chapter  17
17 Pages

Slavic Englishes: Education or culture?

ByZoya Proshina

Various Slavic languages came into contact with the English language at different times. For the Russian language, the recorded history of its interaction with English dates back to the mid sixteenth century when British sailors and merchants, the first British to have arrived in Russia, were granted an audience with the Russian Czar, Ivan the Terrible, and were allowed to trade with Russians (Aristova 1978; Proshina and Ettkin 2005). However, it was not until the eighteenth century, the epoch of Peter the Great followed by the epoch of the so-called ‘enlightened sovereign’ Catherine the Great, that we can speak of increasing Russian-British contacts that resulted in a number of borrowings into both languages (Beliaeva 1984). Though she did not speak English herself, Catherine the Great encouraged the spread of English literature in Russia, which is why she was called an anglophile (Labutina 2002). In the nineteenth century, Russia had diplomatic and other types of contact with both Great Britain and the USA. Nevertheless, at that time English as a foreign language was only second in popularity, with French the most popular, being regarded as a domestic language of the nobility. Like Russian-British contacts, Czech (Bohemian) and British contacts, later strengthened

by dynastic marriages, have been known since the Middle Ages (Evans 2008). In Poland, Polish-English language interactions, marked primarily in education and publishing, have been traced to the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Reichelt 2005). More recently, and as Jeffrey Griffin (2001) notes, the increased profile of English in

all Slavic countries has been common since 1989. Since the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty in 1991, contacts between Western and Eastern countries have further intensified. The Slavic family of languages includes three groups of related languages: East Slavic

(Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian), West Slavic (Polish, Czech, Slovak, Sorbian), and South Slavic (Bulgarian, Slovene, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Bosnian). East Slavic cultures, having adopted Orthodox religion, were originally under strong Greek influence, while West Slavic cultures, being closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church, have experienced greater influence from Western Europe. These influences

account for the differences in script in Slavic cultures – Cyrillic letters are used by Eastern Slavs and Roman letters by Western and to some extent by Southern Slavs.