Monday, May 5, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Internet Helping to Save Non-Russian Languages but Hurting Russian

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 5 – Because Russian is the Russian Federation’s state language, because educational examinations are given only in Russian, and because Russian is the most widely used language in that country, many non-Russian parents want their children to study in Russian rather than in their native language.

            At the same time, many non-Russians are concerned that if their languages disappear, so too will their nations and the special federal arrangements they have. As a result, the leaders of many of the republics are seeking to defend non-Russian instruction and even insist that Russian speakers living among them study it.

            Because decisions about this are now formally the responsibility of the federal subjects, there is a crazy quilt of outcomes, and these are surveyed republic by republic in a new article that specifies there are now 89 indigenous languages in the Russiann Federation and that instruction is taking place in 39 of them (

            The details about what is going on in each of the non-Russian republics are fascinating in and of themselves, but the most important portion of the article consists of a discussion of the impact of the Internet on language retention and change.

            According to this survey, the Internet is giving “greater possibilities” to those who want to study non-Russian languages because they are “interested in the preservation of their own culture.”  But in a sharp contrast, “the world wide web has turned out to be harmful for the Russian language.”

            That differential impact of the Internet may, although the article does not suggest this, be used by Moscow officials as yet another justification for limiting access to the Internet. After all, if these findings are correct, restricting access to the Internet would likely reduce still further the knowledge of non-Russian languages and protect Russian from change.

            The Internet, the authors say, has led to a large number of foreign borrowings and neologisms and, what is still worse, “the use of words in ways that do not follow the rules” of grammar.  That impact, they suggest, is “exerting a negative influence on the level of knowledge of school children.”

            Olga Artemenko, head of the Education and Science Ministry’s Center for Nationality Problems ofEducation, says that because of the Internet, “Russian at the level of mass use is gradually being transformed from a literary language into a common everyday one.”  Where Russian speakers are forced to study in a non-Russian language, this situation is even worse.

            To correct this situation, Artemenko wants new laws that will eliminate such terms as “native non-Russian,” “Russian non-native,” and “Russian as a foreign language” from use in schools in the Russian Federation. She adds that there must not be any conflict between “native and Russian because Russia is also native.”

            Such legislation, which would further reduce non-Russian instruction, was prepared long ago, reports, but “despite positive reviews from the regions,” any consideration of it has been indefinitely postponed.


No comments:

Post a Comment