Meet Monika Maric, a Serbian who speaks fluent Albanian

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 2, 2017 16:53

Story Highlights

  • “Both sides are full of prejudice and stereotypes, and the only way to overcome them is to get to know the country and people. We can do that by organizing more debates, seminars, summer and winter schools where people can meet and get to know each other and learn about culture, architecture, lifestyle, cuisine, nature,” says Monica Maric, the third Serbian fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) in Tirana.

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Monika Maric

Monika Maric has graduated in Albanian language from the University of Belgrade at the Albanian Language Department of the Faculty of Philology.  She is currently doing a “Cultures in dialogue” Master’s at the University of Belgrade. Monika is the third Serbian fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) in Tirana.

In an interview for Tirana Times, Monika Maric explains why she picked the Albanian language for her career and suggests how to overcome historical barriers.

“Both sides are full of prejudice and stereotypes, and the only way to overcome them is to get to know the country and people. We can do that by organizing more debates, seminars, summer and winter schools where people can meet and get to know each other and learn about culture, architecture, lifestyle, cuisine, nature,” says Monica Maric, the third Serbian fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) in Tirana.

Established in late 2015, the joint center aims to organize various activities and projects. AIIS and Belgrade-based Forum for International Relations of the European Movement Serbia (EMinS) have been contributing for the past couple of years to improving the relations between the two EU-candidate countries, Albania and Serbia.

The collaboration of Albanian and Serbian non-governmental organizations aims to support the reconciliation process between Albania and Serbia, while youth exchange programs will aid in eliminating prejudices.

 

Monika you are a student of Albanian language and speak fluent Albanian, like few Serbians do. What can you tell us about yourself and how come you picked the Albanian language for your future career? Is Albanian a difficult language to learn for a Serbian?

That is a question I am asked by many people. I finished grammar school– social-linguistic course, and after high school I wanted to continue with languages. I was thinking about Italian, Turkish, Dutch, but mostly about Italian. Then, before the entrance exam, my family friends, who are also my mentors, told me to enroll in Albanian language. I thought it over and decided to do so. I picked Albanian because it is a very rare language and since all Balkan countries have engaged in joint cooperation, I thought that in the future it will be very useful since few people from Serbia know Albanian.

Also, we lack translators, but we have a need for them. When I started learning Albanian, I realized that I liked it and I was very determined and have learned a lot. In the beginning it was hard, but after one year of constant learning, it was much easier.

 

What can you tell us about the department of the Albanian language at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade? How many students are studying there? Why is there little interest? What about the professors, are they Serbian, Kosovars or Albanians?

The Department of Albanian language was established in 1925, originally as “Seminar za arbanasku filologiju” at the Faculty of Philosophy, and was then entrusted to Albanologist Henrik Baric. During World War II, the Seminar was suspended. The seminar resumed work in 1948/49. After the establishment of the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade in 1960/61, the Albanian Language Seminar continued its work as a Department of Albanian Language and Literature. In 2007, the Faculty of Philology established cooperation with Albania, and two guest professors, Stefan Çapaliku and Primo Shllaku arrived as well as poet Ledija Dushi as a lecturer. Since then, every year guest professors from Albania have been coming, but maybe the biggest problem is that we need permanent professors from Albania, in order to practise what we have learned in grammar classes.

In the past few years, they have been working as guest professors and not as a permanent associates. In addition, we have very small classes, but the ones who are determined can also learn on their own. One of the flaws is that in every department of the faculty, students are only learning standard language, and we also need to learn dialects. So far, about 400 students have graduated from this department, and since 1958 dozens of them have mastered.

Since two years now the department has been working in its renovated and adapted classrooms, which, with the creation of an electronic catalogue of the library, allows for more regular and diverse work of the entire department. Each year approximately 15 students enroll in Albanian language and literature and this is the maximum that the Faculty can accept. In the past two or four years, more and more students have enrolled in Albanian, so all the places have been taken. Thanks to cooperation between faculties, every year we have the opportunity to go to the Prishtina and Tirana summer seminars for the Albanian language, literature and culture.

 

You have been selected as a fellow of the Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations at the Albanian Institute for International Studies in Tirana.  What do you expect from this three-month internship?

 In the future I want to work on Serbian-Albanian cooperation, but mostly in the field of culture. Currently I am on my Master’s degree – Cultures in dialogue, at the Faculty of Philology. I want to write about this topic for my Master’s work, so I hope that this internship will help me, and that I will contribute to the work of Institute and learn something new.

 

You have visited Albania a few times, do you see any progress in Albania-Serbia relations in the past few years?

 Yes, I have been a few times to Albania, and I like it a lot, especially the seaside. Since 2013, I think we have done a lot together. State visits are increasingly frequent as well as trade exchanges, NGOs are more connected as well as youth organizations – by that I mean the Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans (RYCO) that was established this year with its seat in Tirana, there is more and more youth exchange, which tells a lot about the progress between the two countries.

 

How do you think the two countries can overcome historical barriers and prejudice, can student exchanges, tourism help?

In the first place, there are student and youth exchanges, but also visits by adults to Albania through tourism. Both sides are full of prejudices and stereotypes, and the only way to overcome them is to get to know the country and people. We can do that by organizing more debates, seminars, summer and winter schools where people can meet and get to know each other and learn about culture, architecture, lifestyle, cuisine, nature.

 

Have you had the opportunity to visit or read about tourist attractions and coastal or mountain areas in Albania. How did you find them and how do you think the two countries can increase tourist exchanges considering Albania’s summer coastal tourism and Serbia’s winter tourism?

I have read a lot about Albanian tourism on the internet and by following some web pages. I have visited a few places in northern and central Albania, like Shkodra and Durrës beaches, but I want to also explore the south of Albania. The landscape is so beautiful and untouched. I am spreading the word that you have a very beautiful seaside. We can improve tourist exchanges by promoting destinations in both countries more on television and tourism fairs.

 

Do you read in Albanian? What’s your favorite author?

Yes, I am reading in Albanian, but until now only few books by Ismail Kadare, so I can’t say he is my favorite, but I liked him and his writing style. I hope I will read more while I am here.

 

 Do you see yourself working with Albanian language as a translator/interpreter or researcher or do you intend to study something else?

For now, I see myself working as a translator because it was my first idea, but who knows where the future will take me. I have finished a “Future studies” course at the Belgrade Open School, where we talked a lot and practically learned about daily politics and situations which prompted me to think in a way of international cooperation. Maybe I can do something in that field.

 

What’s your message for the few Serbians studying Albanian and few Albanians studying Serbian, will it help know each other better?

Be persistent, do not let yourself to be demotivated by the lack of all language learning requirements and I advise them to work on their language learning every day in order to learn faster. Also, for good practice, they should not miss the opportunities they are given to go and spend some time in the natural surrounding and talk to people.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 2, 2017 16:53