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Czech Romanies rediscovering Romany language - press

Prague, 21.7.2007 14:41

About one-third of young Czech Romanies understand their mother tongue, but cannot speak it, but the situation has started to change as an increasing number of them are learning their language for the second time, the daily Lidove noviny writes today.

"There are no statistics, but there are estimates that about one-third of young Romanies understand, but cannot speak Romany. However, we are seeing an interest in Romany language through Romany literature and music," Ivan Vesely, head of the Romany group Dzeno, told the paper.

Romanies cannot speak Romany due to the bad historical experience from World War Two, fearing that their real identity would be disclosed, Romany Jan Berousek told the paper, referring to the war-time experience of his family.

"My father was afraid of being sent to the concentration camp. This is why he denied his real, Romany identity," Berousek said.

"Besides, Romany is not recognised as a stable and cultivated language," he added.
"Historical development since the 1950s-1960s, when the policy of assimilation was pursued, is to blame, too," Hana Syslova, a university teacher in Prague, told the paper.
"Romanies faced problems at school, there was language misunderstanding and Romanies allowed to be convinced that their language is good for nothing," she added.
"Lots of Romanies were assimilated and some of them had the opportunity of gaining the educational background," Michal Miko, who led a course of the Romany language for the civic group Athinganoi, told the paper.

"As a result, most of them forgot the Romany because they used it neither at school nor at home," Miko said.

Syslova said the Romany language was on the wane and one could see an increasing influence of the majority, Czech language.

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