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In 2008 Marie Smith Jones died. Eyak (one of the languages in Alaska, USA) disappeared with her death. According to the recent scientific research 6809 languages exist in the world these days. More than 4 per cent of them disappeared for the last five hundred years. About 2000 languages are severely or even critically endangered. Scientifically proved that the more languages situated in one country the harder for these languages keep existing\be safe\stay alive. However, there is one interesting example in New Guinea (Papua). This country is considered as one with the greatest diversity of spoken languages (about 800) in the world. But what is more surprising is that only 88 are endangered languages. So why Belarusian language, one of two spoken languages in Belarus is dying and nothing significant has been done to revitalize it? What is the government doing? Why it can't at least help people to improve linguistic situation? Belarus, wake up! Losing your mother tong you will first lose your cultural heritage, traditions, uniqueness, history and then your future as a nation.
The Belarusian language went through a hard time. It was based on an Old Russian dialect. However, other old languages such as Polish and Ukrainian had a huge impact on the appearing and modifying of Belarusian language. As a separate language it began functioning in the fourteenth century as a language of country people and their folklore. Belarusian was a connecting element between West and East Europe. It was a Ð¿Ñ€Ð¾Ð²Ð¾Ð´Ð½Ð¸Ðº (Conduct) of byzantine and east ideas which became a reason for faster development of Belarusian culture and language. As a result Belarusian became a state language of Grand Duchy of Lithuania and had a huge rise and spread. Period from XIV to XVII century was very successful and promising for the language. Lots of books were published in Belarussian language. Moreover, in 1596 the Grammar book of Belarusian language was published. In XVIII-XIX century any use of Belarusian language was forbidden a few times. People could have been killed for spreading or reading Belarusian literature or speaking the language. Nevertheless, Belarusian survived and became a widespread language again. When Belarusian territory became the part of the USSR (The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) Belarusian language was rarely used. Russian language has become widely expanded and it still stays the most prevalent language these days. Our ancestors barely saved it but our generation is just too lazy to keep the language alive.
Language policy of our country is clear and predominant language in many fields such as Politics, commerce, publications and even the government stays Russian. Today just 5 per cent of Belarusian people speak only on the native language. 60 per cent speak Russian and other 35 per cent can speak either both languages or trasyanka (a special mixture of Belarusian and Russian). This academic year about 2 per cent of first-formers study in Belarusian language. People use Russian language in all public and state organizations. In 1995 Russian became a second official language in Belarus because the government promised equal use of these two languages. However, even the president A.Lukashenka never speaks Belarusian in public. Today the use of Belarusian is considered as a criminal action to liquidate the government. Russian became the language of authorities and Belarusian the one of the opposition. This fact discourage people to use their native language. Moreover, those people who are smart enough will never speak Belarusian either in public or at home. In the article "The Belarusian language today" I found many chronologically organized examples of eradication of Belarusian language. On October 22, 2009 in Barysau two members of "Young Front" organization were beaten during collecting signatures in support of the Belarusian language. That incident is not the only one. A few similar situations took place in Minsk and Baranavichy. Another example happened in Minsk with a businessman from Zhdanovichy market Ales Taustyka. He was fined for speaking with a client in "incomprehensible language". The "incomprehensible language" was Belarusian. Tax inspection the place where the complaint was forwarded didn't let Ales to read it. The only explanation he could get was as following: for an inappropriate talking to a client. (???)
Linguistic situation in Belarus is very similar to the one in Ukraine. Ukraine is also a post soviet country. After becoming an independent one there were still no boundaries between Russia and Ukraine. Predominant language was Russian. About 80 per cent of population was speaking Russian language. You could hear the Ukrainian language only on radio or official events. At home people were speaking mostly Russian. Also people were used to speak Russian in public and state organizations. Many Ukrainians knew their native language but felt inconvenient using it. A few years ago extremely harsh politics towards Russian began. Almost all Russian schools were closed. Television and all publications began releasing only in the Ukrainian language. There was no Russian in Mass Media. State and public organizations were forced to use only native language. (Ð² Ð´Ð¾ÐºÑƒÐ¼ÐµÐ½Ñ‚Ð°Ñ†Ð¸Ð¸ Ð´ÐµÐ»Ð¾Ð¿Ñ€Ð¾Ð¸Ð·Ð²Ð¾Ð´ÑÑ‚Ð²Ðµ + speaking). Today 57 per cent of population in the Ukraine speaks its native language.
Taking into account linguistic progress in the Ukraine, special organization called the Belarusian Language society, mostly known as TBM, arise the problem of Belarusian language to a governmental level. TBM suggested the reform which includes changes in educational program of schools and universities such as increasing hours of teaching Belarusian language, literature and history. They also want exclude teaching Belarusian history in Russian. TBM took in consideration the following statistics. Only three per cent of schools in the capital still have teaching programs in Belarusian language. Belarusian is taught an hour and a half in a week and only 45 minutes are given to study literature. Even English is scheduled twice more often than Belarusian. Only 15 per cent of high school graduates took Belarusian language exam. Also TBM suggest establishing obligatory knowledge of Belarusian in state public institutions. Because the position of Belarusian language in Belarus is very low TBM petite the Government to protect and support the language "as it was done in other countries, caring about preservation and further growth of their culture." Moreover, the chief editor of an only newspaper published in Belarusian language "Nasha Niva" Andrei Skurko mentions that the Government should pay more attention to the situation in Belarusian Mass Media because it influences the linguistic problem a lot. Recently the government began issuing a new newspaper "Zvyazda" which had become the only state newspaper published fully in Belarusian language. However, Skurko also mentioned that there was no TV channels broadcasting only in Belarusian. State publishing house releases an extremely small quantity of books in native language. In addition, there is no single University with all teaching programs in Belarusian language. All these factors restrict the use Belarusian language in public sphere.
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In April of current year the president of Belarus A. Lukashenka announced that in January of 2010 the plan for spreading Belarusian language was developed. It contains 44 paragraphs developed with taking into account suggestions of the government, public institutes, scientists and cultural experts. Many of these paragraphs will be examined this fall. As an example they announced some paragraphs to the public: all state laws and government bills will be in Belarusian; advertisements, concerts and festivals, internet sites of Ministry of culture will be only in Belarusian; financial support to musical, theatrical and literature projects held in Belarusian will be provided. However, the first published paragraph states that instead of one day of Belarusian language the whole week will be held. Lukashenko added that all these paragraphs are short and simple but concrete which means they are easy to follow.
A few years ago such steps to improve Belarusian were made by citizens. They were tired to hear Belarusian language only on radio, in public transport and weather forecasts on TV. It was not surprising that even there people spoke with grammar and lexical mistakes. Also after graduating from schools with Belarusian teaching programs their children couldn't enter the universities. They were disappointed to hear the president, example for their children, speak trasyanka, mixing Russian and Belarusian words. Citizens did a huge job, but it didn't work. No one started speaking Belarusian again. For instance, the newspaper "Student's thought" or TV channel BelSat were produced only in Belarusian language. Even though the newspaper was interesting and free of charge it didn't become popular and afterwards it was closed. People just didn't want to understand or read in Belarusian. What is the idea of Mass Media? The main point is to present information to people as simply as only possible. The more common and easier the language is the higher television viewers' interest is. That's why the TV channel was not popular either. Moreover, many people even didn't know about existence of such channel. Some Belarusian record companies made another hopeless try to spread the language. They made a condition for musicians to sing only in Belarusian language. However, it also didn't work. Today people consider Belarusian music old-fashioned and unpopular. Lots of people prefer foreign or Russian music because it is widely spread and shows your knowledge of modern world/shows the level of your intelligence.
The Ministry of culture didn't take in consideration that most Belarusians already forgot the language and younger generations don't know it and don't want to learn their mother tong.??????? Why???? there is another very important historic fact which was neglected. During the World War Second most of the hostilities took place on Belarusian territory. A lot of villages were burned, many young people were sent to death\labor camps and every third Belarusian was either killed or tortured to death. After the War Belarusian territory was ruined and remaining cities and villages were almost empty. That is why lots of Russians moved to Belarus to rebuild the country and stayed there afterwards. As a result Russian was spread all over the country displacing and eradicating belarussian language. Belarusian became the one of old village people what made it extremely unpopular. Moreover, phsycologicallypeople never like pressure. People used to live in comfort and they won't appreciate any changes. They can even fight against. Many people especially young ones never like following the rules and they won't do this even for the sake of their mother tong.
After analyzing linguistic situation in my country and some other with the same problem I came up with two general ideas how to help my mother tong. First of all I think we should slowly increase hours of teaching Belarusian language in schools and universities and increase the number of schools teaching all the subjects in Belarusian language. Our kids are more adaptable to changes in the language, culture or whatever else. it's an easy way to reanimate our language and nation. It can take a few years or decades but what a few years are for the language with the hundred years of history. Children are our future. All their knowledge they will carry further through the centuries. However, speaking Belarusian only in school is not enough. People should start to speak their native language at home too. Here comes a question how to make older generations who forgot Belarusian start learning and using it again? That is why I suggest introducing a supplementary exam for all working people. For example, when someone are about to get a job one has to pass a Belarusian language exam. If someone is already working one\he has to take this exam within 3 years. If a worker didn't pass the exam his salary would be cut. That sounds very harsh but it can make people start speaking the Belarusian language.
UNESKO consider Belarusian language to be the second melodically beautiful language after the Italian one on the planet. In 2009 UNESKO included Belarusian to the list of definitely endangered languages. It is very hard for me to admit that my native language is mostly dead but there always be a hope in my heart that Belarusian will save the language. I think that people will finally realize the importance of the Belarusian language and understand that the lost of their native language can cause the death of Belarusian culture and its future.