Sorbian language faces extinction due to lack of teachers

Shortage of competent Sorbian language teachers affects nurseries in Lusatia (East Germany) · Between 15,000 to 30,000 people still have this Slavic language as their mother tongue, but the number of speakers is shrinking generation after generation.

The Sorbian community is on the alert because their language -Europe's westernmost Slavic language- lacks skilled teachers for immersion programmes. Ten years after the launching of the Witaj (Welcome) programmes in nursery schools, based on Danish immersion programmes in Northern Germany, nursery schools in Lusatia (Sorbian territories in the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg) need experienced teachers in Sorbian. The Witaj programmes are also facing funding cuts from the Government.

As Deutsche Welle online journal informs, education institutions from all over the Lusatian territory say the situation is a distressing one, particularly in the state of Brandenburg, where teachers have to learn the language themselves before instructing children in Sorbian.

According to Christian Elle, head of the Brandenburg division of the Witaj Language Center, 4 or 5 teachers are still needed for the forthcoming year. 8 or 10 are also needed in Saxony.

It is estimated that there are about 111 teachers in Lusatia who are competent to teach in Sorbian in nursery schools. They are distributed in 25 different educative centres. Christian Elle further added that a long term solution would be to develop a nursery school teacher education program in Chośebuz (Cottbus), but that there are no resources to set it up.

The Sorab minority in Germany is about 60,000, but language is only spoken by 15,000 to 30,000 people. Sorbian has two different standards: upper Sorbian, which is close to Czech, and lower Sorbian, closer to Polish. In spite of governmental bids to protect Sorbian language and culture in recent years, these two varieties are severely menaced by the lack of official status and its sparse use by Sorb youth. The language has a discontinuous presence throughout the educative system, from immersion programmes in nursery schools to a few university studies in the University of Lipsk (Leipzig).

Photo: Bilingual signpost in Chośebuz, state of Brandemburg (Wikipedia).

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