The Balkanistics programme at the Faculty of Philology in Pristina awaits accreditation, Language Center to be opened

FOTO: KoSSev

For almost two years now, the Faculty of Philology of the University of Pristina, with the support of the British Embassy, ​​the OSCE, and the IOM, has been working on opening a Balkanistics programme, where Serbian language will also be taught. The Kosovo Accreditation Agency’s decision on the programme’s accreditation is pending – and its positive outcome also necessitates the support of the university and the government. At the same time, the green light was given to open a Language Center at the faculty. Serbian and Albanian languages will primarily be taught at this center, whose participants will also receive a certificate in translation and interpretation.

The lack of professional translators and interpreters, poor quality of translation, lack of funding for translation services, inconsistency in legislation, but also the issue of mutual (non)recognition of Serbian and Kosovo diplomas are some of the key problems Kosovo institutions and citizens from non-majority communities have been facing for years.

The latest report from the NGO Center for Peace and Tolerance, which was presented yesterday in Pristina by Stefan Filipovic, highlighted these problems.

„The quality of translation is one of the basic problems we dealt with, while some ministries do not have any translators and there are courts which only have one translator. There are a total of 77 translators/ interpreters in the Kosovo justice system. The documents in a court must be accurately translated. The average time for translating one document is an hour, so a translator can translate from 5 to 8 documents during the day at most,“ Filipovic explained part of the problem.

Filipovic’s presentation is part of the report which assessed the needs of professional translators. The report is supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the British Embassy, and the OSCE as part of a broader project to institutionalize the learning of official languages ​​in Kosovo.

For the past two years, they have worked intensively with the University and Faculty of Philology in Pristina, the Ministry of Education, the Office of the Language Commissioner of the Kosovo Government, and the Accreditation Agency on supporting the faculty in preparing the documentation for the reaccreditation of the Balkanistics programme(s) and the regulations for the Language Center.

The key parties of the initiative set concrete expectations before the new Kosovo government and university leadership yesterday.

“There are many obvious reasons why the Language Center and the Balkanology programme should be established and supported by all relevant institutions, but I am only going to name two. Firstly, of course the Law on the Use of languages said that official documents must be translated into both official languages. I think we all know that it’s often not the case -they are not either translated, or they are not translated properly. However, equal access to services and information in official languages is essential, essential to all citizens, especially during the time like this of the pandemic when people rely on official information. Secondly and equally important is communication between people, communities and neighbours. That’s important in Kosovo but also in any other country where there are people who speak different languages, but who are living side by side, they need to communicate,” Nicholas Abbott, the UK ambassador to Pristina, said.

“In 2019 I had to explain to stakeholders what a Balkanistic programme was, what a long process we had in advance to prepare the documentation for this programme and now I can just confirm to you that we are in the process of accreditation. We are waiting for the foreign experts to review the programme, if we get positive feedback from them – to start with that in October 20/21,” the dean of the Faculty of Philology in Pristina, Lindita Rugova, said.

She added that a lot has been done since December 2019, when they first met with international partners at the premises of the Faculty for Philology, while also summarizing the plans in one sentence: That the establishment of a Language Centre within the framework of the Faculty of Philology will make a difference in providing extracurricular activities related to the learning of languages in Kosovo.

“And now in front of you I have the decision for the establishment of the Language Center approved by the Steering Board of the University of Pristina,” stated Rugova, who is one of the key movers of the project.

While the programme is waiting for the green light from the Kosovo Accreditation, Rugova revealed that she, together with “the friends of Balkanistic” and with the support of OSCE and IOM, conducted a long search for the professors in the region willing to come to Pristina. As a result, Josip Lasic and Ana Sivacki expressed their interest to come to Pristina and work as full-time staff with the Faculty of Philology, Rugova confirmed.

In addition, the working group is intensively working on compiling, and creating a one year professional master program that would serve first of all the government in its needs for future translators and interpreters in official languages in Kosovo, as well as other institutional needs in general.

Although they gave support for everything that promotes social development, provides opportunities for young people, integration of communities and social cohesion in general, the rector and the new Kosovo Minister of Education avoided directly connecting that support with the so-called Balkanistic studies.

Arberie Nagavci emphasized that communication is the bridge that connects people.

Speaking of the “joint progress of the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo,” Nagavci said:

“By knowing each other we understand each other better and we manage to accept each other and make sure that we build bridges of cooperation, supporting each other and moving forward together through dialogue to overcome dilemmas.”

OSCE Ambassador to Kosovo, Michael Davenport, in his first public address since taking office a week ago, welcomed the Government’s commitment and the University of Pristina for establishing the Balkanistic study programme and the language center.

“The idea is that the Balkanistic studies programme will indeed create a sort of pipeline of professional and efficient interpreters, both in government and crucially in the private sector”.

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