Language Ideologies and Learning Historical Minority Languages: A comparative study of voluntary learners of Swedish in Finland and Hungarian in Romania

Attila Kiss

Language learning, Language ideologies, discourse analysis


Language ideologies surrounding the learning of historical minority languages deserve more/closer attention because due to the strong nation state ideology, the relation between majority and minority languages has long been problematic, and native speakers of majority languages do not typically learn the languages of the minorities voluntarily. This article discusses the language ideologies of voluntary learners of Swedish and Hungarian in two contexts where these languages are historical minority languages. Data was collected at evening courses in Oradea, Romania and Jyväskylä, Finland on which a qualitative analysis was conducted. In the analysis, an ethnographic and discourse analysis perspective was adopted, and language ideologies were analyzed in their interactional form, acknowledging the position of the researcher in the co-construction of language ideologies in the interviews. The results show that the two contexts are very different, although there are also similarities in the language ideologies of the learners which seem to be significantly influenced by the prevailing historical discourses in place about the use and role of these languages. In the light of resilient historical metanarratives, I suggest that the challenges related to the learning of historical minority languages lie in the historical construction of modern ethnolinguistic nation-states and the present trajectories of such projects. At the same time, the learning of historical languages in contemporary globalized socio-cultural contexts can build on new post-national ideologies, such as the concept of learning historical languages as commodities.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies