Scope of Study

The study "Regional and Minority Languages in the Process of EU Enlargement: Challenge or Burden?" consists of three case studies, each of which concentrates on the German-speaking minority in Lorraine (France), Prague (Czech Republic) and Sibiu (Romania) respectively.

Researchers have analysed official documents on language policy in the respective regions, they have interviewed policy-makers and community representatives as well as "ordinary" members of the German-speaking community.

Researchers wanted to investigate the connection between the policies concerning minority languages in Europe on the one hand and peoples experiences as speakers and their individual beliefs, values and practices on the other.

3rd Issue, March 2009

Standard German Valuable, German Dialects Dispensable

People learn German mainly because it can be turned into an economic asset at least this seems to be the case in Lorraine (France), Transylvania (Romania) and in Prague (Czech Republic). And because people in these regions concentrate on the economic aspect of language, standard German is gradually replacing German dialects.

LINEE researchers conducting the study "Regional and Minority Languages in the Process of EU Enlargement: Challenge or Burden?" have investigated the situation of German-speaking minorities in Lorraine (France), Transylvania (Romania) and Prague (Czech Republic). They found that their situation is different in many ways.

Passive vs. active minorities
In Romania, for example, the German minority enjoys such a good reputation and has such an influence in politics that it is only a minority regarding their number, but not regarding their power. In Prague, the organizations representing the German minorities are well connected with policy makers, but only as far as basic human rights to self-expression and -determination are concerned. When it comes to language education, however, they are far less influential. Finally, the German-speaking minority in Lorraine is rather passive and tends to accept what is imposed to them. Although associations fight for their minority rights, they have almost no support in the general public. However, all three groups have one thing in common:


German as an economic asset
In all three cases, standard German is viewed as an economic asset, which is probably the reason why it is well supported in the educational system. The local dialects of German, however, are not perceived as equally "valuable" and are gradually disappearing, while policies on minority language protection concentrate on standard German, not on the local dialects. Interviewees in Romania regretted the fact that the German dialects are disappearing, but they were satisfied that at least standard German seems to have a future in their country.


Multilingualism separated from other policy areas
In Prague, the topics "multilingualism" on the one hand and "minority protection" seem to be completely separated. Connections between these two topics could be found neither in official documents nor in interviews with policy makers.

This may be the reason why the German minority seems to be generally satisfied with minority protection, but far less satisfied with the possibilities to have bilingual education: there are very few schools offering bilingual education and not all of them offer free tuition.


Establish a level playing field
The case studies have revealed significant differences in minority protection, both in the opportunities that minorities have to participate in political decision-making and in opportunities to have education in their language. These opportunities seem to be more widespread in the Czech Republic and in Romania than they are in France.

This may be due to the fact that both the Czech Republic and Romania had to ratify the Charter of Regional and Minority Languages in order to qualify for EU accession.

However, there are also differences between the Czech Republic and Romania. As a result, the level of provision for national minorities is apparently not just a question of whether the Charter has been ratified or not. If all EU member states had to ratify the Charter, however, it would ensure a level playing field for minorities in the EU.