The official, national and most widespread language in the Republic of Macedonia is Macedonian (Slavic). Apart from it, Macedonia officially recognizes six national minority languages: Albanian, Turkish, Romani, Serbian, Bosnian, and Aromanian. The Macedonian Sign Language is the country's official sign language.
According to the last 2002 census, Macedonia had a population of 2.022,547 citizens. 1,344,815 Macedonian citizens declared that they speak Macedonian, 507,989 citizens speak Albanian, 71,757 citizens speak Turkish, 38,528 citizens speak Roma, 6,884 citizens speak Aromanian, 24,773 citizens speak Serbian, 8.560 citizens speak Bosnian and 19,241 citizens speak other languages.
The language policy in Macedonia is regulated by the 7 Article of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and the Law of languages. According to the national constitution:
- The Macedonian language, written using its Cyrillic alphabet, is the official language throughout the Republic of Macedonia and in the international relations of the Republic of Macedonia.
- Any other language spoken by at least 20 percent of the population is also an official language, written using its alphabet, as specified below.
- Any official personal documents of citizens speaking an official language other than Macedonian shall also be issued in that language, in addition to the Macedonian language, in accordance with the law.
- Any person living in a unit of local self-government in which at least 20 percent of the population speaks an official language other than Macedonian may use that official language to communicate with the office of the central government with responsibility for that municipality; such an office shall reply in that language in addition to Macedonian. Any person may use any official language to communicate with a main office of the central government, which shall reply in that language in addition to Macedonian.
- In the organs of the Republic of Macedonia, any official language other than Macedonian may be used in accordance with the law.
- In the units of local self-government where at least 20 percent of the population speaks a particular language, that language and its alphabet shall be used as an official language in addition to the Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet. With respect to languages spoken by less than 20 percent of the population of a unit of local self-government, the local authorities shall decide on their use in public bodies.
Some minority languages are co-official, along with Macedonian, in the municipalities (opštini) where they are spoken by at least 20% of the municipal population. Therefore, Albanian is co-official in Tetovo, Brvenica, Vrapčište and other municipalities. Turkish is co-official in Centar Župa and Plasnica. Romani in Šuto Orizari and Aromanian in Kruševo, even though it is spoken by ~10% of the municipal population. Serbian is also co-official in Čučer-Sandevo. Bosnian is the only recognized minority language that is not official on municipal level.
Macedonian (македонски јазик, makedonski jazik) is a South Slavic language, spoken as a first language by approximately 1.4-2.5 million people principally in Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora. It is the official language in Macedonia and a recognized minority language in parts of Albania, Romania and Serbia.
Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1945 and has since developed a thriving literary tradition. Most of the codification was formalized during the same period.
Albanian (gjuha shqipe) is an Indo-European language spoken by over 7.3 million people world-wide, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and Greece. Albanian is also spoken in centuries-old Albanian-based dialect speaking communities scattered in southern Greece, southern Italy,Sicily, Ukraine and the Albanian diaspora. Within Macedonia, Albanian is spoken in the North-Western and South-Western parts of the Republic.
Turkish (Türkçe) is the most populous of the Turkic languages, with over 70 million native speakers. Speakers are located predominantly in Turkey, with smaller groups in Germany, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, and other parts of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. Small Turkish-speaking communities can be found in several places in Macedonia, such as Vrapčište, Skopje and Gostivar.
Balkan Romani (Romani: romani ćhib) is one of several related languages of the Romani people, belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. Many varieties of Romani are divergent and sometimes considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani (300,000). In Macedonia Balkan Romani is spoken. Šuto Orizari is the largest Romani-speaking settlement in the country.
Serbian (српски, srpski) is a standardized register of the Serbo-Croatian language spoken by Serbs, mainly in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia. It is official in Serbia and one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is the principal language of the Serbs. Serbian is mainly spoken in the municipalities of Čučer Sandevo (~20% of the population) and Staro Nagoričane (19%).
Bosnian (bosanski, босански) is another standardized register of Serbo-Croatian, spoken by Bosniaks. As a standardized form of the Shtokavian dialect, it is one of the three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most of the Bosnian-speaking Macedonian citizens live in Skopje and the Municipality of Veles.
Aromanian (Limba Armãneascã) or Vlach is an Eastern Romance language spoken in several pockets across Southeastern Europe. Its speakers are called Aromanians or "Vlachs" (which is an exonym in widespread use to define the communities in the Balkans). It shares many features with modern Romanian, having similar morphology and syntax, as well as a large common vocabulary inherited from Latin. An important source of dissimilarity between Romanian and Aromanian is the adstratum languages: while Romanian has been influenced to a greater extent by the Slavic languages, Aromanian has been more influenced by the Greek language, with which it has been in close contact throughout its history. The largest Aromanian-speaking community in Macedonia can be found in the town of Kruševo (~10% of the municipal population). In Macedonia, the language is known as 'Vlach' (влашки јазик, vlaški jazik).
The Macedonian sign language (Macedonian: македонски знаковен јазик, translit. makedonski znakoven jazik or македонски гестовен јазик / makedonski gestoven jazik) is a sign language of the deaf community in Macedonia. As all sign languages, the Macedonian sign language is also based on gestures and body movements, particularly movements with the hands. The precise number of signers in Macedonia is not known, but 6,000 people request signed news on Macedonian television. The learning and the usage of the language, as well as the rights of the deaf community in Macedonia are regulated by a national law.
Many people speak a foreign language. Most of the older population has knowledge of Serbo-Croatian, French or German. Russian is also well-known. Among the younger population, English is extremely common, along with knowledge of Serbo-Croatian and some German.
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