Could Russian language teaching end in Latvia?

Latvian schoolchildren may no longer be required to learn Russian, the language of neighbouring Russia, in changes proposed by the children’s ombudsman of Latvia.

In measures to create ‘a more homogenous society’, Juris Jansons suggested that learning Russian may be causing problems for children who are already struggling to grasp their native language.

More than a quarter of Latvia’s population is Russian, and Russian is the most widely spoken minority language with more than a third of people living in Latvia speaking Russian at home, including those who are not originally from Russia.

So, with Russian such a prevalent language in Latvia, why has this change to the Latvian curriculum been proposed?

Jansons’ main arguments for ending Russian language education in Latvian schools centre on a lack of proficiency in Latvian by Russian-speaking teachers in the existing bilingual teaching system, where up to 40% of lessons may be taught in Russian. There are also concerns that non-Latvian parents may struggle to help their children with homework, meaning these children lack the Latvian support they need to succeed in the country.

In 2012, a constitutional referendum was held in Latvia to decide whether or not Russian should be adopted as the country’s official second language. The matter was overwhelmingly voted against with almost three quarters of voters rejecting the prospect.

However, rejecting Russian as an official second language does not mean that it does not play a significant role in the lives of Latvian natives. With so many Russian speakers in Latvia, it is at the very least useful for children to learn this language to enable smooth integration of Russian communities.

Russian had previously been an official language of Latvia, which may explain the ombudsman’s reasoning. Language holds strong cultural significance for many people, and by having children focus on the country’s native language it could create a renewed cultural pride.

What do you think of the measures? Do you believe that this will benefit schoolchildren in Latvia in the long run, or will it be harmful to the relationship between Latvian and Russian communities?

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The state school Latin revival

Latin is making a comeback in British schools at the moment as hi-tech methods are used to re-introduce it to the classroom.

Latin has been phased out in the majority of UK state schools, tending to be taught mostly in private schools in the present day. However, with iPads being used more extensively in classrooms, Latin is suddenly becoming more accessible to educational establishments across the country.

There was an increase of around 15% in the number of children being entered for a Latin GCSE (or equivalent) last year – no mean feat when many language GCSEs are in decline.

iPads and other classroom technologies help get around the lack of teachers trained in the art of Latin and other extinct languages such as Ancient Greek – pupils can be taught via video link by experts in the languages, and sophisticated apps can assist them with their translation abilities.

Lectures are being streamed from Cambridge University Classics courses, so pupils can learn Latin even without a teacher being present to teach them.

Interestingly enough, Michael Gove’s compulsory primary languages initiative will allow ancient languages such as Latin to count as the compulsory language taught in schools from 2014 onwards. It remains to be seen how many schools will take advantage of this, but it is interesting that this is to be an option at all.

There has been a lot of support for the learning of Latin in recent governments, and it will be interesting to find out whether the increase in uptake of Latin will continue with increased funding and wider opportunities to learn the language even in state schools.

The Romance languages are derived from Latin, and it can provide a useful foundation for those wishing to learn French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese. Learning Latin can also help language learners understand the way languages work in general, and it is still used in areas such as science, botany and medicine.

Read more about the way technology is being used to aid Latin language learning>>

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Persian Language Promoted At International Congress in Tehran, Iran

A two day congress in Tehran – the capital of Iran- has opened up discussion regarding the promotion of the Persian language. The International congress will address issues such as how to teach the Persian language to non-Iranian students as well as general educational plans for the promotion of the language.

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Tibetan Students Protest over Language Reforms

Tibetan students in Beijing and Tongren have recently demonstrated against planned education reforms in the Qinghai Province.  The reforms threaten to limit the use of the Tibetan language in schools and many believe the region’s Tibetan population will have to study in Mandarin Chinese in the future, which they see as an erosion of their own language and culture. [Read more…]