Slovene? Ful Dobro!
The courses, organised by the Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, begin at the end of June and last two or four weeks. Besides standard classes of Slovene language, divided into 14 levels, participants also have the chance to choose from a number of elective courses: improving their pronunciation in phonetics and conversation classes, learning the basics of business Slovene, finding out about art and literature... 'This year, the number of participants is higher than ever in the 22 years since the summer courses started, which clearly shows that the interest for Slovene language is rising' points out Lidija Pogacnik, one of the organisers. 'Participants come from 34 different countries, most of them are very young descendants of Slovene immigrants from Argentina, others are Italian, Austrian, Canadian, German, also Japanese...'. You might spot some of them in Ljubljana wearing black t-shirts with the inscription: S slovenscino nimam tezav (I don't have problems with Slovene). Courses range from those for total beginners to highly advanced for speakers who only need to correct minor mistakes in order to reach perfection. Teachers are especially trained for teaching Slovene as a foreign language, and it seems that their students are more than satisfied with them; many come back, spend another holiday in the summer school for a higher level of Slovene, and when they feel ready, they take a test of Slovene. Some of them need it for work in Slovenia, others just for themselves, for the time 'when the opportunity comes', as a young French teacher Sonia says. What brought the students to Slovenia? 'Some time ago, I spent a year in Skofja Loka and taught French at a secondary school', says Sonia, 'and as I really like Slovenia, I learnt some Slovene in France by myself'. This summer she decided to take the course and pass the test of Slovene. 'Well, maybe next year,' she quickly adds, 'you know, the test is expensive and I'd really like be sure to pass it.' This way she will have definite proof that she speaks Slovene and she can work as a translator or do something similar in this field. Nao, a Japanese girl, worked as an interpreter at the Football World Cup, where she was showing our football heroes the Japanese sights, and they totally impressed her with photographs of Slovene mountains and valleys. And as you cannot learn Slovene in Japan, she came here - as a beginner, of course. 'I met some Slovenes who study Japanese', she giggles, 'it's so cute the way they speak it!' She's heading off to Austria and Italy after the course, but you never know, she says, she might come back one day. The age of the participants starts at 17, most of them are 20-something, although some enthusiasts are over 60! For most of them the course represents a holiday break, after which they'll return back home, but some have different plans. One of the youngest participants, an eighteen-year-old Lucas from Argentina, whose parents are Slovenes, has come here to stay. He's been here for two months now, and he lives in Ljubljana with his uncle. After he learns Slovene well (although he's too shy to admit that he already speaks quite well), he'll start thinking about university. What does he think about the quality of the course? 'Ful dobro', which says it all. A twenty-five year-old Marco from Italy also has Slovene roots - his parents belong to the Slovene minority in Italy and they speak half Italian half Slovene at home, which is the reason that his Slovene is already nearly perfect. He's staying in Ljubljana because he's doing a research on Slovenia entering the EU as a part of his post-graduate studies in Italy. 'I already took a course three years ago', he says, 'but it was actually a higher level than now, because I have forgotten a lot...'. Like everybody else, he thinks all the best about the school. But the Summer School of Slovene does not only mean sitting in classrooms in the morning from nine to twelve thirty, it entails all kinds of other activities in the afternoon. The accompanying programme includes visits of Ljubljana, photographs from the excursion to Stajerska are hung in front of the classrooms; students were making clay pots in the pottery workshop, they will go mountaineering, see a Slovene movie Kruh in mleko (Bread and Milk), spend a literary evening with Andrej Rozman Roza, and much more. As the programme itself, the brand new workbooks for students of Slovene are also really nice and prove that despite the terrifying declensions, dual and other 'horrors', learning Slovene can still be a lot of fun.