The history of the language/ E chibijaki historia
The Romani language was a mystery to the Europeans when they first came in close contact with Roma in the dark Middle Ages. The earliest documentation on Romani in Europe was published in 1542. Random articles or world lists followed during the next couple of centuries. The first academic research and findings related to the Romani language in Europe were made in the second half of the 18th century by two German linguists, Johan Christian Rüdiger and Heinrich Grellman, who discovered the linguistic relationship between the Romani language and India.
Evolution about the language/ E chibijaki evolucia
The Romani language has evolved into various dialects such as Sinti, Kálo/Calo which are usually counted as Western non-Slavic dialects, Kaldarash, Lovari, Gurbalia, Xaladitko and others (incomplete list) which are counted as part of the Slavic dialects. Both of these two main groups of dialects have been influenced by the local surrounding languages. Researchers say that the basic vocabulary has stayed almost the same in various dialects. This is mainly due to the close connections between the Roma communities of different countries.
Forced assimilation was the official policy in many European countries such as Romania, Finland, Hungary and Spain in the past. Destroying the Romani language and culture was seen as the means of reaching that goal. One example is the Roma in Finland who still travelled during WW II and after it. They were dependent on the help given by the agrarian population, for example, for a warm shelter during the winter. After the wars, the use of the Romani language was met with suspicion and the permission to overnight was often given with the condition that Romani was not used. This led the older Roma to use Romani less and less. Similar kind of policies were run elsewhere, for example, in Spain, Romania and Hungary, where Romani has partly or mainly disappeared as the spoken mother tongue of Roma and Sinti.
Due to their history of persecution, many older Roma do still think that the less outsiders know of the Roma, their customs and language, the less they are able to hurt them.
This is the reason why some Roma groups and Sinti are still unwilling to teach the language to outsiders in many regions of Europe. Earlier the language was adopted in natural settings. Nowadays, the major changes in the Roma people’s living conditions and cultural turning points have threatened the life and development of the Romani language. The diminished use of Romani is affecting its modern use and one could say that Romani is in danger of disappearing if it is not quickly resuscitated and its teaching and learning is not secured by the educational structures of the respective countries.
The teaching of the Romani language in schools started approximately twenty years ago simultaneously with the developing of the literary language. In some European countries, the National Education Boards have published study materials on the Romani language but other publications in the Romani language are still rare. Roma parents feel positive about the teaching of the Romani language in schools and it has improved the school motivation of Roma in general. The language plays an important role in strengthening group identity.
Children’s school motivation increased when Romani language teachers and Roma school mediators started working in schools. This also improved communication between school personnel and Roma families by acting as mediators and cultural interpreters.
Studying one’s mother tongue is a basic human right and learning the Romani language in normal schools has to become an optional school subject on the general national curriculum for Roma children. One major obstacle in studying the Romani language in school is the shortage of teachers who are trained and capable of simultaneously forcing and executing this process. For this reason, Romani language and culture should be introduced at school and university.