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Parliament adopts bill fining poor Slovak linguists

Observance of usage rules for the Slovak state language will come under stricter supervision by the Culture Ministry because parliament approved the much-discussed amendment to the State Language Act on June 30. The amendment, which was approved by 76 of the 136 MPs present, will introduce sanctions for breaking the rules of standard Slovak in official communications, the TASR newswire reported.

Observance of usage rules for the Slovak state language will come under stricter supervision by the Culture Ministry because parliament approved the much-discussed amendment to the State Language Act on June 30. The amendment, which was approved by 76 of the 136 MPs present, will introduce sanctions for breaking the rules of standard Slovak in official communications, the TASR newswire reported.

If shortcomings and mistakes appear and these aren't corrected after repeated contacts from the Culture Ministry, fines of €100-5,000 may be imposed. The amendment has been criticised mainly by ethnic-Hungarian MPs who say that it will restrict the language rights of ethnic minorities, TASR wrote.

According to the legislation, minorities can use their native languages when speaking to doctors and healthcare personnel and at social facilities provided that they do so in towns and villages where at least 20 percent of the inhabitants come from a minority. This was previously allowed only for people who do not understand Slovak.

Inscriptions on memorials, monuments and plaques may be written in a minority language but the text must be followed by a Slovak translation. The same applies to public events, which can be opened in a minority language but must also be interpreted into the state language. The reverse order used to be obligatory.

MP Agnes Biro welcomed the latter changes but noted they only mean a step towards European standards and not anything extraordinary. An amending proposal submitted by the Slovak National Party (SNS) that would have required that every state official should speak Slovak fluently was not approved.

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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