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Visit of the Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM) to Austria

This thematic visit, held in the European Centre of Modern Languages in Graz on 29-31 March 2017, was devoted to the protection, preservation and teaching of languages spoken by Roma, Sinti, Kaale and Yenish, including ways to handle the opposition of the traditional communities to have their languages spoken.
headline Strasbourg 4 May 2017
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Visit of the Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM) to Austria

Experts from Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic and Switzerland examined and discussed the situation regarding those languages in their respective countries.

In several of these countries, languages spoken by Roma, Sinti, Kaale and Yenish are a strong taboo and are transmitted at home only; in others, there is an official accepted system of teaching languages spoken by these communities.  All experts agree on the basis of a number of conducted researches that less and less Roma, Sinti, Kaale and Yenish use their mother tongue and for some Romani variants, the language is close to extinction. The reasons are complex and include inter alia the pressure from the elder generation to keep the language “secret” for the outside world due to historical reasons, as well as a problem of self-identification by the younger generation as Roma, Sinti, Kaale and Yenish.

Some of the obstacles faced by authorities in teaching those languages include: a lack of standardization, the difficulty to handle a variety of groups and languages (or variants) used in one state, the difficulty to have a sufficient number of students per class, a lack of curricula and qualified teachers, and the reluctance from traditional groups, in particular Sinti and Kaale, to have their language spoken or taught by non-members of these communities. The above contributes to the systematic worsening of the situation of languages spoken by representatives of those groups. These languages or variants are part of the European cultural heritage and are crucial elements of people’s identity; therefore, efforts to protect and preserve these languages should be taken into consideration and would need to deserve more attention within national Roma inclusion strategies which too often tend to reduce Roma targeted actions to the socio-economic sphere.

On a positive note, the group of experts also underlined the increasing use of these languages or variants in social media by par of the younger generation; the teaching of the Romani language, especially at university level and more rarely throughout the educational system; the efforts of some Romani academics to convince the elder generation about the benefit of teaching Romani, Sinti, Kaale, etc.; the existence of Romani interpreters and the use of Romani at international level by the Council of Europe and other international organisations; as well as all the recommendations of the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages to ensure the protection, preservation and teaching of the languages spoken by Roma, Sinti, Kaale and Yenish.