Lithuanian Language Prestige: Pupils’ attitudes Towards the Lithuanian Language in the Context of Educational Policy
Keywords: Lithuanian language, pupils’ linguistic attitudes, prestige of a language, language policy, social value of language
AbstractThe family, school, and the general field of public culture affect the formation of pupils’ attitudes towards the value of the Lithuanian language. Studies into linguistic attitudes of different age pupils allow observing the trends of pupils’ values regarding the Lithuanian language and the factors affecting them. The aim of the article is (1) to analyse the prestige of the Lithuanian language in groups of schoolchildren and teenagers based on the 2018–2019 survey of pupils’ language and attitudes towards the Lithuanian language in Lithuanian schools and (2) discuss the trends in the policy of Lithuanian language teaching as one of important factors shaping the language prestige. In order to analyse the attitudes of Lithuanian schoolchildren and teenagers towards the Lithuanian language, a comparative study was carried out in the 2018–2019 academic year. In order to guarantee the reliability of the data, the study involved the major part of Lithuania; schools from six municipalities – those of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, and Druskininkai – took part in the survey. The article presents the analysis of questionnaire data obtained from 360 respondents: 105 third-formers, 128 fifth-formers, and 127 eighth-formers. Respondents of these particular ages were not selected randomly: they were primary school pupils, pupils in the first year of the basic school, and pupils completing the progymnasium. Responses obtained from the representatives of different age groups allowed observing shifts in their attitudes towards the Lithuanian language. Thus, the study material consisted of questionnaires completed by pupils in 2018–2019 and of the legal acts forming the Lithuanian language education policy. The survey was based on qualitative analysis, while the trends, correlations, and interfaces of the survey results were assessed using the quantitative method. The work is synchronic, analytical-descriptive. The study into the pupils’ attitudes towards the Lithuanian language and its prestige shows that as a deep motivating belief, the perception of language as a value is formed at younger school age. The third-formers already demonstrate a strong attitude towards the Lithuanian language concerning its usage and social value, and the impact of family, school, and teachers on the prestige of the Lithuanian language. The family has the strongest impact on the attitudes of primary school pupils’ towards the Lithuanian language, the general cultural field influences the attitudes among basic school pupils, and school influences pupils of all ages. The study revealed that the older the pupils were, the more dominant the English language they use online was. As for the after-school activities, reading books fills the major part of the Lithuanian language experience – regardless of their age, the majority of the respondents read books in Lithuanian. Thus, literature has a great impact on the development of pupils’ language and their linguistic sense. The survey results suggest that positive attitudes towards the value of the Lithuanian language of most of the pupils, especially the younger ones, are formed by parents: in the opinion of over a half of the third-formers and fifth-formers, families pay attention to the Lithuanian language used for communication. The survey results show that the pupils’ most sustainable linguistic attitude is the relationship of identity with the language: the majority of the pupils (three-fourths of the survey participants) are proud of the Lithuanian language and consider it a part of their identity regardless of their age. The comparison of the data of different-age respondents shows that the social prestige of the Lithuanian language decreases with the respondents’ age – the higher the form is, the fewer pupils think that it is necessary to know the Lithuanian language in order to enter a good gymnasium, university, or to find a good job. The analysis of educational documents regulating the process of education, the assessment of academic achievements, and the requirements for teachers’ qualification and competences shows that the provisions of the Law on Education to guarantee the quality of Lithuanian language education are not implemented through the legal acts that regulate Lithuanian language education, assessment of academic achievements, and the requirements for teachers. To sum up, it is evident that the state’s attitude to the sustainability of the Lithuanian language, the guarantee of its continuity, and the enhancement of its prestige is insufficient. It is worth noting that the pupils’ attitudes towards the Lithuanian language are influenced not only by education policy but also by the attitude of the society. Their linguistic attitudes reflect those of their families and the general public. Thus, the prestige of the language also reveals society’s attitude to itself: the status of a linguistic community closely correlates with the prestige of its language.