A new agreement provides Turkish instruction in nine elementary schools in Sarajevo.
By Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul and Ana Lovakovic in Sarajevo for SETimes -- 24/09/13
Turkish classes were first offered in Bosnia in 2011 by public schools in Zenica-Doboy, Herzogovina Neretva, Podrinje and Central Bosnia. [AFP]
With an increasing interest in Turkey, public schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have expanded their offerings of Turkish language courses.
According to an agreement signed September 10th between the Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Centre in Bosnia and the Ministry of Education of Sarajevo, Turkish will be offered in nine elementary schools across Sarajevo.
Students will have the option to choose Turkish as their elective language course among others such as French, German and Arabic. According to the centre, Turkish language courses will be taught by graduate students of Turkish studies from various Bosnian universities.
In Bosnia, Turkish classes were first offered in 2011 by public schools in Zenica-Doboy, Herzogovina Neretva, Podrinje and Central Bosnia.
According to the Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Centre, which was founded in 2009 to promote Turkish culture and language in the Balkans, the number of students learning Turkish in primary and secondary schools this year is estimated at 4,000. An estimated 400 students will study Turkish at Bosnia's universities in 2013-2014 academic year.
In recent years, Turkish has become a popular choice among high school and university students in Bosnia. Four state universities, Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar and Sarajevo, have oriental philology departments that offer Turkish studies.
Turkish language and culture have also been promoted and introduced to young Bosnians by two Turkish-run universities: the International University of Sarajevo and the International Burch University.
Opened in 2004, the International University of Sarajevo is backed by Turkish businessmen close to Turkey's government. International Burch University was opened in 2008 and has connections to Fethullah Gulen, an influential Turkish Muslim preacher who runs an international religious and educational movement.
Aldijana Hadžić, a junior, and Emina Karahodža, a sophomore, in the department of oriental philology at the University of Sarajevo, told SETimes they decided to continue their Turkish studies after taking private Turkish classes.
"I started to learn Turkish for personal reasons, because my friends from Turkey did not know Bosnian or English. During the university years, I deepened my knowledge of the language and culture and then I visited Turkey several times. I want to continue my education somewhere in Turkey," Hadžić said.
Karahodža first visited Turkey in 2011. She then had an immediate urge for a better understanding of Turkey as well as the Turkish language.
"Studying Turkish language and literature is a challenge for me," she said. "My wish is to continue with a master's degree in Turkey and I will do everything to make this wish come true."
Ezana Šekić, a junior at the University of Sarajevo, told SETimes being able to speak Turkish will bring her a successful career since Turkey was one of the biggest investors in BiH last year.
According to Turkey's ministry of economy, the country's foreign direct investment in BiH was $145 million (104 million euros) between 2002 and 2012, including significant investments in the banking, airline and education sectors.
Experts say some of the interest in learning Turkish comes from Bosnia's historic ties with Turkey dating back to the 15th century. The country became a province of the Ottoman Empire in 1463, and while Ottomans ruled the area for 400 years, they allowed its ethnic identity to continue. In 1878 the Ottomans handed BiH over to Austria-Hungary after signing the Treaty of Berlin.
Mustafa Arslan, a professor of Turkish language and literature at International Burch University, said the inclusion of Turkish into primary education curriculum highlights this historic bond and the increased trust in Turkey by Bosnians.
"The common cultural heritage between the two communities is the main driver for Bosnian adults and children to learn Turkish. The widespread presence of Turkish soap operas is also a factor because they are presented without voiceover, but only with Bosnian subtitles, which further helps Bosnians to learn that language," Arslan said.
Arslan told SETimes that Turkish language students are interested in Turkish from an academic perspective to deepen their understanding in linguistics as well as to guarantee better careers for their future.
Ahmet Yıldız, Turkey's ambassador to BiH told SETimes that the ultimate target is to provide all Bosnian students with the opportunity to learn Turkish.
"Sarajevo has a significant importance because it has the highest population among the 10 cantons within the federation. It is also the capital city having the most distinguished schools," Yildiz said.
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