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Learning to speak the wrong way right - A Course in Modern Geg Albanian

In early 2002, as conflict continued to rage in the southern Balkans, I was asked to design and teach a Kosovo Albanian dialect conversion course for recently graduated students of Albanian.  These students were excellent linguists with a proven track record in learning languages to a high level, but the only downside for them was that the standard Albanian (known in Albanian as gjuha letrare or ‘literary language’) that they had learned so well bore only a passing resemblance to the spoken Albanian of Kosovo, where their jobs were to take them.  I know that native Albanian speakers generally dispute the idea that there is such a chasm between the literary language (based heavily on the southern, ‘Tosk’ dialect) and the northern, Gheg (or Geg) dialect spoken in Kosovo, but my experience with non-native students of the language tells a different story.  I will always remember the first day for one of my students.  He had passed his end of course exam with flying colours and was very confident.  He then started my assessment, listened to two minutes of spoken Kosovo Gheg Albanian and asked dejectedly, “is this even Albanian?”

 

So there was the challenge that faced me - and him.  Unfortunately, to assert that there was a dearth of English-language teaching material available for Kosovo Albanian at the time would be an overstatement.  I had to source and prepare my own materials, sometimes ‘translating’ standard Albanian into Gheg Albanian, but soon putting together original resources, many of which were often intricately imagined conversations weaving together the many elements of Gheg grammar, idiom and vocabulary that differ markedly from the standard language.  I taught the course with these home-made materials for the rest of 2002, but it soon became clear that more and more students were to follow and all would need to be ‘indoctrinated’ into the many wonders of Gheg Albanian.  So, in the absence of any off-the-shelf solution, I started writing a book of my own to bring together all the resources that I had found to be effective and to grade the material from absolute beginner to competent practitioner, as required by the job.  Given the fact that many native Gheg Albanian speakers do not speak altogether grammatically and tend to reduce words in the standard language to barely recognisable monosyllables, I was effectively teaching students of Albanian how to speak the wrong way right and understand a language that was not spoken in the way that they had learned.

 

To give you a taste of what resulted from all this, I am publishing below the first lesson (or ‘Mësimi i Parë’) of my 2006 course, Gegnishtja e sotme - a Course in Modern Geg Albanian.  I hope it sparks an interest in a little-known language that has interested and fascinated me for years!

 


 

MËSIMI I PARË

 

1. Bisedë (Conversation)

 

Hysniu: Tung Xhev!

 

Xhevdeti: Tung shoqi!  Qysh je vëlla?  A je mirë?

 

Hysniu: Krejt rahat, shëndosh jam.  Falemnderit.  A je lodhë ti?

 

Xhevdeti: Nga pak, vëlla.  A ka najsen të re?

 

Hysniu: Jo.  Njiherë jo.  Hajt pra.  Shëndet.  Mirupafshim!

 

Xhevdeti: Po, mirupafshim.  Shifemi prapë.

 

 

Fjalorth (Vocabulary)

 

All the vocabulary presented in these lessons is listed in an Albanian to English glossary at the end of the book for ease of reference.

 

Hysni, Xhevdet (Xhev)                         Albanian male names

tung (short for tungat, tungjatjeta)        hi!  hello!

shok/shoqi                                              friend, mate

qysh                                                        how

(ti) je                                                       you are (familiar form)

vëlla                                                        brother/mate

mirë                                                         good, fine, okay

krejt                                                         completely, entirely

rahat                                                        fine

shëndosh (pronounced: shnosh)              healthy, in good health

falemnderit                                              thank you

a                                                               (question marker)

a je lodhë ti?                                             are you okay?

nga pak                                                     a little, a bit

ka                                                              there is

najsen                                                        anything, something

të re                                                           new

jo                                                               no

njiherë                                                       at the moment, right now

hajt pra                                                      okay then

pra                                                             then

shëndet (pronounced: shnet)                     (good) health

mirupafshim                                              goodbye

po                                                               yes

shifemi                                                       we’ll see each other

prapë                                                          again

 

2. Sqarime (Explanations)

 

a) The standard Albanian word for ‘hello’, tungjatjeta, literally translating as ‘may your life be lengthened’, is regularly abbreviated in conversation to either tungat or the more colloquial tung, as in the conversation above.

 

b) To address a close friend in a similar way to how one might say ‘mate’ in English, Albanians tend to use the word shok (literally ‘friend, comrade’) or the word vëlla, which literally means ‘brother’, although it is more often than not simply used to refer to a close friend.

 

c) Kosovar and Macedonian Albanians particularly use a myriad of expressions for saying ‘how are you?’ or ‘how’s it going?’  As well as the literal qysh je?, a popular expression is a je lodhë?, literally meaning ‘are you tired?’, two variations on which are: a je mërzitë? (literally ‘are you upset?’) and a po plakesh? (literally ‘are you getting old?)  The standard response to all three is nga pak, i.e. ‘a little’, whether one is tired/upset/getting old, or not!

 

d) The word shëndet literally means ‘health’, but it is used as an expression on its own to mean either ‘(I wish you) good health’, or ‘bless you’, in response to somebody sneezing.

 

e) Just as the Albanian word for ‘hello’ (tungjatjeta) is actually made up of a number of words sandwiched together, the word for ‘goodbye’ (mirupafshim) is also made up of several words, literally meaning ‘may we see each other in good times’.

 

3. Gramatikë (Grammar)

 

a) The verbs ‘to be’: me qenë, me konë and ‘to have’: me pasë

 

Although there is a pattern to most verbs in Albanian, the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’, as in many other languages, are irregular, and their present tense forms in Geg Albanian are given below.  A point to note is that, also as in many other languages, Albanian does not normally need to use subject pronouns (‘I, you, he, we etc.’), as verbs have specific endings to mark which person is doing the action/in the state concerned.  The present tense forms of jam and kam are as follows: 

 

jam/jem/jom   I am                  kam/kem/kom    I have

je                     you are              ke/ki                    you have

âsht/â              he/she/it is        ka                         he/she/it has

jemi/jena        we are               kemi/kena           we have

jeni                  you are             keni/kini              you have

janë                 they are            kanë                     they have

 

Geg Albanian pronunciation tends to differ from region to region, and the forms jam and kam above can be pronounced in the three possible ways shown.  Jemi and jena and kemi and kena are virtually interchangeable alternatives, although the jena and kena forms tend to be used in less formal registers.

 

b) Expressing ‘you’ in Geg Albanian

 

Albanian has two forms for the English ‘you’.  Ti, used in the conversation above, is a familiar form, used to address family, friends, subordinates etc, and its form in the present tense of the verb ‘to be’ is (ti) je.  Ju and the verb form jeni are used to address more than one ‘you’, regardless of how friendly or not the speaker may be with those people, OR as a polite form used when addressing strangers, superiors or anyone to whom the speaker wishes to show respect.  A note of caution, however - in practice, Albanians will quite freely swap between the two, often in the same sentence, and even the closest of friends can find themselves being addressed as ju one minute, and ti  the next.

 

c) ‘There is, there are’

 

The word ka, used in the conversation above, literally means ‘he, she, it has’, but it is also the translation of the English ‘there is’ or ‘there are’, as in a ka najsen të re?, ‘is there any news?’  The plural verb form kanë can also be used to express the equivalent of ‘there are’.

 

d) Expressing a question

 

Questions in Albanian can either be formed by changing one’s intonation, as in English, or by prefixing the sentence with the question marker a, hence a je mirë?, ‘are you okay?’ versus je mirë, ‘you are okay’, and a je lodhë?, literally ‘are you tired?’, as opposed to je lodhë, ‘you are tired’.

 

4. Ushtrime (Practise)

 

a) How would you say, ‘hello!  How are you?’

b) Reply that you are fine, and ask ‘how are you?’ using a different expression.

c) Ask whether there is any news.

d) Reply that, just at the minute, there’s nothing new.

e) End the conversation by saying ‘goodbye, we’ll see each other again’.

f) Translate into English:

 

Jena mirë, falemnderit.

A jeni rahat, shëndosh?

Xhevdeti âsht mirë njiherë.

Po, jem lodhë nga pak.

 

5. Zakone dhe histori (Customs and history)

 

a) A point to remember when face to face with an Albanian is that Albanians shake their heads to indicate ‘yes’, and nod their heads for ‘no’!

 

b) Geg Albanian is the national dialect of the UN-administered province of Kosovo, the northern and western regions of Macedonia, bordering on Kosovo and eastern Albania, Montenegro, northern Albania as far south as the Shkumbin river (including Tirana and Elbasan) and most of the Albanian diaspora in Europe and the USA.  Geg is characterised by nasal vowels, monosyllabic words, little standardisation and a large number of words of Turkish origin, mainly absent from the Tosk and Arbëresh dialects of southern Albania, Greece and parts of Italy.  The first recorded sentence ever found in Albanian, dating from a 1462 translation of the Latin baptism service, was in Geg, and Geg formed the basis of the original standard Albanian language in the 1920s.  A standardised spelling for written Geg Albanian was also established at Pristina University in 1964, although it has never been widely applied.

 

c) All ethnic Albanians, wherever they live, and whatever their official statehood, consider the Albanian National Anthem, Himni i Flamurit (‘The Hymn of the Flag’), to be their own.  The Himni i Flamurit, written by Aleksandër “Asdren” Drenova in the late 19th century, was adopted as the national anthem of independent Albania in November 1912, but is now sung at all solemn occasions by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia especially, as a further affirmation of their separate identity.


d) The Albanian national flag, consisting of the double-headed black eagle (shqiponja or shkaba dykrenore) on a red background, derives from the banner of the Albanian national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti-Skënderbeu, known in English as Skanderbeg, who held the invading Ottomans at bay from the northern Albanian mountains in the first half of the fifteenth century, until his death in 1468.

 



Topsy-Turvy Land

Language and writing have always been a source of fascination to me from a very young - some would say, precociously young, age.  I don’t remember now what it was that first attracted me to learning languages and being creative with language, but whatever it was, it’s an attraction that has never left me. 

 

As I was going through some old things, I came across my primary school “creative writing book” from the distant past of 1981 and as I flicked through the still remarkably intact and unfaded pages, I was reminded of the many stories that I took great delight in writing.  I remember that it never felt like homework or anything like a chore when it came to writing these stories.  Many of them, spookily, ended with me dying in mysterious circumstances.  I’m sure that something clever and psychological can be extracted from that - something that I’d probably rather not know! 

 

One of the stories, however, still resonates with me and makes me chuckle to myself to this day.  It was a story that I’d originally called, “The Strange Bike”, but with the benefit of adult hindsight, it should probably have been called “Topsy-Turvy Land” instead.  My late father always loved this story and would bore any visitors silly, telling them how much he liked it and how I should have become an author by profession.  So in honour of my father and his wishes, I’d like to publish that story here.  It may not be publication in the sense that he had intended, but it’s publication all the same, and it’s dear to me in as much as it shows just how far back my love of language goes.  Enjoy!

 

It was Christmas morning.  Nobody was awake except me, because it was only five thirty in the morning.  I crept slowly and silently down the stairs.  I wanted to see my presents.  I crept silently to the lounge and looked under the tree.  There was the biggest present I had ever seen.  Then I looked about to make sure nobody was there and as nobody was, I took the huge present and unwrapped it.  There was a bike shining blue and red.  I couldn’t wait to ride it, but just as I got on it, it said, in an American accent, “wanna ride?”  I told it to stop no end of times, but it just carried on and on.  At last I remembered the brakes, but the only thing was, there weren’t any brakes! 

 

Soon after, the bike stopped.  I didn’t know where I was.  All I knew was, I was miles away from home.  Later, I tried to find my way home, but I knew it was miles away.  Then the bike got up and said, “shall we go back?”  I said, “but why did you bring me here?” 

 

“Because you sat on me.”

 

“Is that all?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Well that was a bit silly.”

 

“Oh alright.  I’ll show you a secret.”

 

So I sat on the bike and whizzed off at 150mph.  Then the bike stopped and nearly threw me all the way back again.  I happened to have fallen in a field, after being chased by the occupant of the field (which was a bull).  I fell down a deep, dark hole and there was a worm.  He said his name was Harry Worm.  Then he peered at me through his big spectacles and announced, “are you coming to Topsy-Turvy Land?”

 

“Where’s Topsy-Turvy Land?”

 

“In this topsy-turvy hole!”

 

Then I looked around and saw that the field (with the bull, which was snorting angrily) had actually been underneath the hole and we had just descended upwards (which I thought was rather ridiculous).  When we’d climbed up to the bottom, we saw many little people all walking on their heads.  There were mice chasing cats, cats chasing dogs and dogs chasing farmers.  The houses stood on chimneys, the cars were upside down and everything else was downside up, the wrong way round or the round way right.  When I said, “hello”, they stopped and said, “goodbye” and started chatting in Topsy-Turvyish.  Then when they went again, they said, “hello!”


I thought Topsy-Turvy Land was ridiculous and so I asked Harry Worm to show me the way up, so he showed me the way down.  But I found that in Topsy-Turvy Land the way down was the way up.  I got out (or in) and sat on my bike.  It whizzed home just in time and I wrapped it up again.  Then I whispered to it softly, “I liked Topsy-Turvy Land.  Thank you!”

Playing with languages - from invention to reality

I love language.

 

And I love learning languages.  I’ve learnt 18 languages so far, and I can’t wait to learn the next one.  There’s something exciting and thrilling about being able to communicate with other people who don’t understand your language.  Seeing the looks on their faces when you say something in their language and they understand you is precious and priceless.  It can come from the smallest of things.  I always remember, on my first visit to Croatia, having been learning Croatian for only a short time, I asked in a supermarket on the day before a national holiday, “jeste li vi otvoreni sutra?” (‘are you open tomorrow?’), with that rush of adrenaline inside, and getting an answer, in Croatian, that I understood.  Not only had I made myself understood, but I understood the answer too!

 

We all have a language - whether it’s spoken, written, signed or felt.  It’s something that all human beings have in common.  We didn’t acquire our language in order to pass an exam or get our homework right.  So if you think that languages are intrinsically and inevitably difficult, that can’t be true.  If you understand English, you understand me now.  We are communicating in a language and we both understand what we’re communicating to each other.  Human beings who use other languages are exactly the same.  If we’re French, German, Chinese, Russian, Zimbabwean, Somali, Syrian, Yemeni, Cherokee or Thai, we are human beings and we have a language that can be learnt, understood, spoken, read and used.  Learning other people’s languages is like travelling all over the world and seeing and discovering new things and new experiences.  It makes you a more outward-looking, more understanding and I would say, happier person.

 

But how do you encourage children in Foundation and Key Stages 1 and 2 to start learning another language?  Their parents may not have a background in languages or may even hold the view that everyone speaks English anyway, so they may not necessarily encourage a desire to learn languages in their children.  Or, parents or the children themselves may be under the misconception that languages are difficult and not worth the effort.  Well, what if you could invent your own language and make up all the rules and spellings and everything?  SPAG would be easy.  You’d never get anything wrong in your spelling tests.  All the rules would make sense, because you’d invented them.

 

So let’s say you wanted to invent a word for ‘bird’.  What would you come up with?  Maybe it’d be AAG, because that’s the noise that dinosaur birds make.  Okay.  So how would you spell it?  Would it  be AAG or ARG, or would you invent a whole new spelling and spell it EURK, even though that doesn’t look like how you say it?  Think of a word in English like ‘THOROUGH’.  We pronounce it ‘THU-RER’ but the letters we use to spell the word don’t help at all.  We don’t say the ‘GH’ at the end.  When we write ‘KNIFE’ or ‘KNEE’, we don’t pronounce the ‘K’ at the beginning, but we do write it.  So why not spell our new word for bird as KEURGH?  It might not look anything like how we say it, but nor do a whole lot of words in English, or French, or Russian.  As well as being a fun way to introduce the concept of other languages, it also highlights the difference between spoken and written language, the fact that living languages have changed and developed naturally over time and helps take the edge off of the moan that French is really difficult because ‘HEUREUX’ and ‘BOIVENT’ are not pronounced anything like how they appear to be.

 

Now, once you have some basic vocabulary in your very own language, you’ll need to come up with some kind of syntax, structure and grammar to string it all together.  And why does grammar have to be difficult?  Just think of English.  Unlike French, English speakers don’t have masculine and feminine nouns or adjectival agreement to worry about, and beyond the odd ‘whom’, ‘whose’ and ‘mother’s’, English is no match for German, Finnish or Basque on the cases front either.  But once again, the process of creating grammar and structure for your invented language could take the whole ‘grammar is so boring’ message out of the equation.  For example, if I wanted to translate, ‘I drink milk’ into my new language, I start with my individual words - let’s say, MUJUS, HIUL and MA - and then I have to think systematically about how to put them together in a sentence.  Would it be as simple as, ‘MA HIUL MUJUS’ (and why not?) or could I introduce the concept of tense and verb endings?  Is ‘HIUL’ just ‘drink’ and not specifically ‘I drink’?  I might want to say, ‘MA HIULAM’ for ‘I drink’.  That could then lead to a discussion of what the rest of the conjugation might be, what the other subject pronouns would be and how you would convey past or future tense, for example.  Would it be a synthetic future tense, like Spanish (e.g. ‘MA HIULSUN’) or would it be analytical like English or German (e.g. ‘MA SUN HIUL’)?  What’s more, if we go back to our original sentence (‘MA HIUL MUJUS’), who’s to say that the words have to be in that order?  That could bring in thoughts about whether your language is an SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) language or something different.  It would make the concepts of ‘subject’ and ‘object’ seem more real and practical and open children’s eyes to the fact that not all languages have the same word order as English.  It could also introduce cases.  Should ‘MUJUS’ have a case ending because it’s a direct object and would you have a word for ‘the’ like English or French, or not, like Russian or Latin?  As you can see, the myriad of possibilities thrown up by one simple sentence in a language a child has invented him or herself could spark so much interest and ‘demystify’ a good deal of the process when learning ‘real’ languages.

 

Could this be an effective way to engage primary school-age children with languages and their many quirks and facets and encourage them to see beyond the misconception that “languages are difficult”?  What is more, many primary school teachers say themselves that they are reticent when it comes to teaching foreign languages and often consider that languages are not their forte in amongst the many other subjects that they teach.  Giving children the bare linguistic bones needed to let their imaginations fly and create their own language would not require, in the teacher, any more than a universal understanding of language and would not demand degree-level knowledge of French, German or Spanish.  And yet, it could provide the spark that one day might lead to a lifelong love of languages and that degree-level or working knowledge that is not only a significant boost to employment prospects, but can also be a key that opens the door to a world way beyond the classroom.  I used to love inventing languages as a child.  My favourite two languages at the time were Spanish and Portuguese, so I decided that I would take ‘the best bits’ from both and make my own hybrid language.  Years later, I discovered that I’d inadvertently ‘created’ Galician!  When I came to learn the real Galician, that childhood joy was still there.  If we could instil that joy in others at an early age, through play with the building blocks of language, might our lifelong attitude towards language learning be a more positive one?

Why are languages so fascinating? A language festival address

            So why are languages so fascinating?  Well, ever since the first time I went abroad (on a school exchange to France), I’ve enjoyed the ‘buzz’ of speaking to someone in their own language and being understood (not that you always entirely understand their answers!).  While at university, I went hitch-hiking around northern Portugal and came to a village that had never seen foreigners before.  When I spoke to an elderly woman sitting on a chair on her porch in Portuguese, her face lit up.  Mind you, she probably thinks the whole world speaks Portuguese now.  People react to you differently if you’ve made even a bit of an effort to speak their language, rather than shout at them in English.


            Without wanting to bombard you with anecdotes, I went with friends to New York a number of years ago, and our taxi driver from the airport to our hotel was Puerto Rican.  He spent the entire journey insulting us, his passengers, in Spanish over the radio.  I didn’t say a word.  Until we got to the hotel, when I told him, in Spanish, that I was “from the mother country”.  His face dropped when he realised I’d understood everything he’d said, but then he smiled, as if he’d met a long-lost friend, and even better, gave us a discount on our fare!  As well as connecting with people better, learning a foreign language lets you into someone else’s culture and way of life, and you learn more about the world.  Because I speak Basque, for example, I understand the funny customs and traditions that the Basque people have, and why there were originally only three days in a Basque week (not a bad idea!).  Even better, the Basque word for ‘a Basque’ is euskaldun, which literally means ‘someone who speaks Basque’, so you really do become one of them, just by speaking their language!  And just one other thing to bear in mind – not everyone speaks English. In fact, English is the fourth most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers.  Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and Spanish are all ahead of English, and Russian, Arabic and Portuguese aren’t far behind.


            So, back to how I got started with languages, unlike many British people who learn French as their first (or only!) foreign language, I started with Spanish, teaching myself initially from a book that my parents had had going yellow on a shelf from an old holiday in Spain, and then proceeded to move around the Iberian Peninsula, learning Catalan, Portuguese, Basque and enough Galician to get by!  In fact, as my very patient and long-suffering former Spanish teacher might remember, as our school Spanish exchange was to a town near Barcelona in Catalonia, I ended up learning Catalan there and speaking that instead!  Mind you, that did mean that my pen friend’s grandfather would sit and tell me - apparently in Catalan - about his exploits during the Spanish Civil War and I was too polite to say that I was only catching about one word in twenty...


            So my passion for languages was already there, well before I started learning French at school, to which German, Italian and even Latin were added as I went along.  In all those cases, the culture and history of the countries where those languages were spoken fascinated me - more than studying their literatures, I have to admit.  Apologies to A level language teachers and any university lecturers who might be here this evening!


            Although you might think that that was quite enough variety, by the age of 13 I was getting bored.  When I get bored, I learn a language. But I’d had enough of languages with mega millions of speakers by then. I quite fancied learning something more ‘exclusive’ - more of a minority language, one with a bit of cachet.


            But which one to choose?!  By happy coincidence (but not for him...), Enver Hoxha, the old communist dictator of Albania happened to pass away at the exact same time that I was looking around for a language to learn.  On our TV news, reporter after reporter kept saying things along the lines of: “Albania - an almost unknown, forgotten and mysterious little country”.  Well, that was it. I wanted to learn whatever it was that they spoke there - which turned out to be Albanian, in case you were wondering.


            That was the easy part.  The hard part was working out how to learn Albanian, short of actually going to Albania.  And as I was 13, and the TV pictures from Albania at the time hardly portrayed a sunny, family-friendly tourist destination, my parents were a bit reluctant to consider that...  Thankfully, it turned out that there was an Anglo-Albanian Association in London, so I called them and they dusted off their one copy of a book written in Communist Albania to teach the language to ex-pats who’d never learnt it and sent it to me.  It even came with an audio cassette!  A lifelong interest in Albania, Albanians and their language started from there.


            And for me, that’s what language learning brings you - a lifelong interest, almost an addiction (well in my case, it is an addiction!) and so much more than just another subject in school (apologies to mathematicians, geographers and so on).  I was never any good at maths.


            So my chosen degree course at university will not surprise you - modern languages.  Or modern and medieval languages, as it was actually known.  I can now chat with 10th-century Spaniards and 13th-century Dutchmen, should the need ever arise.  I started off with Spanish and Portuguese, and then added Dutch, French, Romanian and a bit of Catalan on the side as I went along.  I spent a fascinating thoroughly multilingual year abroad, teaching English at a school on the east coast of Spain, where they also speak Valencian, a variety of Catalan, so of course I learnt that as well for good measure.  My flatmates in Spain were French and German, and the German’s boyfriend was Flemish (until she dumped him for a Spaniard), so our flat was a little microcosm of Europe, where Spanish was the only common language, but several others were available for use, should you have wanted them.


            So I can speak from experience when I say that language learning and proficiency in foreign languages (with a knowledge of local culture and history) are highly valued, sadly quite rare, but professionally very much needed skills.  And because language skills are so much in demand and relatively few Brits have them to a usable level, being a linguist is a serious boost to employment prospects, in all sorts of ways.  This is one of the key reasons why I jumped at the chance to participate in, and celebrate and promote foreign languages at your school this evening.


            Since then I’ve had the chance to work with a whole range of languages throughout my career - including that Albanian that I learnt all those years ago for no particular reason.  I’ve even had the chance to meet the Queen because of languages.  And I’ve now collected 18 languages in all, with a few others that I could perhaps order a cider and a pizza in.  But I have no intention of stopping there!  In fact, I’ve just embarked on my latest language.  Not anything obvious like Mandarin or Arabic, unfortunately.  I would tell you which one it is, but my former colleagues always complained that whenever I learn a language, a war breaks out in the country where they speak it, so suffice it to say, it’s pretty wacky and exotic, and doesn't have mega millions of speakers.


            So to get back to what I was saying at the start, this is why I am particularly honoured and proud to be opening this Language Festival, happy in the knowledge that another generation of language aficionados is on its way.  So rather than say ‘welcome’, I think it’d be fitting to greet you with bienvenidos, mirë se erdhët, ongi etorri and benvinguts before calling on you to enjoy the festivities and the performances we’re about to see, and wallow in foreign languages and cultures! Thank you.

 

Chris Hughes MBE

February 2010

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