Benefits of Learning Kashubian

Filed under: Culture — Tags: — Yurek @ 8:30 am 29 September 2011 Comments (7)

Arguably, one of the greatest challenges Kashubian language is faced with today is its diminishing speaker base. Different estimates provide less or more optimistic counts of the number of those who still use it (Mordawski, 2005), and undoubtedly the 2011 census will shed more light on the current state of the matter (Narodowy Spis Powszechny, 2011). However, one cannot dismiss the fact that popularity of Kashubian language is in an unremitting decline. Whereas it can be argued that the world knows examples of language revivals (i.e., Hebrew in Israel), the gloomy truth is that the vast majority of such attempts fail miserably (Mechura, 2007). Recognizing language as the most important aspect of any culture (Xiulan, 2007), the fact remains that once the Kashubs forfeit their language, there will have very little left to distinguish them from their close relatives: the Polish. Unlike the Irish, who have adapted English as the functional language of the state and still maintained their identity, the Kashubs do not have their own country, and retaining their own language is an imperative necessity, if they are to survive as the distinct group of people.

One may dispute that Kashubian language lost its relevance and therefore, should be left to its own fate (Niamh & Hickey, 2009). Although such an attitude may be substantiated, an important question remains: who has the right to destine Kashubian language for extinction? Anyone familiar with the history of Kashubia has to respect the hardships Kashubs had to endure in order to protect the language from both, Germanization and Polonization (Makurat, 2008). Ironically, now, when the Kashubs can use their own language freely, few find it worthwhile to continue speaking it and passing it on to the next generations. Some Kashubs even expect the school to teach Kashubian to their children as a secondary language (Kuratorium.gda, 2010). Unfortunately, nothing can substitute natural passing of the language from one generation to the next. Why should we continue to retain the Kashubian language?

I argue that speaking Kashubian offers some tangible, yet often overlooked advantages. Because Kashubian, like many of the Anglo-Saxon languages features more vowels than the Polish language, Kashubian speakers are capable of pronouncing many of the Anglo-Saxon vowels more correctly than their Polish brothers. Those, whose ears are only attuned to the basic “a, e, o, u” vowels will have a difficult time producing (or even detecting) words containing vowels beyond their familiarity. Thus, I argue that by preserving their language, not only will the Kashubs protect their rich culture from extinction, but, in addition, will equip their children for success within the multi-cultural realm of the European Union. Extinction of the Kashubian language would be an unrecoverable loss to the Europe’s cultural diversity (Gutthy, 2005); nonetheless, only the Kashubs themselves can preserve it from obliteration. Naturally, the Kashub themselves must first recognize the value of doing so. No law can prevent this unique language from extinction.

by Yurek K Hinz, Ph.D.

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References:

Główny Urząd Statystyczny (2011). Narodowy Spis Powszechny Ludności i Mieszkań. Retrieved from http://www.stat.gov.pl/gus/nsp_PLK_HTML.htm

Gutthy, A. (2005).  Cassubia Slavica: Internationales jahrbuch fur kaschubische studien.  Sarmatian Review, 25, 1096.  Retrieved from http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~sarmatia/

Kuratorium.gda. (2010). Nauka języka kaszubskiego w szkołach na Pomorzu [Teaching Kashubian in Schools on Pomerania]. Retrieved from www.kuratorium.gda.pl

Makurat, H. (2008).  Sytuacja języka kaszubskiego z puktu widzenia hierarchiczności języków i polityk językowych na płaszczyźnie diachronicznej i synchronicznej [State of the

Kashubian language as viewed from the diachronic, synchronic and the language politics’ perspective]. Gdańsk, Poland: Rada Języka Kaszubskiego.

Mechura, M. B. (2007).  Localization into Irish.  Multilingual computing & technology, 18, 53-56.  Retrieved from http://www.multilingual.com/

Mordawski, J. (2005). Statystyka ludności kaszubskiej: Kaszubi u progu XXI wieku [Statistics of Kashubian population. Kashubs at the dawn of the 21st century].  Gdańsk, Poland: Instytut Kaszubski.

Niamh, N., & Hickey, T. (2009).  Out of the communist frying pan and into the EU fire?  Exploring the case of Kashubian language.  Culture and Curriculum, 22, 95 -119.  doi:10.1080/07908310903075142.

Xiulan, Z. (2007).  China’s policy towards minority languages in a globalising age.  Transnational Curriculum Inquiry, 4, 80-91.  Retrieved from http://nitinat.library.ubc.ca/ojs/index.php/tci


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7 Comments »

  1. My father is 100% Kassubian. He grew up speaking Kassube in his home. He is 93 years he did not speak it after leaving home. He did not pass on the language. Sad I wish he would have. I did enjoy stories about our people. He forgets most of them now. Hi would like to know more about the Kassubian culture. I am glad there are people keeping it alive.

    Comment by Sally Bolda — May 15, 2016 @ 4:51 am

  2. Sally,
    Since your father is a 100% Kashub, you must be one in at least 50% one yourself 🙂 Kashubs have a hard time maintaining their forefathers’ language. One needs to be able to practice it everyday, which is a problem – even in Kashubia.

    Comment by Yurek — May 15, 2016 @ 6:25 am

  3. Thank you, Yurek for the wonderful article. I visited the Kashubian Region this past summer of 2016 and in at least one of the villages we visited they are teaching Kashubian to the children at young age.

    Both my great grandparents grew up speaking Kashubian in the home here in America. I am quite sure my grandmother also spoke or at least heard Kashubian in the home.

    I think it would be a great detriment for the world were we to lose the language. Like you say, when a language dies, it dies forever along with so much of the culture.

    Thank You
    Rik

    Comment by Rik Murray — August 14, 2017 @ 4:16 am

  4. My father is also 100% Kaszubian, but his great grandparents didn’t speak it at all when they came to the USA from the old country. Are there any books or cds available by which one may study this language independently? Where might I find these? If there are none, I have no other options. Yet I would very much like to become a speaker of Kaszubian.

    Comment by Joseph Kasuboski — January 29, 2018 @ 9:54 pm

  5. My father’s parents are from Znin and Golub. Can I get to be more Pomerian Kasub than that. When I was growing up in the early 1930s all my grandparents spoke atome were German and Kasub. It has been a long time for me to try and remember all this. But I’m proud to be one of the 50% .

    Comment by Alfred Rosinski — October 16, 2018 @ 7:08 pm

  6. RK, I did not see your post until now. I guess better late than never. My kids understand but hardly speak Kashubian. Naturally, when you live outside of Kashubia, it’s harder to maintain. Although our brothers and sisters in the native Kashubia don’t seem to care about the language too much. Yurek

    Comment by Yurek — October 17, 2018 @ 8:06 pm

  7. Yes, you are truly a Pomeranian. My father and my grandparents spoke both German and Kashubian. They also understood Polish.

    Comment by Yurek — October 17, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

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