12 Dec 2018

How to be a good neighbor in Kosovo 

Despite political and social barriers between the two ethnic groups in Kosovo, finding Albanians and Serbians who are studying each other's languages is not hard.  

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
How to be a good neighbor in Kosovo  - NewsMavens
Pristina seen from Radio Kosova 5, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Even if they start taking classes for different reasons, for work, because they are in relationships, or out of curiosity -- the end result of Serbs and Albanians learning each other's languages is that they are each taking a step towards mutual understanding.

If more Serbs and Albanians make an effort to learn the other’s language, they’ll begin to reflect on their "so-called differences," librarian Ivana Stevanović told Kosovo 2.0.

Stevanović believes those "differences" are "historically pushed onto all of us as constructs of public discourse."

"Language is the first step toward knowledge exchange," said journalist Gresë Sermaxhaj,  interviewed for the same article by Kosovo 2.0. 

During the time when the region was a part of Yugoslavia, Albanians were supposed to study Serbian because it was the official language. But for new generations of Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, learning each other's languages means moving towards reconciliation.

Details from the story:

  • Serbo-Croatian was the official language of Yugoslavia, while Albanian has been recognized as one of the minority languages.
  • That is why Kosovar Albanians had to speak Serbian, but Serbs living in Kosovo were less likely to learn Albanian during that time.
  • Serbian belongs to a group of South Slavic languages of Indo-European family of languages, while Albanian is a language with a distinct branch within the Indo-European family.
  • A majority of the population of Kosovo are ethnic Albanians. 
  • In 2006, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted the Law on the Use of Languages, which obliged  Kosovo's institutions to both Albanian and Serbian as the official languages. Civil servants, however, have to speak only one of the two. 

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