LIVING SLOVAK
THE CHURCHES, CENTRES OF ACTIVITY
THE ORGANIZATIONS
WILL YOU SPEAK SLOVAK?
THE UNKNOWN ARTS
SOCIAL NEEDS
COMMUNICATIONS
IS IT TIME TO GO BACK?
IT'S ONLY POLITICS
YOU'VE GOT TO BE THERE
WHO WILL SPEAK FOR US?
REMEMBERING THE PAST
THE WIRED COMMUNITY
PROJECTS TO CONSIDER
SPORTS TIMES
A PLACE TO SHOW OUR STUFF
THE STRUGGLING ARTS
COME TOGETHER
WHAT YOU MUST DO
SLOVAK SOM, AJ SLOVAK BUDEM!

Slovaks in Canada
in the Year 2000

by John V. Stephens, Q.C.,
Honorary Consul, Slovak Republic


WILL YOU SPEAK SLOVAK?

Should we prepare ourselves for the time when the Slovak language will be spoken only by a handful of people in Canada?

The experience of the Slovak community is as it has been with other small nationalities in Canada: the first generation speaks the language well, the second not so well, and the third and fourth generations not at all.

The use of the Slovak language in Canada receives a boost from every wave of immigration to reach Canada. But there aren't any more waves of immigration. Those who were born in Slovakia had Slovak as their first language. They came here with friends so had someone to speak to and so kept up the language. The children in many instances had Slovak as their first language too, speaking to their parents and their relatives in Slovak.

Then the children go out into the street where they meet their Canadian neighbors and learn there is a different way to speak to them. Soon they begin answering their parents in English and in the bilingualism that occurs it is the Slovak language that suffers.

My parents when they reached Toronto, sought out Slovak acquaintances, and of course they spoke to each other in Slovak. It was that generation of immigration that established the Slovak community in Canada, the one that formed the Slovak parishes, the one that started the Kanadsky Slovak. It was natural for them to speak and write in Slovak.

But today when the parents are no longer around, when you don't have daily exposure to the Slovak language, and when there is inter-marriage with a non-Slovak, in those situations the use of the Slovak language decreases. The next generation neither speaks nor understands the Slovak language.

This is sociological fact; natural tendencies, and the community can only do its best to preserve the language by continuing to have religious services in Slovak, Slovak schools where possible and performances of the arts in Slovak. One has only to look at the United States where there are 3,500,000 Americans of Slovak descent to see that only a few today can speak the language intelligibly. Slovak newspapers there no longer can survive if they are in the Slovak language only. They have turned to the English language to keep up an appearance of the community there.

Some Slovaks fear this and say that the only good Slovak is one who speaks, writes and understands Slovak. If that is the case then we are excluding many, many people whose hearts still identify with being Slovak even though they can't speak a word.

Our community in Canada is neither large enough or strong enough for us to reject people who identify themselves as Slovaks even though they can't speak a word in Slovak. We can't afford to lose any more members of our community in Canada.

It is necessary then for the community through its organizations to offer programs in both languages. We must keep up our Slovak schools by finding out where our people are, and taking the schools to their areas rather than forcing them to go to places far from their homes.

It is necessary for us to make use of modern technology by making available in our homes the arts in Slovak. There are many fine Slovak operas and folk dance groups which are available on video. Each family should make a point of having a Slovak night of the arts every month so that the whole family, children included can continue their appreciation of things Slovak.

Keeping up the Slovak language and heritage is a family concern.

Copyright of "Slovaks in Canada in the Year 2000" 1996 - John V. Stephens, Q.C.
All other contents & photographs 1997, Ondro Mihal.
All comments should be forwarded to
Ondro Mihal at omihal@slovak.com.
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Last update on
May 29, 1997.