Teaching Serbian as a foreign is more than a professional engagement. – When I learnt ASA was looking for a teacher of Serbian as a foreign or native language, I immediately knew I wanted to take part in this program. Tamara from ASA introduced me to teachers Ana, Djole, Ivana and many others from the association. They told me about the sacrifices they made while forming the organization, years of volunteering and exchange of students from around the world. I could totally identify with all these. I remembered my beginnings in teaching, my volunteering and involvement in spreading the influence of Serbian language and literature. You are guessing I jumped at the chance to join this amazing team of professionals in the advanced methodology of teaching Serbian as a foreign language.
Volunteer work in Nis
Humanitarian work with children and young people truly inspires me. Alongside my regular job I volunteered at the Charitable Fund Philanthropy, Niš as a Serbian language and literature teacher. I also taught Serbian language and literature at the facility for children without parental care Duško Radović in Niš. I found working with children gratifying and motivating, seeing that I am a parent myself. This helped me understand the difficulties of growing up outside the typical family environment. Furthermore, I was involved in conflict resolution between foster-parents and foster-children. I also participated in conducting polls with families facing financial problems and disabled children and informing them about their rights in the legal system of the country.
Work experience in Portugal
I spent some time teaching literature in Lisbon, Portugal. I saw this job as a unique opportunity to learn how to deal with these methodological challenges and overcome them in one of EU countries. Afterwards, I was able to apply the method and the experience in my own environment. As an author of many literary reviews and a contributor to various literary magazines, I try to present how to overcome prejudice in all aspects of life via literature and learning languages.
That was my first contact with the people from this wonderful country. At that point Portuguese literature became one of my favorite literatures. I particularly enjoy the works by the magnificent Gonçalo M. Tavares, my great role model and inspiration.
The history of Portugal, particularly the period of rebelion against Salazar’s rule and its successful outcome in 1970s was something I could associate with Serbia. I learnt a lot about their journey to the accession to European Union. I was selected for the project of Parallel research in informal education and overcoming discrimination in the educational system. I experienced slight cultural differences in the beginning. However, I soon had the full support of my mentor Patricia, wonderful children in Mais Skillz Project, as well as extraordinary people in the Association (Luisa, Anita, Alice, Andrea, Joana, Deniz, Fidel, my dear Portugese teacher Isa and many others). I also had the chance to become familiar with formal and informal education system in Portugal.
Working with immigrants
The focus of my work were immigrants and with the help of my colleagues from the Association I carried out the entire project. I gained the abundance of knowledge there. Immediately I shared with my students and colleagues at home. I was worried I was not suitable for the project, being 30 at the time. However, this concern diminished each day. In the end I realized that age can never be an obstacle in the fight for human dignity. My younger colleagues Tomaso, Aga, Remzi, Marin and Jelena were also my roommates. We shared an apartment in the beautiful Washington Street, the street which I still dream about. I experienced an entirely new universe there. I got to know it more and more each day and became a part of it.
Cooperation with volunteers from Italy
Meeting the senior volunteers from Italy (Marina, Franco, Augustino) was also exceptional. These people had previous experience in humanitarian work in former Yugoslavia. Exchanging experience with them helped me realize that humanitarian work is one of the most wonderful jobs in the world. I wanted to remain the part of that extraordinary family forever. I also participated in the conference for NGOs from Portugal, thanks to Luisa and Patricia, which reassured me that our problems are very similar. Moreover, I learned that the stage performance of my mentor, a talented actress, is a powerful means of conveying messages to make the world a better place.
Although there were many positive things about their school. The methods used were often insufficiently profiled. Even though the standard European model has been adopted, there are many mistakes in its practical usage. However, this emphasizes the great importance of organizations like Mais Cidadania and similar. Together with senior volunteers from Italy, I participated in activities such as collecting food, clothes, shoes, books etc.
Workshops for children
We organized a workshop where people living in bad social conditions could come. We take whatever they needed for themselves and their families. A Polish volunteer Aga and I worked on organizing different workshops for children who didn’t go anywhere for Christmas. Thus, a kind of a day-care centre was organized in Mais Cidadania, where some people were also able to stay in the Association during this period.
Based on my experience and encounters with people from different European and non-European countries, I realized that learning different languages is one of the most important projects today. In my opinion, the cultural inheritance of different participants, their interaction and peer education creates the generation of future intellectuals which will convey messages, just like missionaries, of the future society.
Such society will be able to assimilate differences and unite Europeans in something that is most valuable – culture, love and mutual respect. Today, I can say I do not only have friends but also a family in Portugal, France, Italy, Angola, Poland, Germany, Greece and many other countries. The love I gained during this wonderful experience I spread to my students and my associates and I dream of a better world which will connect us all in the future. I also hope that the person reading this article decides to become part of that dream and the future ahead of us.
The author of the text “Teaching Serbian as a foreign is more than a professional engagement” is Marko Radulovic, online teacher of the Serbian language of the Academic Serbian Association, the only accredited school for learning the Serbian language in online classes. Apply and learn with us. See you!