“Greece really is a unique country and for me and my family will always stay in our hearts forever,” says Jona, who is looking forward to taking her first Greek class ever this week.
“It was hard because I didn’t know any English except for ‘hi’ -that’s all, but with a lot of hard work and will-power I learned it so well that I even receive an Academic award in year 12 and in year 11.” – Jona Karsniqi
The 20-year-old, although born in Albania began her love affair with the Greek language in 1994 when she migrated to Greece following the divorce of her parents.
“Mum wanted us to have a better future…like many other Albanians did and still do today for that reason,” she explains.
Jona quickly fell in love with the Greek language; speaking more Greek than Albanian at home.
That was until she moved to Australia (Shepparton) at 16 years of age, to unite with several of her family members who resided in the country.
“It was hard because I didn’t know any English except for ‘hi’ -that’s all, but with a lot of hard work and will-power I learned it so well that I even receive an Academic award in year 12 and in year 11.”
Unfortunately her school, Notre Dame College did not offer Greek although Jona soon found out from a friend that VCE Greek was available to study online by distance education through the Victorian School of Languages (VSL).
“When I found out I was thrilled…I didn’t want to miss that opportunity which would make me feel that I was closer to Greece and that I was in some way home again,” she says.
“But when I approached my school co-coordinator she was so against me studying Greek and told me it would be too hard and not to bother doing it!”
Jona ignored her and enrolled in VCE Units 1 and 2 Greek in 2007, and Units 3 and 4 the following year by distance education with the VSL.
She received worksets on different topics each week and was given a phone teleconference lesson by her teacher every week.
At times she had teleconferences with other students.
Topics ranged from essay writing on movies, to maintaining the Greek language, how it feels to have a Greek-Australian Identity (in Jona’s case Greek-Albanian), and describing special moments when she was at school in Greece.
“Studying distance education Greek for two years was the most enjoyable time of my school life,” Jona says.
“I haven’t just learned lots about Greece and made great friends but I have better self motivation, self discipline and organisational skills.”
Jona also went on to study Albanian with the VSL in a classroom setting but says she preferred the correspondence learning method as she was less distracted by others and felt more accountable to do the work in time for the weekly teleconference sessions.
Her multi-lingual skills have payed off as she was recently offered the role of a full-time dental assistant.
“The dentist needed someone to translate his foreign patients and we have lots of Greeks and Albanians here in Shepparton,” she explains.
Jona will be granted Australian Citizenship next year and hopes to continue her Greek language teaching for years to come.
“I would definitely recommend learning Greek by correspondence- but the most important message I have for the Greek-Australian community is to always talk to their children in Greek, and to send them to a Greek school because one day they are going to thank you for it.”