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Legal framework


Following the birth of the Independent Republic of Slovakia, a number of national linguistic policy measures were put into place:

  • the law on surnames and first names was enacted in 1993;
  • the law on the civil State and the law known as the “sign” law were enacted in 1994;
  • in 1995, the National Council of the Republic of Slovakia adopted the law on the language of State (Slovakian), which regulates its use in all areas of social and cultural life;
  • the territorial reform law of 1996 was very likely adopted with the intention of weakening the influence of the Hungarian minority over regional politics. By invoking the State language law of 1997, the Government of the Republic of Slovakia suppressed bilingual study reports in Hungarian language schools. The reports had been written in two languages since 1918;
  • in April 1997, the Constitutional Court decided that the enacting of the law on the language of State in the Republic of Slovakia contravened the Slovakia’s Constitution, since it was not combined with any law on the use of national minority languages;
  • in 2001, Slovakia signed the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages.

The majority of the population of Slovakia speaks Slovakian as their native language. 83.9 % stated that their native language was Slovakian in the 2001 census (compared with 84.3 % in 1991). Some restricted groups speak minority languages. Bilingual representatives of these minorities speak a minority language and not the State language as their first language.

The majority language is used throughout the Republic of Slovakia in all areas of cultural, economic and social life. On 15 November 1995, the National Council of the Republic of Slovakia voted in law 270/1995 RL on the language of State of the Republic of Slovakia, stating in its opening paragraphs that Slovakian is the language of State throughout Slovakia.

According to this law, the State language takes precedence over the other languages used in the Republic of Slovakia (Article 1, Paragraph 1). In Paragraph 2, the State commits to:

  • creating within the school system and scientific and computing sectors conditions which are conducive to enabling every citizen to learn and use the Slovakian language;
  • promoting scientific research on the Slovakian language and its historical evolution together with research on regional dialects and the codification of the language.

The codified form of the State language is devised by the Ministry of Culture, based upon recommendations from experts from institutes of Slovakian studies. The law provides for the use of the State language in administration, in teaching, in the media, during cultural demonstrations, in public assemblies, in the armed forces, in the fire service, during judicial and administrative proceedings, in economic activities and in public health services and establishments.


Slovakian law 634/1992 on consumer protection makes it compulsory for information to be provided in the official language of the country.

In addition, the ECC (European Consumer Centre) set up in Slovakia by the Ministry of the Economy forms part of a wider network of ECCs and serves as a mediator between European consumers and the European Commission. Its role is to monitor the internal market and offer its support in international complaint matters.

Slovakian radio and television broadcast nationwide in the State language.

There are, however, a few notable exceptions:

  • foreign language radio and television broadcasts which have been subtitled in the State language or which are perfectly understandable by Slovakians from the point of view of the State language;
  • broadcasts on the Slovakian international radio and televised or radio broadcast foreign language lessons or similar programmes;
  • original musical texts.

Audiovisual programmes designed for children under the age of 12 must be dubbed into the State language.

Television and radio producers, broadcasters, editors and moderators must use the State language.

Regional or local television and radio programmes must be broadcast in the State language. Other languages may be used before and after the programme is broadcast in the State language.

Periodical and non-periodical publications must be in the State language.

One-off publications for a public readership, gallery, museum and library catalogues and cinema, theatre and other cultural event programmes must be edited in the State language. If necessary, a translation in a foreign language may be provided alongside.

Cultural and educational events take place in the State language and must be entirely comprehensible in the State language.

An exception is however made for cultural events organised by minorities and ethnic groups. The introductions to these programmes must nonetheless be in the State language.

Any delegate attending a meeting in Slovakia has the right to speak in the State language.

Pupils must study the State language all the way through primary school up to secondary school. Only in specifically regulated circumstances may another language be used as the language of teaching.

Educational teams in schools and institutions in Slovakia, with the exception of foreign national readers and academics, must speak and write the State language in their daily work. All educational documentation must be in the State language, except in schools to which specific regulations apply.

Manuals and textbooks used in the education process must be written in the State language, except for those used for teaching in ethnic minority languages or to ethnic minorities and for foreign languages. Specific regulations apply to these exceptions.

None of the rules concerning the State language apply to universities or to the learning of a foreign language.


Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and public linguistic training facilities available to them


There are very few asylum seekers in Slovakia and their numbers are stable.

The Slovakian authorities ensure that all refugees take lessons in Slovakian. In conformity with various international agreements (the 1951 Geneva Convention, the 1967 New York Protocol, Council Directives 77/486/CEE of 25 July 1977 on training immigrant workers), the Slovakian Republic is required to ensure that immigrant workers are socially and culturally integrated into society. The objective presupposes that the acquisition of competencies in the State language is a method of socially integrating foreign nationals into their host country.

By applying the measures taken by the member states of the European Union, the Republic of Slovakia, which was previously a country of transit, has transformed itself into a country where people want to stay. The concepts surrounding integrating refugees into Slovakian society are defined by law 283/1995 on refugees, as well as by further annexed regulations. Children of refugees and asylum seekers must follow compulsory schooling as required by the laws of the host country and have the right to take free lessons in the Slovakian language in refugee camps.

Teaching the Slovakian language

The Office of Migration within the Slovakian Republic Home Office has responsibility for teaching Slovakian to the children of refugees and asylum seekers in refugee camps. On arrival in the Office establishment or integration centre where the asylum seeker will stay for six months, s/he is offered free language lessons. The objective of the lessons is to teach a basic level of understanding in written and oral communication that will allow the asylum seeker to find work in the job market. The quality of communication achieved is not down solely to the quality of teaching, but also to the individual capabilities of the refugee.

Despite the language learning opportunities offered to asylum seekers and refugees, the results are not particularly satisfactory. This influences their level of integration into the Slovakian school system and limits their opportunities on the job market.

In order to facilitate the integration of the children of refugees into Slovakian schools, which it is compulsory for them to attend, and in order to make State support more efficient, the Office of Migration in the Home Office has implemented the Immigrant Children Education Project to prepare and experiment with lessons in the Slovakian language.

Paragraph 34, which obliges the Office of Migration to ensure that Slovakian language lessons are provided in refugee camps and to provide financial backing for them, was inserted into the amendment to law 29/1984 RL.


Principal legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages


Slovakia is the “most heterogenous country in central Europe when it comes to its population” (National Report on Cultural Policy, 2003, p. 119). After the Slovakian majority, (85.8% – 4,614,854 inhabitants), the Hungarian minority has the largest number of members in Slovakia, according to the 2001 census (9.7%), followed by the Roma minority (1.7%) and the Czech minority (0.8 %). The other minorities make up less than 1% of the population as a whole: Ruthenians (0.4%), Ukrainians (0.2%) and Germans (0.1%). The following minorities enjoy an official status: Poles (0.04 %), Moravians (0.04%), Croatians (0.02%) and Bulgarians (0.02%). The Jewish minority makes up just 0.01% of the population.

The Constitution of the Republic of Slovakia sets down the principle of equality for all citizens without discrimination by origin, religion, creed or social class (Article 12, Paragraph 2). Persons belonging to national minorities have the right to learn the State language, to found and run educational and cultural institutions, to receive information in their native language, to use their native language in the public administration and to participate in decision-making which concerns national and ethnic minorities (Articles 34 and 35 of the Constitution). The Republic of Slovakia ratified most of the UN documents on this matter in the first year of its existence. The legislative system also contains most of the Council of Europe documents (most notably the UN Declaration on the Rights of National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms). Since 1998, the Republic of Slovakia has submitted a yearly summary report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on the application of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe concerning the protection of national minorities in the Republic of Slovakia. The Republic of Slovakia adopted the Convention Framework in its resolution 128/1995, which came into force in 1998. At the end of 2000, the Republic of Slovakia signed the protocol to the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. On 20 February 2001, it signed the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages. Parliament ratified this in July 2001.

Hungarian, Czech, Ukrainian, German, Polish, Croatian, Russian, Bulgarian and Romani are the nine languages specified by the Republic of Slovakia for the application of the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages. There was little difficulty in applying the law on the languages of minority nationals, which came into force in 1999, except for within the Roma minority. Most Roma did not want the law on the use of the languages of minority nationals to be applied.


Financial support mechanisms aimed at encouraging the use of national and regional or minority languages


In 1993, the Council of Ministers turned its attention to national minorities. The cultural activities of minorities in the Republic of Slovakia have developed, thanks to the appearance of newspapers and magazines targeted at national minorities (40 magazines in 2000), to include minority language plays in national theatres (four theatres), exhibitions dedicated to national minorities in national museums (two museums), two  semi-professional folklore ensembles, associations promoting the cultures of 11 minorities, regional and town libraries, radio broadcasts in minority languages and broadcasts in the public media. The public radio offers special broadcasts for the Hungarian minority – 45 hours per week – but also for the Ruthenian, Ukrainian, German, Czech, Polish and Roma minorities. The Slovakian public television broadcasts multilingual programmes intended for the Hungarian, Ukrainian, German, Czech, Polish, Roma, Ruthenian, Jewish and Bulgarian minorities. In addition to supporting projects put forward by representatives of national minorities, the Slovakian Ministry of Culture allocates funds to multi-ethnic projects via the Section for Minority Cultures.

The Romani language

In 1999, the Government adopted the principal document – the Government of the Republic of Slovakia’s Strategy in Favour of the Roma Minority – as well as a package of other measures. Stating that the Romani language and culture were of undeniable cultural value to Slovakian society, the Government declared that it would fund activities which promoted the cultural and linguistic values of the Roma minority.

When, in 2004, the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Slovakia adopted provisional measures on teaching the Romani language within the education system, it also took on the responsibility of ensuring that the Roma were offered linguistic training. To fulfil this obligation, it assigned the National Institute of Education in Bratislava the task of developing content for teaching in primary and secondary schools.


Teaching foreign languages within the education system


Teaching foreign languages

Foreign languages are a compulsory part of the national curriculum for primary schools. In principle, lessons in the first foreign language begin in most primary schools in the 5th year, but some school programmes offer intensive training in the foreign language which begins in the 3rd year. Recently, following experiments in selected schools, foreign language teaching has been started in the 1st year of a few schools.

A second compulsory foreign language can be chosen from the 7th year. In practice, the school has the option to increase the number of hours’ teaching offered in the first foreign language instead of offering a second, or to offer the second language as an optional subject taught for two hours per week.

Pupils can choose between six languages: English, German, French, Russian, Spanish and Italian. However, not all options are available at all schools, as this depends on whether a sufficient number of qualified or non-qualified language teachers are available. The curriculum allows all pupils to learn two foreign languages as compulsory subjects during their compulsory schooling.

Since the Slovakian language teaching system allows the school to choose when its pupils start learning MFL1 (the 1st, 3rd or 5th year of schooling), there are problems in ensuring the continuity of methodologies and language choices when the pupil moves from primary school to secondary school.

An option whereby pupils would be obliged to start learning MFL1 in the third year of schooling and MFL2 at (secondary) college level or at the beginning of their secondary school, is under consideration.

For the time being, parents choose which languages their child will study, in tandem with their child.

Although English dominates, it is not a compulsory subject.

In the traditional school model, MFL1 is optional from the 1st or 3rd year up until the 5th year of schooling, when it becomes compulsory. MFL2 is optional from the 6th or 7th year up to the 1st year of secondary school (traditional).

In a special type of secondary school (college), which lasts for eight years, from 10 to 18 years old, MFL1 is a compulsory subject in Prima (from the age of 10). MFL2 is compulsory in Tercia (from the age of 12).

Primary schooling in Slovakia lasts 9 years, from six to 15 years old, and therefore overlaps with secondary colleges.

Secondary schooling lasts 4 years from 15 to 19 years old (grammar school, vocational college, training colleges) or two to three years, from 15 to 17 years old, for pupils at training centres where the baccalaureate is not taken.

There are also schools with intensive foreign language sections as well as bilingual sections in certain colleges and business schools.

Slovakia remains unusual in its special eight-year secondary school (college). Primary school pupils can take an exam at the age of 10 to be admitted to the school, where they will study for eight years until they take the baccalaureate at the age of 18.

There are, however, special provisions in Slovakian legislation for pupils whose native language is not the State language and who attend school establishments where all teaching is carried out in a minority language (Hungarian, Ukrainian, German and Ruthenian). The Slovakian language in these schools is taught as MFL1. MFL2 is added to the curriculum in the 3rd or 5th year.

Teaching foreign languages in schools where the language of teaching is a minority language.

Schools which teach in a minority language form part of a network of schools and teaching establishments approved by the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Slovakia. In these schools, teaching is carried out according to the following educational documentation: school programmes, school curricula and teaching regulations. The aforementioned documents (approved by the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Slovakia) ensure and guarantee that the content and volume of teaching is the same in all schools, regardless of whether the language of teaching is Slovakian or a minority language.


Projects planned by the authorities in the field of linguistic policy


The action plan on language learning aims to reinforce and improve the teaching of foreign languages at primary and secondary level. The Ministry of National Education and the Department of Regional Teaching, together with the support of the National Institute of Education, have prepared an analysis of the current situation and are working on a strategy for foreign language learning with the aim of implementing a new language teaching model.

There are two objectives:

  • to ensure that Slovakian students have mastered two foreign languages by the end of their secondary education (their native language + two others);
  • to increase the capacity of Slovakian emigrants to integrate into the European job market.

These two objectives underline the priority of the strategy to improve the competitiveness of the Republic of Slovakia by 2010 (a modern teaching policy).








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