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Do You Speak Corona? Updated survey report for 43 minority groups in 25 European countries

FUEN has conducted a survey between March and June 2020 to analyze to what extent communication in minority languages is assured by diverse stakeholders in the Member States of the European Union, as well as among the members of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN). The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in mother tongue.

Detailed report (English, PDF)

The survey was completed for 43 minority communities and language groups in 25 European countries:

- Albania: Macedonian

- Austria: Croat, Slovene

- Azerbaijan: Turkish

- Bulgaria: Arman

- Croatia: Czech, Hungarian, Serbian

- Czech Republic: Polish

- Denmark: German

- Estonia: German, Russian

- Finland: Swedish

- France: Alsatian, Basque, Breton

- Germany: Danish, Frisian

- Greece: Pomakis, Turkish

- Hungary: Slovak

- Italy: Croat, Ladin, Slovene

- Latvia: Russian

- Poland: German, Kashubian

- Romania: Arman, Hungarian, Czech

and Slovak (together)

- Russia: Lezghin

- Slovakia: German, Hungarian

- Slovenia: Hungarian

- Spain: Basque, Catalan

- Sweden: Finnish, Meänkieli, Scanian

- The Netherlands: Frisian

- Ukraine: Greek/Rumeian and Urumian, Hungarian

- United Kingdom: Welsh.


Case studies made by FUEN were also included in the report.


The availability of information in mother tongue is crucial if we expect people to follow certain rules and behave in a way to reduce the spread of the virus. Certain terminology, such as flattening the curve, can be difficult to understand in another language and can ultimately alter the goal we have all set: to reduce the pressure on our health care system meanwhile fighting the outbreak. This is especially true for those marginalized communities that lack access to communication tools, are not literate or simply don’t speak the language of the majority where they live. key general Information on the coronavirus outbreak is available in mother tongue of minority communities and language groups in sligthly more than one third - 34.9% - of the cases. 20.9% receive partial information, meanwhile 44.2% lack all communication on mother tongue. Where such information exists, at least partially, state and regional governments are most often the ones providing the information. However, minority organizations and minority press are equally important in assuring that the coronavirus outbreak-related information reaches minority communities and language groups.

Availability of health-related information is also of key importance in reducing the feeling of exclusion of minority groups and language groups ensuring that people seek medical attention if in need. Similar to the general COVID-19 related information, key health related information in minority languages is available in slightly more than one third of the cases (35%). Partial information is available in 25.5% of the cases, meanwhile 39.5% have no access in their mother tongue to the health related information of the aspects of the coronavirus outbreak. In case of health related information, local and regional governments are more active.

Emergency hotlines started receiving an increased volume of calls related to the coronavirus outbreak, in some countries, even before the first cases started to appear. To mitigate this problem, a lot of the countries either raised the capacity of the hotlines or set up special lines only for coronavirus related emergencies. However, the availability of the emergency hotlines in minority languages remained limited, as 69.8% of the cases have no access to them. In only 20.9% of the cases have hotlines been set up and in 9.3% of the cases minority communities or linguistic groups have partial access to mother tongue emergency facilities, should a COVID-19 related emergency arise.

Access to education is a basic human right and all children should benefit from it. Whether online education in mother tongue could be organized or not was another important aspect of our survey. In 22 occasions, representing 51.2% of all cases analyzed, online education was organized in mother tongue during the coronavirus outbreak. In another 8 cases, representing 18.6%, online education in mother tongue was at least partially available, meanwhile in 10 cases, representing 23.3%, no access to online education was assured. In 3 cases, representing 6.9%, mother tongue education was not available before the coronavirus outbreak either.

The report also contains a set of recommendations:

“Only in half of the surveyed cases do stakeholders provide at least partial information in the mother tongue of the minority communities. States should engage to provide these information to reach minority groups with accurate language use and appropriate channels.

Being able to ask for help in a lifethreatening emergency in mother tongue could save lives. We recommend setting up these emergency hotlines with operators who speak the language of minorities in every country.

Online education is available for only 30 of the surveyed minorities, out of the 40 who benefited of mother tongue education before the outbreak as well. More emphasis should be placed on digitalisation of education overall, but minority communities need to be included in this process.”

The survey was made by the Federal Union of European Naionalities with the support of the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages in the European Parliament.