Language Maintenance and Macedonian Adolescents
By Chris Najdovksi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2.0 LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
3.0 THE STUDY
Appendix A: Questionnaire
Appendix B: Interviews
LIST OF TABLES
This research project is dedicated to my children to remember always to maintain their first mother language and not to forget their identity, culture and traditions.
To Yvonne Ware, I owe a special debt for all the time, advice and encouragement she has given me since I started at Victoria University, especially this final year and with this project.
I wish to thank my wife Suzana Najdovska for her support and encouragement throughout my study.
In addition I am grateful to the forty students who completed the questionnaires and the interviews.
I express my appreciation to everyone who provided me with sources of information as well to the Principal of Williamstown High School, Mr Lloyd Jones, for his cooperation and understanding of my needs for this project.
This paper is an investigation of Macedonian language maintenance in Melbourne. Its aim is to show whether the Macedonian second generation wants to preserve their own culture and traditions through using the Macedonian language.
The findings of this survey are based on questionnaires and interviews conducted with students from Williamstown High School and Kings Park Secondary College.
The conclusion is that the Macedonian second generation are not enthusiastic in maintaining their mother language in Australia.
As the title indicates, this research project is concerned with Macedonian adolescent perceptions of language maintenance. The topic was chosen while I was employed at Williamstown High School as a Macedonian Teacher Aide. The students' attitudes to preserving the Macedonian language and culture alarmed me and prompted me to investigate. I had good opportunity to investigate them because I have conducted classes in the Macedonian language. The results come from their responses to questions related to language maintenance and the role that the language plays in preserving the Macedonian culture. Much empirical research has been conducted which focuses on language maintenance and the role that the language plays in preserving culture, identity and traditions but very little of this research concentrates on the Macedonian language and culture. The Macedonian people make up a large proportion of Australian society and as I am a member of that society I have an inherent interest in the maintenance of the Macedonian language and the role that the language plays within a culture.
1.1 History of the Macedonian language
According to B. Koneski (1980), the Macedonian language belongs to the southern group of the Slavonic languages, alongside Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian and Bulgarian. It is spoken today by more than 2.9 million people, it is the national language of the Macedonian nation, the official language of the Republic of Macedonia, and alongside Serbian Croatian and Slovenian it is also one of the official languages of Yugoslavia.
Macedonia was the cradle of the first Slavonic writings The Old Slavonic, the first Slavonic literary language, created by Cyril and Metodius, was based on a Macedonian dialect near Salonika (Solun, Thessaloniki). In it flourished the Ohrid Literary School of St Clement of Ohrid and a significant medieval literature.
In the 19th century, Macedonia was under Turkish rule and was furthermore under constant pressure from the other Balkan states and their languages. For the development of the Macedonian literary language, the crucial figure was Krste Petkov Misirkov, with his project, under the name On Macedonian Matters.
However, the subsequent events, and especially the partitioning of Macedonia in 1913 among Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece brought about a period in Macedonian history where the Macedonian language was banned and severe punishment was inflicted on those who would have used it even in everyday life.
After the liberation of Macedonia in 1945 (today there are still Macedonian territories occupied by Greece and Bulgaria), the Macedonian language was recognised for the first time as an official language in the Macedonian history. (Koneski, 1980: 10)
...Love for our language is our duty and our right, as our
Bianco (1986:1) has stated that language is most obviously a form of human communication. In all its manifestations oral, written and non verbal, language is the most sophisticated and fundamental form of human communication. It is less obvious that language fulfills a wide range of other functions but these are critically important to individual and social life. Furthermore he states that language is a means of personal growth, individual cultural enrichment and recreation. Language is a source of individual and personal identity.
Australia is a meeting place for all languages, as Clyne (1985:1 2) has illustrated; he also states that the 1976 census shows that 12.3 % of the Australian population over the age of five reported regularly using a language other than English. The percentage of community languages other than English (CLOTE) users is particularly high in the Northern Territory (27.4 %), where Aboriginal languages are widely spoken, and in Victoria (16.7 %), with Melbourne recording (20.7 %). But especially low in Queensland (5.9 %), and Tasmania (4.9 %), which has been affected less by post war immigration then the other states. Only (4.2 %) of the Australian born regularly use a CLOTE. The Northern Territory figure (25,5 % mainly Aborigines) contrasts with (5.5 %) in Victoria and South Australia, and (7.4 % ) in Tasmania. The most widely used CLOTEs in Australia in 1976 were Italian (445,000), Greek (262,000), German (170,000) and Serbo Croatian/ Croatian Serbian (142,000).
Bianco (1986:1) states that the study of human groups and cultures has revealed the centrality of language. As the primary means of interpreting reality, language becomes basic to cultural evolution and change, and therefore becomes a code for the unique experience of different cultural groups. Language is a source of group and cultural identity.
Smolicz (1981:1) stated that ethnic cultures have survived, not always in their integral and literary forms for all ethnic individuals, but they have survived, as can be observed by the lives of up to a quarter of the Australian population, many of whom continue to use ethnic community languages in their homes. (Garner, 1981:1)
Smolicz and Secombe (1985:1) illustrate that there are cultural groups that have continually stressed their language as the principal carrier of their culture and relied upon it as the main defence mechanism against assimilation. In their study Smolicz and Secombe have investigated subjects from Polish, Greek and Latvian communities. The respondents are holders of Diplomas in Education. Smolicz and Secombe illustrate in their study that the community languages are maintained within this society and discuss the role that the languages play. One young Australian born of Latvian descent summarized his experience as follows: "Throughout my time at both primary and secondary school there was never any outright discouragement of my ethnicity but there was also no encouragement given by the education system to preserve my Latvian language and culture...My school did not provide any curricular time for the study of my ethnic language, culture and history. In my home the orientation was entirely different, as it is to be expected. With the Latvian culture as with many others, language was of central importance. My parents actively encouraged me to speak Latvian at home as a young child and so preserve my native tongue.
This respondent also explained that his parents had sent him to Latvian school each Saturday where he learnt about Latvian history, geography and traditions, but mainly he had been sent to speak, read and write in Latvian.
A woman of Latvian origin, who was a secondary school teacher as well as married with her own children, was another respondent who strongly emphasised that the Latvian culture is greatly dependent on the Latvian language. She says that the language is very closely linked with the religion, folklore and songs. (Smolicz Secombe,1985:12)
Another Latvian woman also firmly believes that language and culture are inextricably intertwined. She is able to speak both English and Latvian. She expresses that by speaking the two languages she enriches her world. The Latvian people in Australia attach great importance to the retention of the Latvian language. There is a feeling that if the language goes, the whole culture goes. She also says that, without the language, how can you adequately transmit all other cultural values? The folk dancing she practised and the tapestries she still diligently sews would be empty gestures without the language. (Clyne, 1985:21 22)
From the above mentioned examples Smolicz and Secombe illustrate that the three respondents from Latvian origin are very conscious in maintaining their first language.
Investigating the Polish community and the Poles Smolicz and Secombe (1985) have found that the Poles were not enthusiastic in preserving their first language. One of the respondents who is a social science graduate explained that she has lost her cultural heritage and traditions. She says that among Polish first generation immigrants the core value is the language, and when she had been asked by a Pole if she speaks the Polish language she felt such shame because she had to say no. The reason for that as she explains, was the Anglo Australian ideology which denied her cultural background. She knows nothing of Poland's history and also she does not speak Polish at all. She has given up everything that is part of the Polish culture and she does not mix with Polish people. (Clyne, 1985:22 23)
Another example that Smolicz and Secombe (1985) have discussed in their study comes from a Polish Australian Diploma in Education student. This respondent migrated to Australia when he was six years of age. He considered that the whole schooling experience was totally in the Australian context. Furthermore he explained that even though the language of common ethnic origin was used by all the students from the migrant hostel when they started school, within a few weeks, English took over. He says it quickly became the medium of communication among children of the same ethnic background and even children from the same family group. The children maintained their own language at home or when speaking with elders but at peer group level, English expressions became dominant in a matter of weeks... During his primary and secondary school the above mentioned respondent had no contact with Poles and he could not maintain his first language. The only way of maintaining his language, culture and traditions was through his home and the church. But still his first language disappeared totally when he was a tertiary student. From then on he was encouraged by his lecturers to start learning Polish.
After ordination and reawakened contacts with the Polish community he began to speak Polish. The reason that he had lost his first language was because he thought that the school did not provide anything which could encourage the migrants in preserving their first language. (Clyne, 1985:23 25)
Thus there is no doubt that the language is the most important element and a bridge in preserving the culture, traditions and identity. Smolicz (1979:111 113) has defined the language as the most fundamental and stable element of culture, a matrix which shapes our particular ways of feeling, thinking and acting.
According to Kalantzis and Cope (1985:4), languages need to be maintained to prevent the intrinsic loss of their non preservation to maintain communication between generations, to maintain cultural variety and to build self esteem.
The first generation migrants tend to preserve their first language and maintain it by opening ethnic schools and church schools. The Greek community has made every effort to open Greek ethnic schools, known as afternoon schools. The purpose of these ethnic schools is to educate the Greek second and third generation children in preserving their own language and culture.
About 112 schools have been opened in Australia by the Greek Orthodox Communities. In these schools Greek children attempt to learn the language, history and culture of their parents. (Tsounis, 1974:1 7)
Smolicz and Secombe (1985:25 31) in their study, have provided a few examples from respondents of Greek background. One of the respondents explained that when she came to Australia, her first language was Greek, but as the years progressed, it became her second language. Her parents, as she says, had always insisted that they speak Greek at home and to their relatives, but this became increasingly difficult for her to enforce. She began to speak English to everyone. When she became conscious about her Greek origin and her different culture and traditions she began to attend afternoon school. After some years she was able to speak and read a little Greek. (M. Clyne, 1985:25 31)
The Macedonian language plays a significant role in preserving the Macedonian culture and traditions within Australian society. The Macedonians today are considered as the third largest ethnic group in Australia. The Macedonian language is spoken and maintained at home, schools, churches, sports associations, media and many other places in Australia. (Hill, 1988:688 698).
The first Macedonian church was set up in Young Street, Fitzroy and blessed by the priest of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Melbourne on Ilinden (Saint Elias Day) in 1959. (Hill, 1988:689)
The Macedonians in Victoria have five churches where they practice religious traditions on Saint Days. Four churches are located in Footscray, Fitzroy, Preston, and Springvale in Melbourne, and the fifth one is located in Geelong. (Petrevska, 1989:5)
Several times throughout the year, many thousands of Macedonians meet in the Macedonian Park 'Kinglike', near the first Macedonian Orthodox Monastery built in Australia, "Saint Kliment Ohridski". Big picnics have been organized there by the Macedonian Church "St. George" and various social clubs (eg. Bitolsko Drustvo Bitola Association). Another Macedonian Park is Roclyn near the second Macedonian Orthodox Monastery "Saint Naum" in Roclyn. The purpose of these picnics is to help the Macedonian second generation to learn the Macedonian language, to come across other Macedonians and to keep maintaining the Macedonian traditions and culture. (Petrevska, 1989:13)
According to Peter Hill (1988:690) the first Macedonian ethnic schools were organized by the churches and the first classes were organized at the church of St. George in 1961, with Ana Vasileva as a teacher. Each church established an ethnic school, often with the priest as the teacher.
Today in Melbourne five ethnic church schools operate, which have classes on Saturdays, and seven schools are run by the government. These schools also have classes on Saturdays and they are known as "Saturday School of Modern Languages". In 1988 the ethnic schools catered for about 500 students (predominantly primary children, see Table 1a and 1b), and engaged more than 20 teachers.
Table 1a: Community Run Macedonian Ethnic Schools in Victoria 1988
Table 1b: Community Run Macedonian Ethnic Schools in Melbourne 1988
The reason for the discontinuation of the Macedonian language at F.I.T. was because the number of student enrolments declined and the government could not provide funds to support such a small number of students. (R. Eade, Dean of the Humanities Department at F.I.T.)
Kalantzis and Cope (1984:6) have stated that in the secondary schools, attitudes towards the Macedonian language were very confusing. At the school where Macedonian children were in the smallest minority, they found that it was difficult for children of Macedonian background to acknowledge their Macedonian language abilities with ease.
Another field where the Macedonian language has been maintained is the ethnic media. Radio 3EA (Special Broadcasting Service) has been broadcasting programs in the Macedonian language since the beginning of the '70s. These broadcasts occur three times a week and every fourth Sunday. Since 1980, a Macedonian program is also broadcast twice a week on Radio CR (Community Radio Station) and since 1989 the Macedonian language is spoken on Radio 3ZZZ twice a week. (Boris Trajkov, a Macedonian community activist and journalist on Radio 3EA since 1975).
The Macedonian community has two newspapers published in Melbourne: the bilingual Australian Macedonian Weekly and Makedonia. (Footscray Migrant Resource Centre, 1991).
Considering the role language plays in preserving the Macedonian culture and my involvement with the Macedonian community, the aim of this study is to determine whether second generation Macedonians are interested in maintaining their language and culture and reasons for this.
The respondents are twenty Macedonian students from Williamstown High School, fifteen of whom were females and five males; and another twenty Macedonian students from Kings Park Secondary College, seven of whom were males and thirteen were females. All respondents were between the ages of twelve and eighteen years.
Data was collected by the following methods:
b) Interviews were conducted with six students from Williamstown High School who provided personal comments on the significances of the Macedonian language and the role that it plays in preserving the Macedonian culture, identity and traditions.
Table 1: Students from Williamstown High School
Table 2: Students from Kings Park Secondary College
Two of the respondents use only Macedonian with their parents; four use Macedonian more than English; ten respondents speak equal Macedonian and English; twenty of them use more English than Macedonian and four respondents out of forty use English with their parents.
None of the respondents use only Macedonian with their siblings; four use more English than Macedonian and thirty six of the informants use only English with their siblings.
Also, Table 6 shows that none of the respondents use only Macedonian with their friends. Six sometimes use Macedonian and sometimes use English; twelve of the respondents use more English than Macedonian and twenty eight of the respondents speak only English between each other.
One of the respondents uses only the Macedonian language with their other relatives; two speak more Macedonian than English and six of them use equal Macedonian and English. Twenty eight students out of forty use only English with their other relatives.
As Table 7 indicates, five males and four females out of forty respondents feel comfortable when they speak Macedonian and ten males and twenty one females are embarrassed when speaking the Macedonian language in front of Anglo Australians.
Table 9: Identification of the respondents
3.4 Discussion of the results
As is indicated in Tables 3 and 4, out of forty students questioned, only six were born in Macedonia and the other thirty four were born in Australia. Most of the respondents, as they indicated in the questionnaires, considered themselves as Australian Macedonians due to their birthplace. Those students who were born in Macedonia usually described themselves as Macedonians. The rest of the respondents believed their identification is Australian Macedonian due to their birthplace and because they speak English and Macedonian. When I interviewed one of the respondents she described herself as Australian, even though she was born in Macedonia. She considered herself only Australian because she speaks perfect English, very little Macedonian and she has adopted an Australian way of life. The other respondent identified herself as Australian but she did not explain the reason for this (See Table 9). I believe, the respondents are not constantly reminded by their parents of their Macedonian origin. None of the respondents' parents were born in Australia, it is indicated on Table 5.
Table 8 shows whether or not respondents believed the Macedonian language
should be preserved and maintained in Australia. There were three alternative
answers in the questionnaire (see Appendix A) from which to choose:
I believe that the language is the most important element in preserving the Macedonian culture and traditions.
Table 8 shows that out of forty respondents, only one female believed preserving the Macedonian language as very important. Seven respondents considered it important, but when they were asked why they had no idea or suggestions of ways to help in maintaining the Macedonian language. The majority of the students answered that it is not important and when asked why, they did not even try to give an answer. Twelve of the respondents did not know the meaning of the word "maintenance".
As is illustrated above and from my investigation, it seems to me that the Macedonian language will not be preserved by the second generation. They do not care much about the significance of the language and the role it plays in carrying on the Macedonian culture. If we compare the situation here in Australia with when the Macedonian people succeed in preserving the Macedonian language when it was banned by foreign rulers and the efforts given by the Macedonian descendants to preserve the language, indeed, the Macedonian second generation in Australia are unconscious of the importance. As I mentioned in the Introduction, the Macedonians were put in such conditions where they paid dearly with their lives to preserve the Macedonian language but the situation and conditions that the Macedonians have today in Australia is very different. Indeed the second generation Macedonians need to be much more conscious about the role of the Macedonian language and its importance.
In my investigation I found that the Macedonian language is spoken by the respondents only at home. They speak Macedonian just with their grandparents (see Table 6). I will state that the grandparents are of "golden value" in preserving the language and they are the most stable bridge between the language and culture and the second generation. This raises a question, what will happen when the grandparents pass away? Who is going to be the bridge between the second generation and the third generation? I believe, the Macedonian language is disappearing slowly but surely. Obviously assimilation is in progress. This kind of assimilation is not set up by military forces, as it was before the Second World War; this kind of assimilation is very polite and invisible. Today the Macedonian adolescents do not know the role of the language and perhaps just as one of the Greek respondents in Smolizc and Secombe's (1985) investigation explained, that it was not until she became an adult that she understood the importance of her Greek culture and traditions and began to attend afternoon school. I would like to say that one day perhaps the Macedonian second generation will realize the importance of their Macedonian culture and traditions.
It is a tragedy that people should feel embarrassed when speaking their mother language. People should be proud of their language and heritage. In my investigation, I found that thirty one respondents out of forty are embarrassed if they speak the Macedonian language in front of Anglo Australians. Nine students feel comfortable when they speak Macedonian (shown on Table 7). I am wondering how the Anglo Australians feel when they speak their own language in front of Aborigines? Do they feel embarrassed or are they proud? Of course they are proud of speaking their own language. If they were not proud of their language and culture it would not be an international language of the world.
It is amazing that thirty six of the respondents speak only English amongst each other. Four respondents speak more English than Macedonian. With this proportion of students not using Macedonian, the language will die.
The ethnic schools which have been opened by the Australian government do not play any role in preserving the language. From my own experience, I can say that the majority of the students when attending Macedonian classes speak more English in the classroom. Always they asked questions in English and very few of them could understand the standard Macedonian language. The teachers are forced to speak more English than Macedonian. In general the students are not interested to learn Macedonian. When I conducted Macedonian classes at Williamstown High School in 1990, (I still work there) the students were asked why they attend Macedonian classes? Some of them answered because they wanted to avoid the other subjects at the school (which clashed with the Macedonian), the other students were put under pressure from their parents.
As I am very active in the Macedonian community in Melbourne and Victoria, I have enormous opportunities to observe and investigate the Macedonian second generation in Victoria. Currently I am the Vice President of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Saint Ilija of Footscray. The Macedonian church from Footscray, today has more than five hundred members and none of them are second generation.
Also for three years I have been the coach of the Macedonian soccer players at Sydenham Park Makedonia. There are six teams, from under nine to under sixteen. I began to teach the Under 11s in 1989. During this time, almost all the time I spoke Macedonian with the players. At times I did not accept English to be spoken to me, but always they struggled in their expressions. But I believe because of the influence that they had from me during the three years, the soccer players today are more conscious in preserving the Macedonian language.
I have mentioned above that parents could play a very important role in helping their children appreciate their identification and the Macedonian existence in this society. I have a five year old daughter. She speaks equal Macedonian and English. This year she is attending a kindergarten, and always she describes herself as a Macedonian. We all speak English and Macedonian but at home Macedonian only.
The Macedonians in Australia are the third largest ethnic group.
The first generation Macedonians tend to preserve the Macedonian language and culture in Australia through the language as they always did. They have bought many places where they have built churches, community centers, ethnic schools, monasteries, sports centers as well as many other places. The Macedonian first generation hope these facilities will be of great help and places where the Macedonian language will be maintained.
The Macedonian second generation however tend to speak English predominantly. For them, Macedonian is a second language and, as they indicated in my investigation, they feel embarrassed if speaking it in front of Anglo Australians.
I believe that it is not difficult for them to learn and speak Macedonian because in Australia there are a lot of ethnic schools opened by the Macedonian churches (see churches) and many government primary and secondary schools where the Macedonian language is taught as a subject. The Macedonian language has even been taught at tertiary level at Macquarie University and Footscray Institute of Technology.
The second interviewee was also attending year nine classes and he expressed as follows: "The first language I learned was Macedonian because I lived in a Macedonian family atmosphere. When I lived with my grandparents, who spoke only Macedonian, they taught me to speak Macedonian. They always reminded me that I am a Macedonian kid. My parents also spoke to me in Macedonian, my uncles and aunts and everybody I was in contact with spoke Macedonian to me. My mum tells me now that when I was at the age of five, I spoke Macedonian as well as any other child in Macedonia. As the years progressed the English language became a predominant language in my life. I could speak Macedonian, but the answers are always in English, it comes naturally. At the moment I do not feel sorry for that because I think the need of the Macedonian language in Australia, and the working positions that are offered, are minimized by the Australian government. I have never been in Macedonia and I have no personal memories of Macedonia. I know Macedonia only from descriptions and photographs. It seems to me that without knowing and being in Macedonia, it is hard to feel like a Macedonian in another land. I would describe myself as an Australian."
The third student who was interviewed was much more conscious then the previous two of the role that the language plays in preserving the Macedonian culture in this multicultural society. She said: "I was born in Australia but when I was 8 years of age my parents returned to Macedonia. We lived there for about 4 years, and returned to Australia. I think the Macedonian language plays a significant role in preserving the Macedonian culture, traditions and customs in Australia. Being in Macedonia has helped me to maintain my Macedonian language. Personally I believe that I will never lose my Macedonian identity. I would like to marry a Macedonian boy and bring up my children in the Macedonian spirit. I have always regarded myself as a true Macedonian and have never regretted to have been born into a Macedonian family... I believe that Macedonian language and culture will never be lost in the Australian way of life."
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Table 1a: Community run Macedonian Ethnic Schools in Victoria 1988.
Table 1b: Community run Macedonian Ethnic School in Melbourne 1998.
Table 2: Macedonian classes in the State School System.
Table 1: Students from Williamstown High School.
Table 2: Students from Kings Park S. C.
Table 3: Students birthplace Williamstown H. S.
Table 4: Students birthplace Kings Park S.C.
Table 5: Parents birthplace from both schools.
Table 6: Macedonian language use by the respondents.
Table 7: Feelings of using the Macedonian language in front of Anglo Australians.
Table 8: Importance of preserving the Macedonian language.
Table 9: Identification of the respondents