leysan Garaeva writes in Tatar on her classroom blackboard

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 59,2 - April/May 2020