A Minority Language in the Shadow of the State Language: Bilingual Communication of Mayor’s Office

Author: Patrik Schulcz (Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia)
Speaker: Patrik Schulcz
Topic: Language Minorities and Majorities
COMELA 2022 General Session


There is a number of settlements in southern Slovakia where the proportion of the Hungarian minority is higher compared to the proportion of population of Slovak nationality. In such settlements the dominant language of administrative officers is usually the minority language, because it’s used more often by their clients compared to the state language. The presentation points out the language-related difficulties encountered from the minority position in the daily work of administrative officers.

During the oral administration, the officers are using translanguaging, due to which state language loanwords (mainly the words of administrative terminology) are included in the minority language. This “occasionally created” language, when officers use their whole linguistic repertoire contributes to efficient oral administration, as this language is understood by the administrative officers and the clients as well.

However, it is different when the administration is extended to written communication. In this case the administrative officers must be able to translate texts received from the state so that they can be communicated in the language of the minority. Most of the employees have not received training in professional translation, therefore, these texts are characterized by the universals of translation (Robin 2018). Moreover, the administrative officers are not thoroughly familiar with the special administrative terminology in the minority language, therefore they do not have the appropriate vocabulary to translate the state language texts into the minority language (Szabómihály 2002), therefore they often use loanwords that are common in oral communication.

This presentation examines the minority (Hungarian) language competence of the officers working at the mayor’s office in one Southern Slovakian village and one town, on the basis of official statements posted online, translated and created by the employees. The presentation examines only those posts where the source text is written in the state language and the target language is the language of minority, and which meet the following criteria:

  • are related to COVID-19 virus and epidemic;
  • information related to the local government office (local taxes, opening hours of local government institutions, etc.);
  • are shared in the first half of 2020.

The results show that the minority target written texts are usually simplified (compared to the texts in the state language) due to a lack of knowledge of minority terminology.

Keywords: Minority Language, State Language, Bilingual Texts