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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 7, 2020

Informal bilingual teachers’ language practices and the consequences on pupils’ language choices in a situation of unequal bilingualism: The case of an Upper Sorbian education system

  • Nicole Dołowy-Rybińska ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Multilingua


This paper investigates how bilingual Upper Sorbian-German teachers who belong to the Sorbian speech community (Lusatia, Germany) introduce the minority language during German language lessons in an Upper Sorbian school. In Lusatia, as well as in Sorbian schools, bilingualism is not of equal character; minority language speakers are all bilingual while the German language speakers are not encouraged to speak Sorbian. The language policy of Upper Lusatia gives Sorbs the right to use their language in public life in principle but due to the strained Sorbian-German relations, language ideologies, and hostile attitudes towards the use of minority language in the presence of Germans Sorbs do not benefit from it in practice. The school language policy divides Sorbian-speakers from pupils of German-speaking families and keeps the teaching of Sorbian separate for both groups. Only during the last two years of school are all language groups mixed. Based on participant observation of and in-depth interviews with bilingual teachers during lessons with students of the 11th grade in one Upper Sorbian school this article discusses how teachers negotiate top-down language policy in their classrooms and, introduce bilingualism; and how their language choices affect students’ language practices.

Funding source: National Science Center

Award Identifier / Grant number: UMO-2016/21/B/HS2/00001

Funding statement: This article presents research which has been funded by a grant from the National Science Center, Poland entitled Language contact and culture conflict. Acquiring linguistic competence and cultural identity creation - the case of pupils in the Sorbian Grammar School in Bautzen (Upper Lusatia) (UMO-2016/21/B/HS2/00001).


I would like to thank my colleague, Dr Cordula Ratajczak for her invaluable collaboration in the research.


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Published Online: 2020-03-07
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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