Do You Speak Bulgarian?

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | Author: Henry Rowlands |July 9, 2009, Thursday // 14:42| Views: | Comments: 15
Do You Speak Bulgarian?: Do You Speak Bulgarian?

Many European countries including the UK and the Netherlands have introduced formal linguistic requirements and language tests for the purposes of migration and citizenship. After the recent general elections chaos maybe it is time to introduce them to Bulgaria too.

The Bulgarian media has recently focused on Southern areas of Bulgaria where especially the older generations do not speak, read or understand the language of the country, instead being wholly reliant on the use of Turkish.

This problem was again bought to the attention of the general public after Sunday's Bulgarian general elections, after which conservative RZS party leader Yane Yanev stated that it was absolutely impossible for the polling stations in Turkey to have dealt with 1600 people each, especially as "70% of the voters there could not even read or speak, understand or read Bulgarian."

It is of course impossible to back-date such tests to include the Bulgaria-born migrants to Turkey who left the country during the so-called "revival process" at the end of the 80s, when ethnic Turks were forced to adopt Bulgarian names, prompting their mass exodus. However, the introduction of language tests now may stop problems in the future.

Test fairness would obviously be a particularly important quality when tests are related to migration, residency or citizenship.Unfair tests may result in migrants being denied civil or human rights. Having said that successful systems used currently all over the world do show that fair tests are possible.

Australian citizenship legislation states 'an intending citizen must possess a basic knowledge of the English language.' Applicants must be able to answer questions in simple English concerning personal particulars, such as; ‘How long have you lived in Australia? What are your children's names?. The thinking behind the tests is that it is important that people have a level of English which allows them to participate in the society through education and employment.

There are also some examples of using them as instruments of objectionable social policy; a dictation test was used following Australian Federation in 1901 to implement a ‘White Australia Policy'. In the US literacy requirements were used against English-speaking Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century, African-Americans in the Southern states following emancipation and European immigrants around the time of the First World War.

Despite the possible negatives of testing, Bulgaria could benefit hugely if it chooses to bring in stronger citizenship policies. This is not a call for extremism; it is an attempt to keep Bulgaria from being controlled by outside forces that kept the country from developing properly for 500 years.


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» To the forumComments (15)
Bill - 21 Jul 2009 // 22:01:37


"Your ship has docked in Capri, in Cadiz, in Hawaii...В§

I didn't mention Sicily, Corsica or Greece.

I missed the trip to Morocco and Malta because I was in the hospital at the time.

NellieotAmerica - 21 Jul 2009 // 21:26:24


"My ship docked in Cadiz for a while,"

Your ship has docked in Capri, in Cadiz, in Hawaii.....I hate you. I am so envious of you.

Bill - 21 Jul 2009 // 21:07:47


The third country was Spain, but I didn't consider it a residence situation. My ship docked in Cadiz for a while, and a couple of times in Barcelona, and I performed interpreter duties in both. In fact, I was invited to teach English two evenings at a Spanish academy in Barceloay while my ship was there.

I didn't let the students know I could speak Spanish until the second evening, and then the questions flowed like beer at a German fest.

The Cadiz stay was fascinating. One of the oldest cities in Spain (and just down the coast from Jerez de la Frontera, where sherry wine is made). I played interpreter for a number of touring groups touring the cathedral, because it's unique and has catacombs under it which have a central round room with eight passageways leading off of it. It's so geometrically perfect that if you stand in the middle of the circular room and clap your hands, the sound goes down the passages, bounces back, and they neutralize each other and there's no echo. If you move a foot in any direction, you'll get eight echoes.

I also got a chance to visit the medical college in Cadiz, the oldest in the country. Fascinating. Our ship's doctor estimated they were at least 30 years behind our doctors. They had a beautiful Zeiss microscope, which they proudly showed us. When we got back to the ship, our doctor told me that when he went to medical school, there was one of those on each desk!

NellieotAmerica - 21 Jul 2009 // 20:36:15


"That has helped me three times in my life"

Oh, really? I thought you only had two countries of residence--the US and Germany. Are you counting salt water as a country of residence? What is the official language of the salt water country???

Bill - 21 Jul 2009 // 14:05:15


I thiink you're right. That has helped me three times in my life Whenever a country grants you residence (a debatable point with illegal immigrants), you should make all possible attempts to learn the local language.

I have neither asked for nor received any special treatment from local authorities in any country I've lived in. I'm completely against voting materials being made available in non-citizen languages (only helps politicians to get a possibly illegal, but definitely uneducated, vote), and multi-language classes in the schools. I see it as detrimental to integration, which is essential for getting along anywhere.

Teaching a foreign language to residents is valuable education for travel and general understanding, but you shouldn't have to teach the same classes in more than one language.

Part of the problem for young people is having the foreign language spoken in the home and growing up with it, not understanding the language used outside the home. If the child grows up bilingual or multilingual, so much the better, but either way the language of the host country should have the priority.

nickname778 - 21 Jul 2009 // 11:56:57

Snafu : I'm not quite sure that this is the right way to do it. Having a large group of people in a country that do not speak or speaks badly the official language is a large problem. Aren't they senteced to be a minority that can not fit into the society ? I'm just wondering if you are employer in a office in USA, would you hire somebody that speaks only mexican or vietnamease ? Or in every other work, if you have two equilvalent candidates - but one that speaks english ( I mean in USA ) or one that speaks mexican, who would you preffer ? So the non-english speaking minority will be sentenced to be low paid and they'll have to work on the field and etc.

That's why I think that you can stay in a country in order to learn it's language, but if you wanna call yourself englishman, frenchman, american, bulgarian and etc. and to have the same rights as all of the other citizens of the country, you need to speak good level of the official language.

BULERICAN - 20 Jul 2009 // 22:28:39

Author: dzingis, 20 Jul 2009 21:22:50
Do You Speak Bulgarian?
Bulgaria is not America. Are the voting materials in France in Vietnamese?

Vietnamese, no.

Arabic, yes.

dzingis - 20 Jul 2009 // 21:22:50

Bulgaria is not America. Are the voting materials in France in Vietnamese?

snafu - 20 Jul 2009 // 18:45:11

I don't know what you meant when you were referring to the US, but being American-born, I can tell you that election materials are also in Spanish (and in New York, Chinese, Yiddish, and Haitian Kreyol, to name a few). Evidently proficiency in English is not required for citizenship (so for instance, knowing that there are nine Supreme Court judges is more important than the language you use to say that). In fact, a major issue of contention is whether to continue bilingual English/Spanish education, especially in California, with its large Mexican population.

What is more important, however, is whether these Turks will be more loyal to Bulgaria than to Turkey when push comes to show and whether they are productive members in the greater Bulgarian society... This can also be applied to the issue of illegal immigration (of course, red tape a major reason why there is such an issue anyway); we shouldn't care so much whether or not people move in legally or illegally compared to whether they provide to society and not mooch off the social benefits system...

snafu - 20 Jul 2009 // 18:11:29

I'm not sure what you're trying to say about the US, but being born American, I know that all voting materials are also in Spanish (and in New York, sometimes Chinese, Yiddish, and Haitian Creole--"Kreyol"). Evidently you can be a US citizen and not necessarily speak English. That is a major focus on our politics surrounding bilingual education and what it means to be an American, especially in California with its large Mexican population...

Patty - 14 Jul 2009 // 09:43:20

Whist I agree it can only be a good thing to speak the language of the country in which one lives, not everyone has that ability. I'm rather old but might have had more success had it not been for the Cyrilic alphabet and the fact that almost all of my Bulgarian friends already speak, or wish to improve their own English language ability.

As for the reason I suggested (in an earlier post) that Mr. Rowlands would have to give up his UK passport to take up Bulgarian citizenship is my reading of the Consular Information on the Bulgarian Citizenship Act.

I quote from Section 111 - Article 12 - Paragraph 6.

.... was released from his/her previous citizenship or will be released from his/her citizenship as of the moment of acquiring the Bulgarian citizenship.

Perhaps my understanding of this is wrong?

Of course Mr. Rowland's other problem might be Mr. Borisov's recent vow (however unlikely) to abolish dual citizenship.

cymru - 13 Jul 2009 // 14:17:35

Quite right - residency has been removed now from the article, thanks everyone for the point.

Patty said: "Since Mr. Rowlands is such an advocate of this kind of nationalistic policy is he willing to give up his British passport to take up Bulgarian citizenship?"

I don't think it is in anyway a 'nationalistic policy' in the negative sense of the phrase, it will surely just help to protect the Bulgarian language.

Why would anyone have to give up their UK passport - if you are serious about living in a country though surely it is an attractive idea to get dual citizenship?

Patty - 13 Jul 2009 // 07:52:33

I don't know from where Mr. Rowlands gets his information, there certainly is no language test in the UK for residents; the examples of Australia and the US are for citizenship.

Since Mr. Rowlands is such an advocate of this kind of nationalistic policy is he willing to give up his British passport to take up Bulgarian citizenship?

Hairydave - 11 Jul 2009 // 23:26:10

"Many European countries including the UK and the Netherlands have introduced formal linguistic requirements and language tests for the purposes of migration, residency and citizenship."

Not quite true. The UK has introduced a language test for citizenship, but as far as I am aware, not for residency (and/or migration depending on what exactly you mean by that). It would be counter to European law to make language a component of gaining residency - after all under European law we all have a right of residency in each others countries do we not? (albeit with a few quite openly racist exception for Bulgarians and Romanians which are still in effect relating to employment - you are still, sadly, the first case of second class members of the EU).

It still comes back to the point - if the people resident in Turkey had no vote, because they were resident in Turkey - the wouldn't be such a problem. You can't really introduce literacy as a component of voting rights, that would exclude thick people - Boyko for example.

NellieotAmerica - 11 Jul 2009 // 18:08:33

"This is not a call for extremism; it is an attempt to keep Bulgaria from being controlled by outside forces that kept the country from developing properly for 500 years."

Damned right! Why are Turks who live in Turkey and don't speak Bulgarian voting in Bulgarian elections?!? So the likes of Ahmed Dougan can get elected and get their sticky fingers in the EU farm subsidies pot and steal with impunity? Dougan and Plugchieva should both go to jail--he for stealing EU farm subsidies, she for allowing it to happen on her watch!

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