Ethnicity and language in mixed partnerships – what language(s) do the Slovak migrants (mothers and children) speak?

Our colleague Dagmara Majerova (Matej Bel University) published recently a very interesting article on issue of ethnic identity of Slovak migrants focused on mothers in London living in the ethnically mixed partnerships / marriages, who bring up their children in a bilingual family environment.

She found that in mixed Slovak-British families, bilingual education of children is applied in most cases, but the language of thought, ie the dominant language, becomes English in connection with the increasing age of the child. Mothers of Slovak origin choose Slovak as the language of communication at an early age, but in the process of expanding social circle, especially after starting school, the intensity of communication in the mother’s mother tongue gradually decreases. In the situation of Slovaks living in London, Slovak is in the position of a subtractive language in relation to the English language. In some cases, the child’s father opposes bilingual education due to fears of disruption of natural development or fear of using the language of communication between the child and the mother, which he does not understand.

Children in ethnically mixed families do not learn the father’s mother tongue, if it is different from the majority, only some children master it at a passive level. The reason is his busy work, due to which he spends most of the day away from home and thus maintains less intense contact with the child. Mothers of Slovak origin see in the command of two languages ​​(majority and minority) in addition to social benefits that allow the child to communicate with the wider Slovak family and its surroundings, also promising economic capital, usable in the labor market. Ethnic consciousness is therefore not activated in this case, the respondents view the knowledge of the minority (mother’s tongue) mainly from a pragmatic point of view.



Slovak (and Czech) Virtual Communities in the UK

We found an interesting study on the topic of migration in the UK with the results of research carried out at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. They focused on Slovak virtual communities and their functioning in the UK.

The content analysis shows that the Facebook page “Czechs and Slovaks in the UK” is mainly used to share emotional content (“most liked” are romantic photos of English landscapes), and only to a smaller extent to build a community or share practical information (accommodation, work , information on various events). In addition, the site targets a wide audience across the UK and is dominated by shared, not original, content. It is therefore questionable what its community-building potential is.

Questionnaire data show that while Skype and Facebook are mainly used to maintain already strong social ties in Slovakia, personal contact and mobile phones are mainly used to build and maintain social capital in Britain. Participants also reported a relatively strong degree of connecting social capital, which is based primarily (but not exclusively) on contacts with other Slovak migrants.

However, the new media do not facilitate the building of this social capital before migration itself, but personal contact dominates only after coming to Britain. More than 90% of the participants stated that they did not know any Slovak migrant organizations in Britain, and only about a third of them had participated in events organized by the Slovak community in the past.

While some participants assume that, thanks to the new media, Slovak migrants are more networked than in the past, others think that there are different categories of migrants with different expectations of living in Britain, different social capital building needs and thus different levels of involvement in community life. and varying degrees of interest in web content, dedicated specifically to Slovaks in Britain. Students have been repeatedly identified as a specific category that does not search for its social networks on the basis of shared ethnicity.

The researchers found that research participants in the United Kingdom had little information about community activities carried out by Slovak migrant organizations, and they learned about them predominantly through new media.


Virtuálne    komunity? Niekoľko    príkladov    z off/online    aktivít    Slovákov a Sloveniek v Írsku a vo Veľkej Británii.  Barbara Lášticová, Magda Petrjánošová.  Ústav výskumu sociálnej komunikácie SA Available from: [accessed Jun 28 2021].


How does a young Slovak family evaluate life in Britain?

In the V4 Brexit project, we at Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica follow the life strategies of Slovaks in Britain. In this article, we focus on how a young Slovak family evaluates the everyday life in Britain. They come from a small town in the East of Slovakia, where there were not many job opportunities. Therefore, the husband left for Britain first, and later his family came to see him in England (Luton). That was, a wife and a daughter in this time.

Upon arrival, they experienced a minor culture shock. They were surprised by two faucets in the sink – one with hot water and the other with ice water. It was the first thing they changed when they moved in. They also could not get used to having rules for everything. For instance, you cannot take children on holiday or to Slovakia during school year unless it is something very serious. After five days, you get a fine of £ 60 per child.

However, they were pleasantly surprised by help from neighbours. When their car broke down and the husband had no way to get to work, a neighbour lent them his old car. They did not expect it because they did not know anyone.

In their opinion, the United Kingdom is a very tolerant country, thanks to which they did not have to give up anything, nor do they find our Slovak customs bizarre. Children do not feel unequal. They have English at the level of classmates, sometimes even better. If they did not have the suffix -ová after the surname, probably no one would find out that they do not come from England.

Maybe it is just that almost all European children are a little more polite. As our Slovak parents have guided us, we lead our children, e.g., to always greet each other. Young Englishmen miss it a bit. However, the English are very nice people. Even if they think badly of you, they will not say it and will behave properly. They have no negative experience with them. Rather, they try to help and advise them.

English seem to love their country as it is. They would not exchange the architecture of traditional houses for any modern bungalow. It has its charm, literally every house preserves a piece of history. People enjoy it more and complain and criticize less. They try to keep up with the trends, even the older ones.

According to the respondents, Slovakia is a beautiful country, they like to spend summer here. They definitely want to return to Slovakia one day, but they are not really thinking about it now. Brexit and its effects are not directly felt, and they do not feel any uncertainty.

Living abroad taught them independence. Thanks to this, the children learned fluent English. And they evaluate their lives in England as being satisfied with the quality of life. Their story and life strategy show that you can live elsewhere than in Slovakia. It is up to us which direction we choose.