The status of Romani

Official recognition

Romani language policy has been on the agenda for several decades now. It has been on the task list of language planners as well as writers using it in the public domain; and it has been the subject of a series of international recommendations as well as state legislation.

The Council of Europe has assumed a leading role in the process of granting Romani international recognition. In 1981, the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities called on member states to recognise Romanies as ethnic minorities and to grant them "the same status and advantages as other minorities enjoy, in particular concerning respect and support for their own culture and language" (Resolution 125 (l98l) on the role and responsibility of local and regional authorities in regard to the cultural and social problems of populations of nomadic origin). In 1983, the Council of Cultural Co-operation recommended that "the Romany language and culture be used and accorded the same respect as regional languages and cultures and those of other minorities". In 1989, the Council of Ministers of Education declared as its aim to promote teaching methods and teaching materials that "give consideration for the history, culture and language of Gypsies and Travellers" and to encourage research on those topics (Resolution 89/C, 153/025). In 1993, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly called for the establishment of "a European programme for the study of Romanes and a translation bureau specialising in the language", and recommended that "the provisions for non-territorial languages as set out in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages should be applied to Gypsy minorities" (Rec. 1203/1993). In February 2000, the Committee of Ministers recommended to the member states that "in countries where the Romani language is spoken, opportunities to learn in the mother tongue should be offered at school to Roma/Gypsy children", and that "the participation of representatives of the Roma/Gypsy community should be encouraged in the development of teaching material on the history, culture or language of the Roma/Gypsies" (Res. 2000/4).

Romani has a recognised status deriving either directly (through explicit reference) or indirectly (through general reference to minority languages) from the constitutions of several European countries, including Macedonia, Austria, Finland, and Hungary. In the European Charter for Minority and Regional Languages of 1992, Romani (Romany) is mentioned explicitly as an example of a non-territorial language, to which some parts of the Charter may be applied. Of the eighteen states that have ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ten apply it to Romani: Austria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and Sweden. (You can view the official country reports on the implementation of the Charter). In many of these countries, however, concrete implementation of the Charter in respect of Romani is yet to be achieved. In some countries, concrete measures have been implemented, in collaboration with community representatives and experts, such as weekly or even daily Romani-language broadcasting, provision of translation and interpreting facilities, financial support for the creation of teaching materials and language documentation, the appointment of coordinators for a Romani curriculum, and experimental introduction of Romani into the teaching curriculum (usually, however, on an irregular basis).

On the whole, however, most initiatives to promote Romani in culture, media, and education, still originate in, and are run by, NGOs. Romani is still largely absent from the state-run education system. The strongest practical support for Romani within the education system is found in Romania, where a national Romani language curriculum was adopted in 1999, and has since received widescale implementation, through all levels, from pre-school to higher education. Initiatives to introduce a centralised curriculum are underway in a number of countries.