»BECAUSE IF YOU CAN’T SPEAK THE SLOVENE LANGUAGE, IT’S AS IF YOU WEREN’T SLOVENE«: (THE ROLE OF THE SLOVENE LANGUAGE IN SHAPING THE ETHNIC IDENTITY OF THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATIONS OF SLOVENE POLITICAL EMIGRANTS IN ARGENTINA
This text examines the role of the Slovene language in shaping the ethnic identity of the third and fourth generations of Slovene political emigrants (SPE) in Argentina. They are (were) a specifically homogeneous group, closed for foreign, Argentinean influences, which includes the language as well. The high cultural consciousness and regard for Slovene traditions and folklore helped form numerous cultural associations, where creativity and communication were allowed only in Slovene language – with any violation of these rules resulting in serious moral accusations.
The research dates to April 2006, when it was carried out among the pupils of Saturday Slovene language schools and the students of the Slovene matura course, both in Buenos Aires. Its main target group were the third and fourth generations of SPE, who are, in contrast to their (grand) parents, very much acculturated. They feel a strong emotional attachment to the Slovene language, yet it is limited to the symbolic level, while the communicative function of Slovene is highly neglected and mostly limited to the family. In that environment, as much as 82 % still speak Slovene while the respondents generally speak Spanish (97 %) among themselves. However, it is important to appreciate the incalculable value of its symbolic role as the Slovene language presents the bond of the SPE descendants with the Slovene culture. It could be stated that for them, the Slovene language is the Slovene culture.
The Slovene language remains to this day respected and appreciated among the SPE descendants. Being aware of its value with regard to the future existence of the community, they still learn the language. Admittedly its communicative function is limited, yet for the young, it presents a point of identification i.e. the essence of being Slovene. A number of answers confirmed the role of the Slovene language as the main identification element. Although the questions might have been rather complicated for the young between 12 and 14, the majority of the answers were unambiguous and very importantly, written in very good Slovene.
It can be claimed that the Slovene language is a major ethnic identity element for the representatives of the third and forth generations of SPE. Their straightforward plans to keep preserving the Slovene language (74 % intend to continue learning Slovene), together with the majority (94 %) intending to pass the language to their own children, show the awareness of the young towards the (symbolic) role of the language. For the majority of them, the language remains the bond with the mother country of their parents and in symbolic value, it highly precedes the Spanish language which is only the language of their native country.