Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Knowledge of Romani Language Grammar

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Knowledge of Romani Language Grammar

Article excerpt

Pages: 76-85

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0407

Keywords: Roma children, language assessment test, integrative theory

Downloads: 36


Research shows that all normally developing children follow the same “paths” in their language development. Children develop the sound system first, then vocabulary and syntax, and later, the ability to narrate (Tomasello, 2003; Roskos and Neuman, 2005; Neuman and Marulis, 2010). Roma children are no exception in this process of language development. The only difference is that Roma parents use different strategies and approaches for language development that are partially from the Roma culture (e.g., fairytales, folk songs, teasing, and language games). In Roma communities, everyone is free to communicate and play with children. Within extended families, Roma children are exposed to different registers when speaking with parents, adults and siblings (Kyuchukov, 2014; Kyuchukov, Kaleja & Samko, 2016).

In some European countries, Roma children are still tested with IQ tests, although in the U.S. and some European countries, the use of IQ tests is forbidden.

Bafekr (1999) studied “two culturally distinct groups: Poles and Romanian Gypsies” using “projective tests and intelligence tests as an aid to understand many difficult situations.” According to the author, Roma children are often absent from school due to their culture because the knowledge acquired at school “does not conform to the values of Gypsy culture, particularly not at the cognitive and semantic levels” (p. 300). Bafekr (1999: 301) also notes,

“On the standardized intelligence tests the [Roma] children scored far below average. At the same time, however, their ‘practical’ intelligence appears to be much higher than many children at the same age. Children as young as eight, for example, are expected to find their way around the city, survive in any situation, and give the impression of the independence. This finding is confirmed in virtually all the literature describing the educational problems of Gypsy children.... If the attitude towards education in Gypsy culture is considered along with their view of the world (which is pre-operational at the cognitive level), then different test results are all too understandable since they are based on ‘Western’ standards. At a minimum, then, we should stop assessing the intelligence of Gypsy children against Western standards using Western measures. Perhaps an attempt should be made to educate them in a way that guarantees a minimum of educational and cultural compliance between the two cultures.”

Although Bafekr makes what can be interpreted as racist comments about the Roma culture and schooling, ultimately, he suggests that Roma children should not be measured by Western IQ tests, even though researchers continue to use them. However, only five years later, when researching Czech and Slovak Roma children, Bakalar (2004:291) noted,

“Several studies in central Europe have shown that Gypsies tend to score lower on IQ tests. This has frequently been explained as the results of (a) the poor environmental conditions in which Gypsy families live and (b) language difficulties, because a number of Gypsies speak their own language and not that of the majority population. It is probable that the environment in which Gypsies typically live does not foster the development of intellectual abilities and social mobility. However, the pervasive social failure of Gypsies in all studied societies raises the question of whether their intellectual deficit is due to biological/genetic causes as well as environmental differences.” [our italics]

Bakalar argues that one problem Roma children face is they speak their mother tongue, which causes them to score low on IQ tests. However, strangely enough, the author does not question the cultural appropriateness of the IQ test. He clearly thinks that “Western” IQ tests are suitable for all cultures and are not culturally biased. …

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