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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *