POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Bojana Virjent Novak

At the 50th anniversary of the police education the Police Academy for Managing in Munster issued the jubilee proceedings. In the article referring to the 50th anniversary of policing (working) in the field of traffic security, police officers' knowledge of foreign languages was not mentioned at all. Similarly, the paper referring to federal state border police (for security of state border) did not mention foreign languages. High police official speaking of criminality in Germany remarked upon police officers having troubles with foreigners especially in Frankfurt, but not upon difficulties in dealings or communicating with them.

We have been studying police dealings with foreigners and efficiency of such dealings according to good or bad knowledge of foreign languages for some years. It has been found out that the knowledge of foreign languages should be improved, and it should be taken care of permanent advanced study (education) in this field. Some guidebooks were issued for that reason in those spheres with most dealings (border, traffic, crime).


In elementary schools in Slovenia mostly the English language is taught, and in some of them, the German language, but in the area close to Italian border, the Italian language is taught. In the secondary schools it is continued with teaching of the foreign language taught in the elementary school. As a second foreign language especially in grammar schools the German language is taught, less French and Italian language. In technical secondary schools, in 3rd and 4th grade, the professional language is taught. Teaching of one professional foreign language is prevailing at high technical schools.

Most pupils in the 4-year police secondary school are learning English, less German and only some of them are learning Italian language. The professional language is taught in the 3rd and 4th grade.

At the College of Police and Security Studies the foreign language is classified among compulsory subjects. Students can choose English, German or Italian language. They continue with the language, they have learned the longest time. Special attention is devided to the work with texts from professional literature (periodicals).


Hoffmann defined in the year 1980 the language of proficiency as follows: "The professional language is the entirety of the linguistic resources, used in the professionally limited field of communication and enabling understanding among experts (professionals) working in this field.

The particularity of the professional language in comparison with general language can be seen on the level of lexics, therefore in the professional vocabulary or terminology. From the sociolinguistic aspect professional languages are the languages of groups or special languages, defined by linguistic habits of certain groups of profession (occupation) and therefore of social levels as well.


George Hiller (1996), speaking of military language, explains that this communication instrument should be adapted to military requirements. The US Army (land forces) - beside a number of adequate sections in major units - takes much interest in language extensiveness of communication, particularly the faculty and its linguistic section at Military Academy, adequate section at the General Staff College and special linguistic school in California. A few thousands of highly qualified people jointly work in this field. The final goal is to create the communication medium, explaining more and better in a more economical way.

In Slovenia there are some experts occupied with Slovene military language.


The German police lexicon of 1995 defines the term police language as the special way of expression in the field of police. Legitimacy of police activity (policing) and therefore also

communicating leads to united use of numerous terms and instructions. The police language influences the diction of police regulations, as they include the special way of expression and abbreviations. On the grounds of the equal pre-education and police experiences, police officers and police stations could communicate among themselves using only abbreviations. Much of urgent information processing and the need for quick understanding and reconciliation in particular situation are the next reasons for abbreviations in the police language. The communication of the police officer with a citizen in police language can do harm to the language itself and the understanding between them.

Unfortunately nobody takes interest in (is occupied with) Slovene police language in our country.

Research in German professional language in the field of law, internal affairs, and public security

Within the study for the second university degree (MA) a linguistic research in the mentioned field was carried out. The nouns, chosen from articles in German professional periodicals (magazines) were devided with help of different dictionaries into professional terms and professionally used ones. These nouns were further classified according to Hoffmann's structural matrix into simplexes, derivations, compounds and word groups. According to Fletcher the compounds were further devided into determinatives and copulatives, the derivations into explicit and implicit ones. The nouns were found in five basic professional fields (spheres) and it was found out, that in the field of crime science, other sciences in the field of criminality and administration studies - the frequency of professional terms was relatively high. In the field of information technology there prevail mostly technical (professional) terms and in the field of management mostly professionally used ones. The results of the research will enable a better teaching of German language as a professional language at our College (Virjent,1991,1993).

The research : (In)efficiency of police dealings with foreigners and (in)proficiency in foreign languages

The purpose of the research was:

Statistical data for the period from 1981 to 1991 have shown, that the majority of police dealings with foreigners was in the area of police station Piran, following is police station Ljubljana -Center and third is the police station Bled. Police officers had to fill a questionnaire and answered some questions about learning of the foreign languages, working experiences, dealings with foreigners and possibilities of improving their knowledge of foreign language. At the police station Piran 69 per cent of all employed police officers answer the questionnaire, at the police station Ljubljana-Center 63 per cent, and at police station Bled 76 per cent. We interviewed 106 police officers altogether.

Police officers have working contacts with foreigners from all over the world. Most frequent contacts are with citizens from former Yugoslavia, then with foreigners from Western Europe and on third place the foreigners from Eastern Europe.

The majority of the interviewed police officers thinks, that ignorance or bad knowledge of a foreign language quite often influences the duration of the dealing. After their opinion a police dealing is sometimes given up in the case of minor offence and often left out in the case of bad knowledge of a foreign language.

According to our pattern 90 per cent of interviewed police officers finished learning a foreign language in the secondary school. The average time after finishing the school is 6 years and by 51 per cent of interviewed 4 years. The majority (85 per cent) has never visited any linguistic course after finishing school. Sixty-two per cent of police officers use a foreign language only at times. Although police officers' proficiency in foreign languages was not questioned separately it could be assumed that it is not satisfactory. There are two details confirming this fact: in most cases a police officer or a citizen is called, who can speak a foreigner's language and 91 per cent of all interviewed wish to refresh their knowledge of language.

Eighty-seven per cent of the interviewed police officers presume that the proficiency in a foreign language should be one of the conditions for the employment on such working places, where police officers often have contacts with foreigners. At the end of the research we suggested to police units, they should accomplish a list, where it would be evident who speaks a particular foreign language. This should guarantee that police officers have the opportunity to speak foreign languages more often.


We have analysed the requirements of proficiency in foreign languages in some fields of police work. It was established, that most police dealings with foreigners are in the spheres of border control, traffic safety, investigating crime, and peace and order. The analysis also showed that the languages most needed by police officers working in the mentioned spheres are German, Italian and English.

According to the numbers are the most police dealings with foreigners in the sphere of border control, less in the sphere of traffic safety and even less in investigating crime. The pretentiousness of these dealings and of proficiency in foreign languages is quite opposite.


The first foreign language course for police officers was organized in the year 1951 in Ljubljana. On opening of the highway Ljubljana-Zagreb in the year 1959, traffic police officers obtained a booklet with traffic warnings in French, German, Italian and English language. The booklet had 14 pages and there were included the most frequent situations in it.

Until 1970 were those police officers, who spoke a foreign language, additionally stimulated. After that year, when a foreign language became a compulsory object at the Secondary police school, there was no stimulation any more.

We issued a Handbook for police officers working in the sphere of border control in German and Italian language due to analysis of foreign language requirements in the year 1991. It would contribute to better understanding at the border crossings between foreigners, coming to our country, and police officers. These handbooks were first to appear because police dealings are most frequent at the border. It is important what impression does a police officer at the border crossing leave on a foreigner, since this first contact represents the whole country. A foreigner could be favourably impressed by police officer's good knowledge of a foreign language (Kasal, 1991).

The Slovene police, in trying to approach the public and foreign tourists, issued a Handbook for traffic police officers in German and Italian language in 1992. Our police officers mostly contact foreigners when they have to explain some interesting information for tourists, when they have to take measures against offenders of traffic regulations and in traffic accidents (Hojnik,1992).

In 1993, the third Handbook was issued with the title: Handbook for police officers in German, Italian and English language. It is available at all police stations that foreigner can visit in a case of a criminal offence.


Markus M.F. Mohler (DSc) from Switzerland emphasised in his paper: "Mixing of population in some countries and different cultural influences require good communication, meaning also linguistic, rhetoric abilities of those who maintain or should restore peace and order, therefore working in the conflict sphere...."

Genevieve Bourdin from Ministry of the Interior in Paris presented on the 50th anniversary of police education in Munster, in her paper entitled: "European Dimensions of Police Education", the results of the group TREVI II in the field of police education as follows:

The author mentioned in 1991 signed French-German agreement on linguistic education enabling exchange of approximately 100 police officers. Seminars last 7 weeks (3 weeks learning of languages, 4 weeks working at the police station). Developing better and closer contacts among police officers is another positive detail for better police co-operation.

Education is an indispensable compound part of police co-operation and should not be separated from operative co-operation. It enables mutual understanding among police officers and better understanding of the troubles they have to deal with.


If Slovenia wants to be classified among tourist countries, it should have capable, polite as well as educated police. Education in this case means, that a Slovene police officer can talk to a foreigner, tourist who is in trouble, had an accident, or he is even suspected of something. In foreigner's language.

Slovene police should consider such an agreement - perhaps first with neighbouring countries. In this way a lot could be done for better co-operation of police officers and better knowledge of foreign languages.

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