Today we have a guest post from Vilma Bačkiūtė. Vilma is Partnerships and Projects Manager for British Council Lithuania.
To quote professor Ted Cantle, “This is a new era of mass migration, of visible communities and an era of super-diversity”.
He also points out that 300 languages are spoken in London. For comparison, about 20 languages are spoken in Vilnius. According to statistics (2010) the largest groups of immigrants to Lithuania come from the UK, Russia, the USA, Belarus, Germany, Spain, and Norway.
A very small percentage of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Lithuania do not imply fewer tensions in the political arena. Official governmental decisions already have linguistic, political and social consequences which put social cohesiveness at risk. For example, because of inflexibility and stubbornness (or lack of competence?) of politicians, Lithuania will be spending a lot of money on lawyers trying to defend its position on the “bizarre spelling row between Poland and Lithuania”.
Of course, one must consider the historical background to contextualise and understand language policy issues in Lithuania. As well as in Latvia and Estonia.
The existing policies and language laws are similar in the three Baltic countries. They enhance the position of the official languages, which is desirable. But it is equally desirable that they are reviewed in the light of this new era of multicultural and multilingual societies. As a report on multilingualism in Lithuanian cities shows, language profiles in Lithuanian households also change.
No doubt, there are countries and cities that can share their “wisdom on managing diversity” with the Baltic countries. But the Baltic states also have a lot to contribute to our overall understandings of language policy and its complexities. Here is a letter by D.M.Helmeste (USA) to the Baltic Times editor to start considerations.