The chief editor of The Lithuania Tribune, Ruslanas Iržikevičius, talked to Jurga Žilinskienė, entrepreneur and founder of London-based “Today Translations”, during the World Lithuanian Economic Forum that took place in Vilnius in June.
The Lithuania Tribune (TLT): Lithuania is a country where Russian is spoken very well, but do you see a turning point in with English becoming the second most popular language in Lithuania?
Jurga Žilinskienė : I think this is happening already, especially with the new generation. I believe that very few students at school choose to learn Russian. They choose German, they choose French, but probably, above all, they choose English, and that’s the trend that has been changing since about two years ago because of the strategy from the Lithuanian point of view: where Lithuanians want to go, what they want to do, their interests and so on, as they are very intrigued by the western world.
TLT: The Language Commission says the use of English is threatening the Lithuanian language, and that the threat is even greater than that during the Soviet times with the use of Russian. What is your opinion about this?
J: I think Lithuanians are very resilient, I don’t think that Lithuanian is going to be replaced by English, as Lithuanians are very strong and proud of their country and their language. I’m proud to be Lithuanian and, although I’m speaking in English here today, I know that if we spoke a little bit longer we would be speaking Lithuanian.
We should not forget that Lithuanian is a very old language and it has survived threats and forces against it throughout its history. Have these initiatives succeeded? I don’t think so. And then we have foreigners learning Lithuanian as well, I have quite a few friends living in Lithuania and they speak brilliant Lithuanian. So, there we go, we have another trend: foreigners learning Lithuanian.
TLT: Considering the changes in today’s world, what are your thoughts on which language should be taught as a third language at Lithuanian schools?
JŽ: Well the English are learning Chinese, for example, so I would definitely suggest it as a good investment in terms of linguistic skills. But it is not just about China, we also have to look at places like Vietnam, Indonesia or Japan – which is probably in a bit of a predicament at the moment, but we are seeing improvements. Other than that I would say Brazilian Portuguese: they are growing very fast, they need more specialists, they need more services. I would invest my time in learning their languages.