“Languages are Part of the National Identity of Moldova”

Representatives of local authorities and of the autonomy, human rights defenders and representatives of academia from Chisinau and Comrat held a telebridge on public channels Moldova 1 and GRT. They discussed the need of introducing a system of multilingual education in Moldova, success in this sphere in Gagauzia and progress made in integration of the system of multilingual education in Gagauzia. They also outlined the direction in which the educational system in the country should develop. 

During the telebridge, experts on the subject from Chisinau and Comrat analysed the state of linguistic diversity in Moldova, what elements unite citizens of the republic and how to combat discrimination in the language environment. 

Alla Nichitcenco, Chief Consultant of the Ministry of Education, noted during the telebridge that multilingualism really does exist in Moldova. “At all our educational institutions students learn three or four compulsory languages.  From the very outset of independent Moldova, the Gagauzian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian languages were introduced in the curriculum. Today in Moldova, almost all world language learning models are represented”. 

According to her, the Ministry encourages all educational institutions to develop individual curricula. Nichitcenco praised the Department of Education of Gagauzia for the fact that for the second year already a model of individual curricula is implemented in the Autonomy and it is yielding results. 

During the teleconference, Natalia Christeva, the Head of the Main Department of Education of Gagauzia, stated that back in 2019, in its action programme the Executive Committee of Gagauzia (the local government) set a task to develop education and to pay attention to promotion of the Gagauzian language. To learning of the state language and preservation of the knowledge of the Russian language, as well as to learning foreign languages. 

“Gagauzia needs a comprehensive approach in order to study three languages effectively. We need to improve the regional legal framework, we need human and material resources, and it is necessary to work with parents. The policy of multilingualism should become part of the national policy,” Mrs. Christeva stated.

She stressed that besides that, children have to be brought up in the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance.

Marta Guarda, Senior Researcher at the Eurac Research Institute for Applied Linguistics, recorded a video message for the participants of the telebridge. She explained what the Council of Europe defines as multilingualism and multilingual education: “It is rather difficult to give a definition to multilingualism. This notion exists in two dimensions, social and individual. For that reason, the Council of Europe recommends to use two interdependent definitions”, Ms. Guarda stated.

According to her, one of these definitions suggests that multilingualism means co-existence of several languages in one geographic area. While according to the other definition, multilingualism means how different languages are used in communications, depending on the need, environment and the relevant tasks.

“One of the ways for promoting multilingualism is multilingual education. Researchers identify several types of advantages of this type of education. Thus, multilingual education fosters cognitive skills of a person and further enhances efficiency of the general educational process and learning of other languages”, Marta Guarda said.

Anatol Gremalschi, coordinator of educational programs of the Institute of Public Policy, reminded us that national liberation in Moldova was related to language issues“Now the focus has shifted to human rights and the role of language in society. The language is part of national identity and a lot of attention is paid to it. Our society has become much more tolerant, linguistic rights of citizens are respected and frankly speaking, we do not have any clashes on linguistic grounds”, Mr. Gremalschi believes.

He cited the example of Taraclia, where according to him, there is growing interest to learning the state language and learning native languages and the authorities of Gagauzia actively promote learning of different languages. “And language related problems that exist in some localities need to be investigated very carefully. We really want politicians to not use the language issue for their purposes”, Mr. Gremalschi emphasized.

Natalia Christeva cited as an example the Eminescu lyceum in Comrat with the Romanian language of instruction, where according to her, parents are keen for their children to become proficient in the state language. “In Gagauzia, there are three such lyceums [with Romanian as the language of instruction] and they are very popular. After the first semester, first graders already begin to understand the state language”, she said.

Irina Constantinova, head of the M.V. Marunevici Scientific and Research Centre in Gagauzia, stressed that Moldova has a unique language environment. The uniqueness of the Gagauz people is that Moldova is the only motherland of the Gagauzians that allows them to engage in research activities. “My colleagues from the Centre set a goal, to change the curricula in such a way that everyone could study the Gagauzian language at a professional level. Joint work would help to preserve our cultural linguistic values”, she said.

Ian Feldman, Head of the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, while talking about activities of the Council, noted that an increase in the number of complaints to the Council does not necessarily mean that the number of cases of language related discrimination increased. It could be explained by the fact that people became more aware of the Council and know better how to protect their rights.  “We indeed more often see discrimination against Russian-speakers, but there are also cases of discrimination against speakers of Romanian. In Gagauzia we noted discrimination when we saw that websites of public institutions are available only in Russian, while they have to be in Russian, Romanian and Gagauzian. It is important to remember that minority languages are part of our national identity as a country”, Feldman said.

Anatol Gremalschi emphasized that it is a duty of every citizen to be friendly towards people around him or her and not to start communication with a war of words.

Elena Mina, Head of the civil society organization “Mothers in Action” stated that the organization that she represents is a provider of informal education“We work with children starting with the age of two or three years, we implement projects for youth.  We engage national experts, create friendly environment and erase language barriers between participants of our project”, she stated and stressed that the results are really impressive.

When speaking about the workload of schoolchildren in Gagauzia, Natalia Christeva said that the workload of children is higher because of learning several languages, but the introduction of multilingual education would reduce the workload and would help children learn a language in a comfortable environment. “We would like to have programs that support multilingual education. Our region needs more opportunities to regulate the language policy,” she noted.  

Anatol Gremalschi believes that it is necessary to decentralize education in Moldova.  He also reminded us about the need to maintain a balance and not to deprive children of their childhood. 

As a result of the telebridge, the parties came to the conclusion that in the course of developing language learning policies, regional specificity needs to be taken into account, so that every participant of the process can get the necessary skills from the educational system. In addition, participants of the teleconference identified further direction for development of multilingual education in schools of the country and outlined priority areas in this process. 

Watch the TV show with subtitles in English language on our Youtube channel.

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