May 24, 2010

Day of Slavic Script, Education and Culture – Bulgaria

On this day, people in Bulgaria pay tribute to Saints Cy
ril and Methodius, brothers who developed Cyrillic script (a.k.a. the Slavic alphabet) more than a thousand years ago.

The brothers created this alphabet in Bulgaria, but it spread, and today it is used widely, for languages such as Bulgarian (of course), Russian, Belarusian, Rusyn, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Ukrainian, Moldovan, Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Tuvan, and Mongolian.

If you've ever seen Russian,
with its mixture of familiar letters, backwards-facing Rs, and unfamiliar letters, you've seen Cyrillic script.

This says "Bulgaria" in Cyrillic script.

Did you know...?

  • The word alphabet comes from the name of the first two letters in the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta. The Slavic alphabet is sometimes called azbuka, which comes from the old names of the first two letters.
  • Cyrillic script was the third alphabet used by the E.U. (European Union). The first two were the Latin alphabet (which I am using right now) and the Greek alphabet.
  • Since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, several nations have switched from using Cyrillic script to either using the Latin alphabet only or using a mixture of the two. The nations making this change include Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.
What do you think?

Some people think that the countries who use Cyrillic script—particularly the European nations that have joined or wish to
join the E.U.—should switch to the Latin alphabet, which is the dominant alphabet in the world. To not switch, these people argue, is to hold the nation back.

However, others argue that, for reasons of historical tradition and cultural pride, they should keep the Slavic alphabet.

What do you think?

This kind of discussion happens
all over the world, not just with alphabets, but also with languages and customs. Is it helpful and practical to give up a minority language? Or is it important to keep the “old ways” alive? Obviously, many people learn their native language (using its traditional alphabet, whatever it may be) and also a more widespread second language such as English. But in some cases, it can be hard to interest young people in a little-used language. (As a kid, would you rather learn two different languages and two different alphabets, or would you just want to learn the one that is used the most?) Should those kids be forced to learn the language of their heritage? Will they regret not learning it, later?

Check out the Slavic alphabets
(the regular Cyrill
ic script and the cursive version).

Learn about Bulgaria
There are seven Rila Lakes, and
each one empties into the next.

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