A week of linguistic priorities

  • 2008-02-27
  • By TBT staff

FAIR PLAY: PM Kirkilas (center) gave Orban (right) the full page-by-page tour of the beauty of the Lithuanian countryside.

VILNIUS - Language issues dominated the Lithuanian headlines over the past week thanks to a book fair, an odd case involving mobile phone rates and a visit by the European language commissioner.
The slew of language-related news was a pleasant respite for a country that prides itself on its linguistic heritage and has been saturated with headlines about nuclear power and energy security.
Leonard Orban, the European commissioner for multilingualism, said he supports Lithuanian migrants who are trying to secure Lithuanian language study in foreign schools.

The announcement was welcomed by Lithuanians, who are keen to maintain language skills among the thousands of compatriots who have moved west for better-paying jobs.
In 2007 Lithuanian residents in Great Britain began collecting signatures for legalizing a Lithuanian language exam. Zivile Ilgunaite, chairwoman of the Lithuanian community council, said that should the exam be legalized, it would promote British interest in the Lithuanian language and encourage expats to learn their native tongue.

It had been possible to take the exam of the Lithuanian language in 1970, but the opportunity was later withdrawn due to a lack of interest.
According to preliminary calculations, more than 5,000 children in U.K. secondary schools would like to take the Lithuanian language final examination, which is a part of receiving a certificate of secondary education.
Lessons in the Lithuanian language could be included in the curricula and credited as a subject of second foreign language.

Commissioner Orban said that other member states that face large-scale migration outflows have similar problems and promised he would support the idea within the limits of his competence, Internet news portal DELFI reported.
The commissioner also met with Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, Culture Minister Jonas Jucas and parliamentary speaker Viktoras Muntianas.
In recent weeks Jucas has expressed concern over the treatment of the Lithuanian language by mobile service providers.

Local media reported on Feb. 20 that telephone companies charge twice as much for Lithuanian symbols in short text messages as they do for Latin letters.
An SMS containing diacritical signs 's which are abundant in Lithuanian 's may include less words yet the sender may have to pay for two SMSs if the original message is longer than 160 symbols.
However, some major Lithuanian mobile service providers had admitted in January that sometimes a Lithuanian letter can amount even up to 50 symbols.
The exact amount of information contained in a Lithuanian letter should be shown by a special calculator inside a mobile telephone.

The State Commission of the Lithuanian language responded to these reports by condemning the practice as "selling the language," but there were no further public discussions on why Lithuanians are being indirectly "punished" for using their own alphabet.
The Culture Ministry announced on Feb. 20 that Jucas would call for a discussion of mobile service providers and specialists, Lithuanian language commission and cultural ministry to promote the use of symbols in mobile text messages.
"Amid advancement of technologies, we should remain literate and foster our language rather than become hostages of conveniences of mobile telecommunications," the minister said.
"If there are technical possibilities, it would be great to change the current situation in a way that mobile connection clients were not forced to give up Lithuanian characters in SMS communication," the minister said.

* * *
The word "aciu" (thank you) was announced as the most beautiful Lithuanian word. The word was selected from a list proposed by visitors of Internet portals and all participants of the third national dictation. The main competitor of aciu was the word Lietuva (Lithuania).
The Lithuanian language is considered to be the most archaic of all the living Indo-European tongues.